Guides to town and gown for holiday giving

By Steven Finacom


book cover

Center Street was a paradigmatic small-town commercial street in days of yore.

04 December 2002 | A rich array of books exploring the architecture and history of the Berkeley campus is available this season, just in time for the holidays. With any of these books on your office desk or home bookshelf, you’ll be well rewarded over the winter break with insights into local history and architecture.

• Fresh off the press, “Picturing Berkeley” (edited by Burl Willes) showcases wonderful color reproductions of more than 400 local postcards from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is a coffee-table book in the most positive sense: You can’t help picking it up again and again for fascinating and vivid views of the bucolic 19th-century campus, early student events, now-vanished Berkeley homes, quiet streets, and quaint commercial districts.

This limited edition is now in local bookstores. You can also buy copies direct from the co-publishers, the Berkeley Historical Society and the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. Mem-bers of either group may purchase copies at a significant discount at a “release party” on Thursday, Dec. 5, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza in downtown Berkeley; a lesser discount will be available to them through Dec. 31. The regular price of the book is $45. For mail-order details, see

• There have been guidebooks covering the Berkeley campus before, but none as comprehensive, elegant, thoroughly researched, and richly illustrated as Harvey Helfand’s “The Campus Guide: University of California, Berkeley” (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002). Its thorough and thoughtful description of Berkeley campus architecture and development from the 19th century to the present day sets the gold standard for all such efforts.

Helfand, a retired campus planner at Berkeley, not only researched and wrote the text but took the glowing photographs, which are complemented by images of historic plans and detailed campus maps.

At about $25, this compact guide is an indispensable reference for those who want to familiarize themselves with the physical campus and how it evolved.

• Another excellent book on local history, the second edition of Susan Cerny’s “Berkeley Landmarks” (Berkeley Architec-tural Heritage Association, 2001; $29.95), takes as its subject the entire city of Berkeley, rather than just the campus and its environs. Cerny’s vignettes describe the history of more than 250 buildings and sites that have been formally designated as historic landmarks, as well as the history of the neighborhoods where they are found. A chapter is devoted to the Berkeley campus and its many historic structures. For ordering information, call 841-2242; the book is also available at some local bookstores.

• New from the University of California Press, Sally Woodbridge’s “John Galen Howard and the University of California” ($45) fills a substantial void in architectural scholarship. Woodbridge, a local architectural historian, explores the life and life work of the architect who guided the design of the campus for a quarter century, and whose masterworks include Sather Tower (aka the Campanile), Doe Library, and the Hearst Memorial Mining Building.

Illustrated with images of Howard’s sketches and plans as well as period photographs of his buildings, the book covers not only his design career on campus and its enduring results but his role as the founder of the Department of Architecture at Berkeley, his off-campus commissions, and his career before coming west to California.

The text comes most alive with intimate insights into Howard’s life, drawn from his personal correspondence and other sources. You see Howard worrying over family finances and architectural commissions, striving unrequited for recognition as a poet, guiding his students, and relaxing at home with his large and talented family.

• A worthwhile gift for those interested in UC history is the Chronicle of the University of California, a historical journal/ magazine published on campus by a group of faculty, staff, and alumni. The Chronicle just released its fifth issue, whose theme is “Conflict and Controversy at the University of California.”

Single issues cost $20 each, two-issue subscriptions $36. For details and information on ordering, check the publication’s website at Single copies can also be found at the Cal Student Store.

Steven Finacom, who works on campus in Capital Projects, is active as a volunteer with the Berkeley Historical Society, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, and the editorial board of the Chronicle of the University of California.


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