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Federal order in 1942 hits the Japanese American community in Richmond and El Cerrito

richmond independent enemy aliens 1942

The 75th anniversary of the imprisonment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast during World War II is today, Feb. 19.

The initial coverage of the upcoming removal plans from the Richmond Independent on Feb. 2, 1942, noted that the federal order would impact the substantial and long-established Japanese American flower-growing industry in Richmond and El Cerrito.

 

richmond independent enemy aliens 1942a

The story of the Japanese American nursery families is Richmond and El Cerrito and their experiences during and after the war is told in the documentary “Blossoms and Thorns,” which is shown at 2 p.m. Thursdays at the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center, 1414 Harbour Way South in Richmond.

 

 

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TBT: Vintage and current views of the Heinz Building in Berkeley

The H.J. Heinz Co. Factory at 2900 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley has been called “Berkeley’s most elegant industrial building” by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. The building was constructed in 1927-28 and it operated as a factory until Heinz relocated operations in 1956. A good description and history of the building is available on the BAHA website.

The building has since had other tenants and now is a retail and office center. The building was given city landmark status in 1986 and it is also listed in the California State Historic Resources Inventory.

san pablo and ashby 1940s

A 1940s view looking north of The Heinz Building at San Pablo and Ashby avenues.

 

san pablo near ashby  today2

The same view today.

 

san pablo near ashby  1945

Looking south in 1945 at the Heinz Building from San Pablo at Heinz Avenue. Note the two
lines of streetcar tracks. Update and correction: John Stashik, our resident rail expert,
points out that these are not streetcar tracks. “Those tracks in the photo on San Pablo Avenue
were Shipyard Railway tracks. Streetcar service ended in the 1930s north of Ashby. So the
tracks needed to be replaced for the Shipyard service from 1942-45 on San Pablo north of
Ashby and on Grayson Street.”

 

san pablo near ashby  today

The same view today, with the tracks long removed and a median and left turn lane added.

heinz building 1966 ad

A 1966 Berkeley Gazette ad for the Packaging Company of California, housed in the 
Heniz Building.

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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)

 

UPDATE: From Daniella Thompson of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association:

2111-2113 University Avenue is not a designated Structure of Merit. This erroneous information, cited by consultant Frederic Knapp in his Historic Outline for the Acheson Block (June 1910), was gleaned from a City of Berkeley document, the Downtown Berkeley Design Guidelines, Appendix, List of Landmark and Significant Buildings, 1994.

Here is the complete list of designated Structures of Merit:http://berkeleyheritage.com/berkeley_landmarks/structures-of-merit.html

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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