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TBT: The scene of last weekend’s downtown Berkeley fire as it looked in the 1940s

key university shattuck 1948142

A downtown fire in Berkeley last weekend damaged a city-designated “structure of merit” at 2111-13 University Ave.

As the photos above, from 1948, and below, from 1946, show, the building (built in in 1911) was once the Varsity Market.

“I’m very glad there are no reported injuries and the fire appeared to be controlled before it spread too extensively on this extremely important historic block,” said Berkeley Voice columnist Steven Finacom of the Berkeley Historical Society and the Berkeley Architectural Association. “As a historic preservationist, I’m concerned that the damaged building not be demolished as a result of this fire. The City of Berkeley has approved a plan to renovate this building and other structures on the block, with restored historic commercial facades, and new apartments built behind. It’s extremely important that this facade be retained and incorporated into that project.”

key university shattuck 1946143

Finacom provided the photos of the weekend fire below, as well as the information on the building from the historical designation of the Acheson block.

berkfire-1
(Courtesy Steven Finacom)
berkfire1
(Courtesy Steven Finacom)
building history. 2111-13 University Avenue
(Courtesy Steven Finacom)

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Berkeley seeking nominees for annual Outstanding Women of Berkeley recognition

Berkeley is seeking nominees for its annual Outstanding Women of Berkeley honors. Nominations are due by Aug. 31. The full announcement from the city:

 

 

NOMINEES SOUGHT FOR ‘2016 OUTSTANDING WOMEN OF BERKELEY’
 
City’s Commission on the Status of Women Seeking Candidates for Annual Honor
 
3 Awards for Individuals, 1 for Organization
Nominations can be submitted in two ways:
1) Visit http://bit.ly/BerkeleyCOSOWAwards to complete an online nomination form on or
before Wednesday, August 31st, or
2) Complete this nomination form, scan and submit electronically to Maritessa Bravo Ares,
Chair at BerkeleyCOSOWAwards@gmail.com on or before Wednesday, August 31,
or mail nomination form to Eric Brennan postmarked by August 31.
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Similar scenario to 1991 Oakland firestorm played out in 1913

claremont hotel 1920s

An October fire fanned by high winds and fueled by abundant eucalyptus trees and tall grass sweeps through the Oakland-Berkeley hills and threatens the landmark Claremont Hotel. That describes the events of the disaster known as the Oakland Firestorm of Oct. 19, 1991 that is coming up on its 25th anniversary.

It also sums up a fire that broke out on Oct. 6, 1913 in the Berkeley hills that overwhelmed the young city’s firefighting capability. The Claremont residential district in Berkeley had been established for less than a decade and was still developing. The hotel itself had been under construction for a number of years, stalled at points by financial issues.

“Following an architectural competition, ground was broken in 1906 for the Claremont
Hotel, designed by Charles W. Dickey,” the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association writes on its website. “It was not only to be a glorious destination site, seen from all vistas around the Bay, but it was also to be a large garden park enhancing the environment for the building of beautiful homes.”

According to Historic Hotels of America, “construction was held up — first by the earthquake of 1906 and then subsequently, the Panic of 1907.”

The fire was reported by a resident around noon, the San Francisco Call reported, and Berkeley soon had to seek assistance from Oakland in battling the blaze. (Berkeley’s department had been a full-tme professional company for less than a decade, formed in 1904 after City Hall burned down.) Also assisting were “hundreds of residents.”
claremont hotel fire 10 6 1913
Coverage from the San Francisco Call
of the Oct. 6, 1913 fire that swept
through the hills, a scenario similar
to what happened on Oct. 19, 1991.

The blaze threatened not only the hotel, described by the Call as “one of the largest framed hostelries of the west,” but homes in the fashionable Claremont neighborhood. The fire did not claim the hotel, but did spread unchecked along Tunnel Road through the largely unpopulated hills, “fanned by a high wind” and burning down “trees set out by the People’s Water Company (a forerunner of EBMUD) five years ago.”

The fire burned several hundred acres in the hills, according to the Call account, but no property damage or injuries were reported other than the loss of the trees.

The hills would be much more developed by the time of the 1991 firestorm that claimed 25 lives and destroyed 3,642 homes, with damages estimated at $1.68 billion. Some claimed at the time that resources were diverted to from fighting that fire to prevent its spreading to the Claremont Hotel. Others say that if the fire had reached the Claremont, it would have more easily spread into lower Berkeley and possibly reached the UC Berkeley campus.

The Claremont finally did open in May of 1915, in time to serve tourists to the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

claremont opening 05 03 1915

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Berkeley sculptor Tyler James Hoare to give free talk on Sunday

D. Ross Cameron STAFF 9/17/06 Tribune News Local artist Tyler Hoare with his Sopwith Camel biplane sculpture at the Emeryville mud flats Sunday.

D. Ross Cameron STAFF 9/17/06 Tribune News
Local artist Tyler Hoare with his Sopwith Camel biplane sculpture at the Emeryville mud flats Sunday.

Berkeley artist Tyler Hoare will give a talk and show a selection of his sculptures at a free program at 4 p.m. Aug. 14 in the Fabrefaction Gallery at the Compound Gallery, 1145 and 1167 65 St. in Oakland.

Join us for an Artist Talk with Tyler on Sunday, August 14th at 4pm sharp. Snacks and libations will be served 3-6pm. The talk is free and open to the public.

The Compound Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition featuring the work of the esteemed Emeryville mudflat artist, Tyler James Hoare. A collection of masks, sculptures, and historical documentation will be exhibited in our more intimate Fabrefaction Gallery located at 1145 65th st. Oakland, CA. This show is in conjunction with our show Laserbeam Technomania in our Main Gallery next door. Gallery Hours will be Wed-Sun 12-7pm (please go to our Main Gallery at 1167 for entry).

Missouri-born Hoare has been placing sculptures along the Emeryville and Berkeley shoreline for more than half his life. He moved to Berkeley in the 1960s, and was driving past the remains of a pier in 1975 when his artistic muse struck. –SFGate.com

b. 1940. Sculptor and printmaker, Born in Joplin Mo. attended the University of Colorado, the Sculpture Center in New York, the University of Kansas (BFA 1963), and CCAC. He assembled figures in often humorous combinations of found and tooled objects, primarily of wood, coupling a basically cubist style with overtones of Surrealism. Some of Hoare’s pieces occupied the anonymous, grassroots sculpture garden that began to flourish in the mid-1960’s on the mudflats of Emeryville. In the 1970’s he was one of the earliest Bay Area artists to experiment with color xerox as a medium for printmaking. -From Art in The San Francisco Bay Area 1945-1980 by Thomas Albright.

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Pacific Coast League baseball reunion event returns Aug. 20

oakland oaks opening day world war ii
Opening day ceremony at Oakland Oaks Ball Park in Emeryville during World War II.

The late Dick Dobbins, a Berkeley native and later a high school principal in Contra Costa who died in 1999, was among the foremost collectors and compilers of artifacts from the golden age of baseball’s Pacific Coast League from 1903 until the arrival of Major League Baseball on the West Coast in 1958.
Dobbins, then attending Berkeley High School, rescued records, trophies and other items of the Oakland Oaks after the team departed and its Emeryville ballpark was being torn down in 1956. It became a lifelong passion for Dobbins, and that love is carried on at an annual event named in his honor.
The 22nd annual Northern California Dick Dobbins PCL Player and Family Reunion will be held 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at Ryan O’Connell Hall, 575 West Estudillo Ave. at San Leandro Boulevard in San Leandro.
The day always includes players and PCL enthusiasts and a program about the history of a league that was good enough that many considered it “the third major league” at its height.
Admission is $25 with lunch (RSVP by Aug. 15) or $8 without.
To reserve a seat send a check made out to PCLHS to PCLHS, 420 Robinson Circle, Placentia, CA 92870. Or call Mark Macrae at 510-538-6245 for more details.

charlie gassaway oaks
Pitcher Charlie Gassaway of the Oakland Oaks.

broglio oaks
El Cerrito High grad Ernie Broglio, who pitched for the Oakland Oaks before advancing to the major leagues, is one of the organizers of the annual PCL reunion.

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AC Transit holding board meeting in El Cerrito tonight

AC Transit buses drive along 20th St. in downtown Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

AC Transit buses drive along 20th St. in downtown Oakland, Calif., on June 1, 2016. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

AC Transit is holding this week’s board meeting in the council chamber at El Cerrito City Hall at 5 p.m. tonight, July 13.

Here is the announcement from the transit agency, including highlights of what is on the agenda.

The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) Board of Directors wishes to remind Alameda and Contra Costa County residents that the third in a series of traveling summer Board meetings will take place in El Cerrito tonight.

When: Wednesday, July 13

Time: 5:00 p.m.

Where: El Cerrito City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA

Wednesday’s Board meeting will include a presentation by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on the Core Capacity Transit Study, a multi-agency effort focused on increasing transit capacity to the San Francisco core. Other agenda items under consideration by the Board include:

· An agreement with the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) to administer the Affordable Student Transit Pass Pilot Program

· A report on transit supportive elements for city-sponsored ACTC Comprehensive Investments Plan Projects

· An update on Richmond’s Division 3 Rehabilitation Project

The board agenda is online at http://www.actransit.org/about-us/board-of-directors/board-memos/

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Richmond and greater community rally around 94-year-old park ranger with donations to Betty’s Fund

betty-soskin

The community far and near has backed up its expressions of affection and appreciation for Betty Reid Soskin with an outpouring of financial support after the 94-year-old Richmond resident was attacked and robbed at her home on June 27.
Two different fundraising efforts were set up after news of the attack on the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service was made public.
A gofundme drive that was established by Nicholas Arzio of El Cerrito exceeded its goal of $15,000 in just two days and is now closed. Control of this fund was turned over to Soskin for her use.
The fundraising effort of the Rosie the Riveter Trust is continuing.
The trust issued the following announcement on July 2:

Dear Friend,

On Monday, June 27, NPS Ranger Betty Reid Soskin was robbed an assaulted in her home. The intruder even stole the special coin handed personally to Betty by President Obama at the 2015 National Tree Lighting Ceremony. We are all upset by this horrific news, but relieved to report that she is recovering well, with no major injuries.

The outpouring of love and support for Betty during this time has been truly moving. Obviously, she has inspired thousands across the nation with her powerful story, brilliant insight and incredible will.

If you have not already done so, we would like to invite you to make a contribution of any size to Betty’s Fund.

All funds raised beyond immediate needs will be used, as Betty has asked, to complete a film in progress that contains vital documentary information about Betty’s life and impact. This is the legacy that she wants to continue passing on to younger generations, and a remarkable testimonial to her strength of spirit. Go to www.rosietheriveter.org to donate, and to view the first clips from this important project. You can also mail checks to Rosie the Riveter Trust, PO Box 71126, Richmond, CA 94807, ear-marked “Betty’s Fund.”

You are welcome to send cards to Betty via the Park’s Visitor Center. Betty is not, understandably, taking calls or visitors, and has expressed that she does not wish to receive flowers at this time. Address cards and letters to:

Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park Visitor Center
Attn: Betty Reid Soskin
1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000 (Oil House)
Richmond, CA 94804

Thank you for your support during this difficult time.
Sincerely,

Marsha Mather-Thrift, Executive Director
Rosie the Riveter Trust
www.rosietheriveter.org

The gofundme effort resulted in this response from Soskin, who turns 95 in September:

Here is a special thank you statement from Betty: “Your gifts will help me re-establish my home on the planet and that I am grateful for, because I do not want to move. I am going to reclaim my space from the violation. I could not have done it without your help! There will be fresh paint, new carpeting, a restoration.”

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Ortman family history in Berkeley goes beyond ice cream

ortmans ice cream berkeley
Ortman’s Ice Cream Parlor at Solano and Colusa avenues.

ortmans1

Since it’s a holiday weekend in July, it seems like a good time to remember a favorite ice cream name of the past — Ortman’s.
Bill Ortman was a Berkeley native and a veteran of World War II who opened an ice cream parlor on Solano Avenue after the war, moving it to Solano and Colusa avenues in 1950, where it continued until 1993. The location is now a Starbucks.
There was a second Ortman’s location at the top of Fairmount Avenue in El Cerrito that was popular, but did not last as long as the Berkeley parlor.
The Ortman family has a long association in Berkeley, in particular with the dairy business in the city’s early days, as columnist Hal Johnson explains below in a 1943 column in the Berkeley Gazette.
In addition, as noted in Ortman’s 2012 obituary, “Bill’s father (Charles) was a Lieutenant with the Berkeley Fire Department, and was killed in 1939 while saving three children from a burning house.”

Steve Finacom of the Berkeley Historical Society wrote about the fire and rescue in 2014 in his “Berkeley: A Look Back” column in the Berkeley Voice:

“First Lieutenant Charles J. Ortman, 45, is dead today following his heroic rescue of three young children from the smoke-filled home of Mr. and Mrs. George G. Rogers, 1837 Rose Street, shortly after 8:30 last night, ” the Berkeley Gazette reported Feb. 2, 1939.
Ortman lived across the street from the Rogers home. He was off duty and at home, when “the fire tapper in the house sounded” — we’ll assume that was a device to alert off-duty staff that there was an alarm — and he heard on his shortwave radio that the call came from his block.

Rushing outside, Ortman found his neighbors on the street and smoke pouring out of their front door. Entering the house he rescued their 4-year-old granddaughter and her siblings, twin babies, just as on duty firemen arrived. Ortman then grabbed a hose and led the effort to put out the fire in a bedroom. Inspecting the attic, he died of an apparent heart attack.

City flags flew at half-staff for the Berkeley native, a member of the department since 1912.

The funeral took place on Feb. 3, starting at Berg’s Funeral Home, 1936 University Ave.

Traffic was stopped as the cortege moved up Shattuck to University, then north to St. Mary Magdalene Church, where a requiem mass was held.

Ortman was survived by his wife and two children. He was, the paper said, one of 112 fire department staff in 1939.

ortman dairy 1902
A 1903 ad for the Peralta Jersey Dairy owned by Henry Ortman.

Below is the 1943 column by Hal Johnson about Henry John Ortman’s North Berkeley Jersey Farm. It recounts a 1903 fire at the dairy that was extinguished with buckets of milk and may have inspired Bill Ortman’s father to join the Berkeley Fire Department.
The Henry J. Ortman House is not only still standing at 1824 Rose St., it was selected for one of this year’s Preservation Awards from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association commending its renovation.

ortman dairy 1943a

peralta park cow grazing
A cow grazes in North Berkeley with the Peralta Park Hotel in the background.

ortman dairy 1943b

ortman dairy 1943c

ortman dairy 1943d

ortmans 1954150
An ad for the El Cerrito location of Ortman’s 1954.

ortmans 1959
A 1959 ad for Ortman’s in El Cerrito.

ortman2
Solano at Colusa shortly after Ortman’s became a Starbucks location.

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Berkeley High holding vigil Saturday for student who drowned

Berkeley High School has announced that a vigil will be held Saturday for Efejon Ustenci, 17, who died Wednesday while swimming in Long Lake in Placer County:

Dear Berkeley High Community,

There will be a vigil on the Berkeley High courtyard tomorrow evening, June 25th, from 5:00 – 6:30 pm. Please join us as we mourn the loss of Efejon Ustenci, and also celebrate his life.

When: Saturday, June 25, 2016, 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM
Where: Berkeley High School Courtyard

In an effort to help pay for Efejon’s burial, the following crowdfunding site has been set up:
https://www.youcaring.com/parents-of-efe-ustenci-591578#.V233-0sgHyc.email

Thank you,

Sam Pasarow
Principal
Berkeley High School