header chapter12

Survival, not progress, was the essential concern of the new Town of Berkeley. Business was down, the facilities were inadequate, there was no adequate means of sewage disposal, street lighting remained a remote promise, and the streets were forever a mess. They were dry and dusty in the summer, and bog-like in the winter. While the other problems threatened more dire consequences if left untreated, the street problem appeared to be within the realm of solution. Sherman Day was hired as Town Engineer with some hope that a solution would be forthcoming.


Sherman Day

The incumbent’s father had been the president of Yale University, and his maternal grandfather, Roger Sherman, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Sherman Day had come to California in 1849, and was involved in State politics with Horace Carpentier, serving at the time as the legislative representative for both Alameda and Santa Clara counties. Day designed the first railroad from San Jose to Sacramento, and was one of the "well-known citizens" on the original application for a charter for the new College of California. In 1857 Day was the superintendent of Henry Halleck's New Almaden Mine (the now infamous attorney of the firm Halleck, Peachy, and Billings) and was later super of Mariposa Mines. In 1868, and during the period when the railroad terminus was located in Oakland, Day was both the surveyor General of the U.S. as well as the Railroad Commissioner! No doubt a competent engineer, what is very clear is that Day had good connections. He also had two daughters, both of whom married the politically influential Palmer brothers.


Local Conditions

Second only to the abysmal roadways, the railroad's presence in Berkeley remained unpopular with a large segment of the community, and lively argument raged over the fate of the "Maloney Curve". This departure from the railroad's otherwise straight course was the necessary deviation of tracks to the center of the roadway on Shattuck Avenue, thereby circumventing the properties of Peter Maloney and Mary Townsend, the besieged residents of Shattuck Ave. By way of solution, many strongly supported the idea of having the tracks removed altogether, there seemed to be no advantage to the residents of the town by the presence of this dirty and bulky method of local transportation. Business was poor, the Center Street business block did not materialize as expected, and its few occupants were diminished by those who chose to relocate to the progressive communities forming at both Choate Street (Telegraph) or at Berryman Station. The Antisell Block, the building at the corner of University and Shattuck was more often than not vacant.

Virtually no one paid their taxes, and each year the paper ran two full pages listing those delinquent along with carping reminders of the necessity to replenish the impoverished town treasury. On this list which dominated two full pages of the newspaper, scarcely any of the well known names were missing.


Improvements

During this period, the town father's sought plausible means of improving their lot by enhancing the attractiveness of Berkeley. Periodic interest was expressed in fulfilling the promise to run a railroad line up University Avenue, which would at least provide East Berkeley people with more ready access to the ferry and San Francisco. For one reason or another it would be awhile before this would come to pass.

In 1879 several new and important projects were undertaken. Plans were made for opening Grove Street from University to Vine Street. However it would be July of 1887 before James McGee would open up Sherman St. (Grove St) through his property (i.e., between Dwight and Addison) completing what would then be a continuous street from the heart of Oakland to University Avenue. That same year the opening of Addison Street between Oxford and Shattuck was accomplished. This opening represented an avenue to the University campus, as well as the first attempt to improve the property east of the railroad tracks; up to that time all development on Shattuck had been limited to the west side of the street, and the tracks. The buildings built on Shattuck during that period faced across to dirt, weeds and railroad track.

During this same period Caspar Hopkins, who along with his partner Samuel Merritt —they were the two principals of the California Insurance Company— began work on the opening of the Peralta Park Development. Peralta Park included the Peralta Homestead and a good portion of this project lay north of the Town's Charter line. It is likely that this was a joint project between the California Insurance Company and the owners of the Jones Ranch. The Jones Ranch belonged to the Western Development Company, which was a subsidiary of the Central Pacific Railroad. In concert with these efforts at the developing of "North Berkeley", Henry Berryman began work on the eastern extension of Rose Street, that which eventually would become Spruce Street, a project which would connect Berkeley with roads leading into Contra Costa County.


Center Street School

In 1879 work was begun on the Center Street School, East Berkeley's first school building that was constructed primarily for that purpose. Previously, classes had been held wherever space could be found. The school was designed as a civic improvement, among the several collateral efforts which were intended to make the local real estate more attractive. The property was "donated" to the town by Barker, Bartlett, Dornin, Shattuck, and H.A.Palmer. Palmer sold the property to his partners for $2800. His generosity was rewarded by his appointment to the school board the following month.


H.A. Palmer

Palmer was the son-in-law of the town engineer, Sherman Day, and the founder of Oakland's Union Bank, an institution persistently touted by the Advocate along with the projects of James Barker. In 1887 Palmer resigned from the bank citing pressing interests in Southern California. As it turned out, Palmer had been embezzling funds in gargantuan amounts from his bank; with his departure there was noted to be a deficit of some $130,000, all of which turned out to be deposited to his own account in his new bank in Pomona. This undisputed fact was one that Union Bank President J. West Martin found no fault.

Palmer became active in promotional activities in San Diego, a community that will later cast an ominous specter over many local events, as our tale continues to unfold. Meanwhile, Palmer built for himself an excellent reputation, a railroad, and a sizable fortune in Southern California, and contributed significantly to the establishment of Claremont College.

Bids for the construction of the three story school building were opened in August and the contract was won by Mr Embury with his bid of $3,365. By December the building was completed and named the Kellogg Grammar School. As the children grew older, the grammar school eventually became the High School and the building served as such, with increasing discomfort, until after the turn of the century and the construction of the new high school at its present site was completed.

In the meanwhile, insufficient progress was being made in town improvement and the Town Council found fault with everyone, blaming whomever they could. Their displeasure was enthusiastically publicized through the agency of the Advocate. Limited in part by the economics of the epoch, and stymied by their inability to incur debt, the Council occupied themselves by passing laws designed to regulate the manners and morals of Berkeley's citizens. Statutes were put on the books the intention of which was to limit gambling, drinking, serving alcohol to women and children, dumping into the streams, lewdness, prostitution, and annoying behavior. They blamed the University for lagging in their promised building program, pointing out that the failure to erect Bacon Hall, the University's Library, had resulted in a student census lower than expected, with local revenues depressed as a result. There was contention with the University over the use of the latter's undeveloped grounds, and its lack of compliance in the improvement of the roadway's where "Town and Gown" interface. These streets were, by agreement, a joint responsibility.

Civic dissension was heightened with the relatively faster development of Choate (Telegraph) St than with that at the R.R. Terminus, even though the former's progress was none too swift. There was some relief when, with the cooperation of the Oakland Gas Company, (oil) lamp posts were installed in West Berkeley in early 1880. However, without funds for their maintenance, or interest by the locals, they were soon abandoned, vandalized, and left in a state of disrepair.

Morale in Berkeley was low. It was low because progress was lagging far behind the positive expectations which, for some, had endured since the surge toward incorporation. The Town of Berkeley now desperately needed a cosmetic overhaul, sewers, electric lights, natural gas, a fresh infusion of capital investment, and a proper transportation system. Eventually and painfully they did all come about.


Village Improvement:
The Grass Roots Approach

There were two approaches to civic improvement. The initially more effective effort, albeit reluctantly pursued, was once again through private means. Those whose interests would be most readily served preferred that this responsibility be spread among the members of the community. Attempts to solicit contributions from the citizenry proved to be typically slow to start and quite impossible to maintain. In 1880 Barker, speaking through the editorial voice of the Berkeley Advocate, yielded to desperation and introduced the need for the formation of a "village improvement society". Two months later, in November of 1880, the first meeting of the "Association for the Encouragement of Neighborhood Improvement" was held at the Congregational Church at Dwight and Choate Streets.

The chairman was John LeConte, an honored member of the academic community and a man whose apparent lack of real estate interest would reflect (deceptively) the organization's non commercial persona. The secretary was Charles Dwinelle, a man who brought a blend of academia and capital. The main speakers for the evening were George Dornin and H.A. Palmer, men whose civic interests were renowned and whose business acumen was no less revered.

The meeting concluded with a plan for a committee to draw up the organizational by-laws, which were intended to bring some order to the agreed upon agenda items. Projects included the decoration of streets, the removal of litter, fixing walks, grading roadways, water, sewage, and the overriding issue of a need for general "tidiness" in the community. The plan was one of “self-help”. While the organization would be seeking help from the Board of Trustees, the members of the community would extend their own efforts toward the improved care of their own property. And by extension, their humble efforts would enhance both the local property values and neighborhood desirability. Maybe it would attract people to buy. By mid 1881, the Advocate saw fit to dedicate an entire page in praise of the local effort.

In 1882, another such association sprung up for the North Berkeley neighborhood. This group included Philip Teare (a judge), James Whitworth (a friend and legal associate of Waldo York) and Henry Berryman as dual vice presidents, and an executive committee including Antisell, C.R.Lord, Parker, W. McIntyre, Captain McCleave, and Waldo York.

A month later there emerged yet a third such group, the Village Improvement Society of Central Berkeley. This organization accounted for all of the east Berkeley neighborhoods not covered by the above. Their officers were men of somewhat lower social strata than those representing the initial groups, but certainly no less dedicated to the civic cause. An attempt at the same time to organize a West Berkeley Improvement Association failed altogether. In 1886 a second attempt by West Berkeley resulted in at least one meeting which was held at Sisterna Hall, but it proceeded no further than the election of officers. Nothing was heard of their efforts subsequently. Principals in that effort were Henry Taylor, president, E.F. Niehaus, vice president, Charles Wiggins, corresponding secretary, Sam Penwell, financial secretary, J.B. Henley, treasurer, and George Schmidt, sergeant at arms.

It was not only in West Berkeley, but true of all of these organizations, once they were established nothing more was heard of their activities, with the very limited exception of the Berkeley Improvement Association. Whether or not much was accomplished by the others seems to be lost to history, since the Advocate's interests were synonymous with those of Barker, and Barker had interest primarily in the "downtown" Berkeley area.

As for Barker’s improvement society, much was said for its early days. By May of 1881 there was an improvement program already begun which involved the planting of trees and hedges by the individual homeowners, with a monthly "hedge prize" being offered for the nicest job. A "community planting" of hedges was undertaken up and down Dwight way east of Shattuck, and along collateral streets running north and south. This would represent a beautification program of the "College Homestead" and the "Steel" tracts, the latter owned by Barker, et. al. However, within a month of completion, all of this work had been vandalized and by the end of the year it was apparent that the association had exhausted the full measure of its initial enthusiasm.

The organizational structure then lay fallow until September of 1883 when it was incorporated under the already established name of the "Berkeley Village Improvement Association, by Shattuck, Barker, C.K. Clark, George Collins and E.B. Dean (of Oakland). The stated purpose of this corporate entity would be simply to buy and sell land, borrow and loan money. The capital stock was given as $50,000, divided into 200 shares. Barker and Shattuck were the major share holders. The commercial motive in village improvement was no longer hidden.


Sewage

While the community leaders explored options for the enhancement of real estate values and the attraction of added population, those potential buyers with an initial interest were inevitably turned away by the grievous odor which stemmed from a wholly inadequate plan for the disposal of sewage. This aesthetic blight constituted for the residents a serious public health problem which required, for its remedy, both an improved water supply and a sewer system. Outdoor privies were contaminating the well water which remained the primary source of water for most of the homes in both East and West Berkeley. So long as the population was small, the problem was negligible. In a growing community, the problem soon becomes critical. The creeks suffered and were often described as being defiled not only by evident human waste, but by the rotting corpses of animals, both domestic and feral.


Fresh Water

The University, at its inception, had made provision for its own water supply. This water, however, was of no value to the community at large. Berryman and Chappellet, in 1873 purchased many acres in North Berkeley from N.B. Byrne and converted the upper portion of this property into a water supply, the lower portion of their property became the Villa Tract. This project became the Berkeley Water Works in 1876, a year before Chappellet was bought out by Berryman. In 1881 Moses Hopkins, the youngest brother of the Central Pacific's founder Mark Hopkins, became the senior partner in this venture and it was announced that they would soon commence the laying of pipes into the community. This would be the first, direct access to fresh water to the residents of Berkeley. By March of 1883 pipes were being laid down Shattuck Avenue toward Dwight Way, and two months later work began on a line down University to the West Berkeley Community. By August the connection had been made to the community south of the University, with the main connection being at Ellsworth and Bancroft. Fresh piped water was at last a reality for Berkeley. Two years later, fire hydrants were installed.

But the problem of sewage removal remained, as did the persistent stench emanating principally from Strawberry Creek which was universally employed as the primary depository of human wastes. A serious problem for East Berkeley residents, a putrid cataclysm for the folks downstream in West Berkeley. During the summer months the creek was a scandal. There were complaints of the creek containing an unholy mixture of human wastes, trash, and the rotting carcasses of animals. Traditionally, this nearly unbearable problem found relief only with the winter rains and the inevitable flooding (flushing) of the creeks and nearby flatlands.

It gradually became clear that there would be no private interests intervening on behalf of the sewage problem. While the Advocate lamented and harangued, the odious and unhealthful conditions persisted. And people died of cholera. Nobody had a plan, and if they did, the funding was simply not forthcoming. However, it is well to remember, in this connection, that Mr Barker was in the pipe business. Where there is a will there is a way. Somehow, and for reasons that were never made evident via the public news media, the Town of Berkeley found a way to escape from the constraining bonds of the "no indebtedness" clause, and was able to issue a sewer bond following a special election for this purpose in February of 1884. The voter turnout was not exceptional, there were only 254 votes cast from a generally apathetic community of some 3000 souls, not all of whom, admittedly, had the franchise. Of those who had the interest, 220 voted in favor of a $30,000 debt for the purpose of laying sewers. However, a week later it was announced that the election had been illegal, and the plan was canceled.

In December of 1884 the sewer bond was attempted again. This time the opposition made itself known. Disputing this plan were members of both North and West Berkeley. They argued that the $30,000 would purchase an insufficient amount of service. While the entire town would be responsible for the debt incurred, only the campus community and "downtown" Berkeley would be served. Nonetheless, the election (now presumably legal) was held with a substantially better turnout of voters.

Of the 318 votes cast, the majority favored the plan. The entire $30,000 bond was purchased by the Oakland Bank of Savings, the institution founded by Samuel Merritt. The pipe contract went to Gladding, McBean and Co, whose local agent was James Barker.

In April of 1890, Trustee Morrison pointed out that Berkeley was still buying sewer pipe only from Barker's San Francisco Sewer Pipe Company and that the city's own specifications it had made this inevitable. This was brought up within the discussion of issues the town was then facing with the conspicuous and rampant conflicts of interest among those involved in the proposed system of electric lights

By the end of August, 1885, the sewer pipe had been laid. The Bancroft line was installed entirely on the basis of private subscription, Bancroft Avenue east of Shattuck being the site of some of Berkeley's most affluent families of the day. However far too many of the local proletariat failed to hook up their homes to the main lines that had been installed throughout their neighborhoods, a procedure which had been left to the owner’s expense. In fact, it was not until 1891, six years later, that the Town Hall was hooked up. Still, pipe was bought and work proceeded toward the completion of town-wide service, paid for now by funds that were not clearly publicized.

By 1887 North Berkeley was served by sewers. North Berkeley residents, discovering that the slope of the pipe resulted in a residue which interfered with service, took it upon themselves to plan for the flushing of their commonly employed sewer lines. Once weekly, all residents would simultaneously flush their toilets and pull the plugs on their filled bathtubs, and whoosh, away went grime and grit.


Telephones

Telephones came early to Berkeley. Well ahead of anything resembling a general telephone service, as early as 1878 Mr Byxbee, who had acquired the lumber interests of the Heywoods, installed the first line between his residence and business. Since no phone company existed, it was necessary for Mr Byxbee to run his own lines. This consisted of poles and wires that extended up Bristol (Hearst), down San Pablo, and up University Avenue. It was not until four years later , in 1882, that a phone company was organized and service was offered to a wider group of citizens. The demand, however, was not excessive. The first publicly installed line went up Shattuck Avenue, connecting the central business district with the North Berkeley business community; the next line connected this service with the south campus community. The phone exchange was situated in Doctor Merrill's drug store located on Shattuck Avenue. Among the first customers were The Berkeley Hotel at the corner of Allston and Choate, W.H. Chapman, attorney, H.N. Barry, Professor Hilgard, Dr Payne (physician) and C.P. Hoag. By August of 1882 Mr Whitton was teaching classes in "phonography" in his home. In October, new phones were installed in the homes or businesses of the Stewart Brothers, A. McKinstry, Gaines, and Hustead. In November, the "Berkeley Local Telegraph Company" made connection to the Deaf School. It was noted at that time that there were nearly three miles of wire placed in Berkeley. The phone company had as its president C. S. Merrill, druggist (with its offices and switchboard located on his premises in the Gottshall block). H.H. Barry was the superintendent and E. Hilgard was the secretary. A year later phone lines were installed between Oakland, Port Costa, and Sacramento by the Sunset Line, and in 1884 the Sunset Phone Company lay a phone cable under San Francisco Bay. This connection provided the opportunity for Berkeley residents to call San Francisco for thirty cents, a nickel cheaper than the previous rate. In 1890 the Sunset Telephone-Telegraph Company was incorporated to operate in all Pacific Coast territories, with the exception of San Francisco.


Electric Service

Considering all of the necessary improvements pursued by the growing Town of Berkeley, none ever came as close to absurdity as its torturous and convoluted plan to install electricity, in general, and more particularly, in the providing of night lighting for the streets of Berkeley. Electricity was still new, and its use in city lighting was even newer. Its initial application was in London in 1878. New York was lit electrically in 1880, but it was not until 1882 that the first hydroelectric generating plant was installed, by Edison, in Wisconsin.

In Berkeley the first glimmer of interest was shown in February of 1885 when a joint stock company for providing electric light was organized with a capital stock of $50,000. This project had as its directors A.M.Stoddard, H.A. Palmer, I.W. Beardslee, G. Dornin and F.K. Shattuck. While sincere in their intent, no more was heard of this early effort. It would be another two years before noteworthy efforts were extended towards bringing electric lights to Berkeley's streets, and electric power to its businesses and homes.

Gas lighting in Berkeley had been attempted, but with only marginal results. The first gas service was provided in joint venture by The Oakland Gas Company and the Town of Berkeley. The Oakland Gas Company initiated service in 1878 and introduced gas ranges the following year. In 1880 lamp posts were first installed in West Berkeley, one at University and San Pablo outside of Brun's Drug Store, and others at Bristol Street, by the churches, the post office, the Standard Soap Company, the Franklin House (the Hotel built in 1877 at the railroad line), at 3rd and Delaware, 3rd and Bristol, 6th and Delaware, Rose and 6th, and at the Boot and Shoe factory on Gilman Street. Installation then preceded in East Berkeley, with gas lighting provided at Shattuck and University, Bancroft and Audubon, Dwight and Piedmont, Berryman Station, College Way and Shattuck, Dwight Way Station, Dwight and Humboldt, and University and Oxford. In October of 1889, after domestic gas service had become pretty much a reality, F. K. Shattuck sold a piece of property on the south side of Addison Street, 469 feet west of Shattuck, to the Oakland Gas Light Co. for $1200, where a gas receiving and distribution station was built.


Curtis — Strellinger —Samuel O’Posen

At this point it is, once again, necessary to digress. The complete saga of Berkeley's electric lighting involves the introduction of an important character in our story. The first glimmer came in May of 1887 when it was noted in the Advocate that a Mr M. B. Curtis and wife were the guests of a Mr. A. Pussett of Jones St., West Berkeley. Several days later, The Advocate reported that Mr Curtis had decided to live in Berkeley and that he had bought 12 acres in Peralta Park, announcing his plans to build there an extravagant home. Several days after that, the paper noted that Curtis had purchased 29 acres of the Higgins Tract (between San Pablo Avenue, Dwight Way, Channing and Bancroft) for $11,000, and that his sister, a Mrs. Humphreys, would also be building a house in his new tract. Less than two weeks later it was reported that Curtis had purchased a large piece of property on Dwight Way. The following month, in June of 1887, Curtis made a public statement to the effect that he had an interest in helping out the West Berkeley Fire Department, and would get things started by buying it a bell. In the meanwhile, Curtis continued to acquire, in rapid fashion, a fairly extensive selection of Berkeley property. He bought 19 lots in the Rooney Tract which made him owner of both (of the East) sides of University Avenue, at San Pablo. Additionally, he purchased another 26 acres of the Higgins Tract, 59 acres from the California Insurance Co. in Peralta Park, 12 acres from J. C. Schmidt Tract, 3 acres from John Everding, and 10 more acres, in the Peralta Homestead, this time from a Thomas Crane. While these acquisitions were in progress, more sales were made, but but with slightly less publicity, to a Mr. J. C. McMullen, an associate of Curtis, from Winfield, Kansas. These sales included (in June of 1887) $20,000 worth of West Berkeley.

In August of 1887, a public meeting was called by Curtis and McMullen to announce the establishment of a bank in Berkeley, the first known effort in this community. It was to be called the First National Bank of Berkeley. McMullen made a speech saying that he did not expect that Berkeley folks would need to buy all the stock, but he did want to open option to any of them who did wish to buy. He went on to point out how important a bank is to a community, especially if that community wished to be taken at all seriously by the rest of the civilized world.

McMullen explained that initially he had no intention of putting this Bank in Berkeley, in fact he and his friends had only just laid over in San Francisco on the way to Los Angeles where there was real enthusiasm for this kind of institution. But he was taken to Berkeley, liked what he saw, realized that this is a progressive community with citizens who have good sense, and decided to change all of his plans and to settle here. He announced that there would be a meeting at the Homestead Loan Assoc. office on the evening following at which time anyone interested would get a full report. It should be recalled that this is the same Homestead Loan Association that the Advocate went to great pains to deny any vested interest on the part of James Barker.

While this meeting was described as being for informational purposes only, McMullen did manage to sell some 75 shares to Berkeley people (at $100/share), not counting the 50 shares that Curtis took, and not counting the five shares taken by a Dr W. H. Loomis, a resident of Alameda. It was explained that the rest of the shares were owned by Kansas investors. Especially outspoken with regard to this plan was Capt. Thomas. Later that month, on the 27t

h of August, 1887, a new company, the Berkeley Real Estate & Building Assoc. met in the newly constructed IOOF building with J. L. McMullen, president, Dr. Loomis (of Alameda), manager, and C. W. Adams (also of Alameda), secretary.

And what became of the bank? Much money was invested, a building site on the North East corner of University and San Pablo (which had recently been purchased by Curtis) was selected, architects were hired, and McMullen left town. After a period of waiting, which was followed by a period of polite but unrequited inquiry, tempers began to be raised. Soon it became clear that McMullen's plans did not really include a bank for Berkeley. Out of all this, Curtis was never implicated or named as culpable in these fraudulent dealings.

In the meanwhile, Barker had left for Chicago. In July of 1887, the Herald, which published its first issue in March of 1886, suggested that in Barkers absence, J.K. Stewart and L. Gottshall call a meeting to get the electric light business started. The Herald, now the primary support of Barker, was a fierce competitor of the Advocate; where the latter had previously appeared to represent the conservative line, it was now obliged to represent the more moderate political and social view. Barker, as depicted by the Herald, was clearly identified as belonging with the large money interests, such as Shattuck, the Citizen's Party, the Homestead Loan Company, and the leading merchants of East Berkeley.

With regard to the electricity, there was talk of two plans by which electrical services could be obtained. On the one hand, a citizens stock company could be formed which would finance the company, later selling their interests to the Town. On the other hand, an outside company could be located which would finance the project, obviously for profit, and then sell the established service to the Town. In September a meeting was called at the IOOF building, which had been was located at South-east corner of Addison and Stanford Place (the roadway lying just east of the railroad terminus). This meeting was held during that brief period in which Barker had returned to Berkeley from his new home in Chicago. The meeting was called to order by Barker, the chair was assigned to R. P. Thomas (of the Central Pacific Railroad and Standard Soap Company), and the secretary of the meeting was John McCarthy, editor of the Herald.

Most of the speaking was done by Mr. Curtis. He recommended the Electrical Company of Oakland, who had offered to install the equipment for $12,000. McCarthy recommended the California Electrical Company who would also do it for $12,000. However, the majority decided on the option of a local stock company which was then formed with Barker, Curtis, George Schmidt, J.K. Stewart, Alfred Bartlett, and Louis Gottshall as principals.

On September 17, 1887 the second meeting was called to order by Maurice Curtis. Barker noted that 160 shares had already been acquired in their recently formed stock company, but only 26 of these shares had been purchased by the people of West Berkeley. This lack of interest was interpreted to mean that West Berkeley residents had little confidence that electrical services would soon be made available to their end of town, since virtually all those involved in the project comprised the business interests of East Berkeley.

Barker reported that the power plant and light towers would cost $18,000 to $20,000, and that it would cost the town some $250 per month to keep the proposed system in operation. Each mast, or tower, was expected to cost about $650 and the first six were to be installed at University and West (now Sacramento, near the newest location of the Town Hall), University and 3rd, University and Sherman (Grove, or Martin Luther King Way), Shattuck and Vine, Shattuck and Dwight, and Audubon (College) and Channing. As expected, one light tower was allocated for West Berkeley.

The following week, on September 22nd, the Herald explained that they had mistakenly offended Capt R.P. Thomas who was now demanding an apology. Whatever the slight, amends were to be made the following night, at the electric light meeting, where 300 shares of the stock would be offered for sale. With this offering Capt Thomas was given first choice. Captain Thomas immediately purchased 160 shares, giving him majority control over the entire operation. This coup was not accepted with anything close to equanimity by those in attendance. Of that group, most adjourned to the next room where they immediately formed up an alternative venture, the East Berkeley Electrical Light Company.

The original Berkeley Electrical Company, now effectively owned by Thomas, was incorporated the next day with principals listed as: J.B. Henley, Daniel Dowling, Robert Anderson, and R.C. Dornon. Mr Henley was president. All of these men it should be noted, are up to this point entirely unknown. While Captain Thomas is reported to have made some effort to convince the community that his company could do the job better and for less cost, little more is heard from his maverick endeavor.

It would seem that this split between Barker and Thomas is the occasion for the effective estrangement of at least one of these men from the bosom of the railroad. Since Thomas would be connected for many years, it must be surmised that Barker had now publically altered his allegiance. And with this maneuver, he returned, but ever so briefly, to his new job in Chicago.

Of the new East Berkeley Electrical Company, its members included Alfred Bartlett, Louis Gottshall, C.K.Clark, James Barker, Maurice Curtis, A.F. Gunn, William Cary Jones, J.W. Boies, and a man named McCarthy. Curtis was president, Jones was vice president.

September of 1887 was a busy month. Not only was the electric company being carefully negotiated, but Curtis was at work developing his other projects. While offering for sale his property in Peralta Park, he busied himself in the purchase of a large, two hundred and twenty foot segment of Berkeley's waterfront, property previously owned by Joseph Hume. The following month Curtis participated in the opening of the new Railroad Station in West Berkeley. The building was paid for by Curtis, and the land was donated by H.H. Seaton, a local land entrepreneur, local railroad functionary, and a nephew of C. P. Huntington. Seaton had been a junior partner in the business of Huntington & Hopkins. In October of 1889 he died at age 46 leaving a wife and three children.

The station was called "Posen" Station. Mr Curtis was an actor, best known for his major role, Samuel O'Posen. Curtis was his stage name; Strelinger his real name. Renowned for his work on the New York stage, his presence in Berkeley was applauded by many as a benevolent endowment bestowed by a compassionate God. Finally the little Town of Berkeley had an illustrious benefactor. This man had fame, charm, and the money to pull Berkeley from its doldrums. While Curtis gave in token amounts, and engaged himself vigorously with the major projects of the day, he was able to maintain a position that was virtually immune to criticism. Few made the impolite observation that linked him to his obviously shabby associations. Berkeley was agog with their local "personality" and would hear of no wrongdoing. The local baseball team was named the "Posens". The local football team was likewise designated. Today we are left with a street bearing that name.

So Curtis split his time between his ostensive civic responsibilities, his real estate enterprise, his acting career (which was now been centered in San Francisco), and his other businesses which took him to San Diego. He went often to San Diego, along with several other Berkeley businessmen.

In October of 1887, only five months since he arrived in Berkeley, Mr and Mrs Curtis moved into the "Niehaus cottage" on 6th Street, awaiting construction of their new home in Peralta Park. In February of 1888 Curtis announced plans to construct a large hotel in Peralta Park. This grand structure would contain 80 rooms, would provide transportation to the local beach for water sports, and would be surrounded by lovely gardens. There would be a train stop located at the hotel when the loop from East to West Berkeley was completed. (This, incidently, is the first mention by anyone of any plans for the further extension of the railroad beyond Vine Street). For this venture Curtis intended to get up a stock company with an issue of 6000 shares at $25 per share. The hotel it was estimated, would cost a grand total of $150,000. $37,000. worth had already been pledged. Virtually everyone in Berkeley was interested in becoming a part of his grand project, no portion of which would be located on Berkeley soil.

In March of 1888 Curtis hired William Schmidt to prepare the hotel grounds and to build the roads into and around the hotel site. Extending his empire even further, that same month he formed with several associates (Scotchler, Gottshall, King, and others) to lease the California and Nevada Railroad. Their plans were to operate it from Emeryville to the new picnic grounds at Oak Grove, which was just beyond San Pablo, with Berkeley stops at Dwight Way, University Avenue, and Peralta Park. The California & Nevada RR began running under this new management on the 1st of April.

While in the process of developing his railroad plans, Curtis simultaneously reorganized the Allegretti Fruit Packing Co. Mr Allegretti was a West Berkeley resident who had invented a way of keeping fruit from spoiling. Curtis issued stock and cut Allegretti in for all of the first two years profits, but no royalties. Also in April of 1880, Curtis announced first that he planned to run for town trustee and second that construction would begin on the hotel in June. Financially, they were now $10,000 short of the full subscription. That same month the Posen Band was formed, holding meetings at Sisterna Hall.

In May, now a scant year after Posen-Curtis had hit town, the grading of the foundation at Peralta Park had commenced and Curtis began selling cement he discovered during the process of excavation. It was also that month that he formally incorporated the Peralta Park Hotel Co. The directors were: M. B. Curtis, A. F. Gunn, C. R. Lord, A. H. Emery, and C. A. Goodwin. T.F. Graber, then Town Attorney, also represented the interests of the Peralta Park Company.

Meanwhile, progress on Berkeley's electric light system was well under way. In October of 1887, following the strong recommendations of Mastick and others in Alameda, it was decided that a contract would be signed with the Jenney Electric Light Company which would provide the equipment for the power plant and the light standards. Delivery was promised within sixty days. The following month Barker formally resigned his position, and Shattuck took over in his stead. With their new director, old plans were scuttled and a fresh search was undertaken for the location of the light standards throughout Berkeley. The search committee included Shattuck, W.C.Jones, Gottshall, and J.K. Stewart. Initially it was decided that lights would go at each railroad station, Berryman, Berkeley, and Dwight, as well as at Allston and Choate, the terminus of the (Durant’s) narrow gauge railroad that arrived from Oakland via Temescal. Six others were to be decided, including a little something for West Berkeley. In December of 1887, the Berkeley Electric Light Company was formally incorporated.

In February of 1888, a little behind schedule because of inclement winter conditions, word was received that the dynamo, lamps and masts were en route from Indiana, having left Indianapolis sometime before the new year. On the 22nd of February the location committee announced that, contrary to prior announcements, the new masts would be installed at Durant and Fulton, Durant and Bowditch, Walnut and Cedar, Grant and Addison, San Pablo and University. As expected, West Berkeley was fairly well left in the dark. Secondary masts, shorter by almost half, would be installed at Dwight and Shattuck, Dwight and Humboldt, Center and Shattuck, Vine and Shattuck, and at Sacramento and University. The original plan had been entirely abandoned.

By the end of February the equipment had been received and installation was well on its way; the power plant located on the east side of Bonita at the intersection of Berkeley Way. It took up half the block toward Hearst St, the other half occupied by George C. Pape’s planning mill. The property for the dynamo had been sold to the city by Pape who owned the entire block until June of 1888. Pape had not only sold the city the land but, in October of 1889 was appointed by the City Fathers as the Electrician of the Town to run the dynamo. That same month, however, Pape abandoned his shop for another at the corner of Milvia and Addison, the noise of the generator being more than he could tolerate while working his usual trade. His second shop was later occupied by the Berkeley Glass Company until it was torn down but a few years ago. George Pape did the interior finish work for the Peralta Park Hotel.

March 14, 1888, was the date that Berkeley had its "Electric Light Jubilee". On that Saturday night, by eight o'clock, crowds of people had already met at Center Street waiting for the sun to go down. There was first a display of sky rockets and roman candles that were accompanied by the "screeches of engine whistles". At the appointed time someone cried out "Let there be light, and there was light" and the switch was thrown. All of Berkeley was lit up at once. For the first time in the experience of every soul attending, night was light. Not a lot of light, but for the first time there was light where there had always been dark. The band, which was supposed to be there at seven, showed up at nine. After playing a few pieces, all adjourned to the Town Hall where the party began in earnest. The festivities at the Town Hall were begun by a speech by Curtis, which was followed by remarks by R. Guy McClellen, Daniel O'Connell, Professor Putzker of the University, Professor Jones, H.L. Whitney (President of the Board of Trustees) and Mr Scotchler. From then on it was music and dancing.

One month later it was announced that the new Electric Light Company was in trouble. The word was that if more money was not somehow made available, it would likely be shut down. The announcement was followed by door to door requests for subscriptions or purchases of stock. In June of 1888 the Electric Light Company asked the Town to take over and operate its own electric light facility. On the First of August it was announced that the Town had in fact taken over the electric lights. From that time the town plan was to operate the system only until one in the morning and if the moon was bright enough, it would be turned off earlier. The agreement was that the town would expend $2,400 for the year.

However in spite of the fiscal hardships, in October of 1888 plans were being made to install additional lights at Newberry Station, Lorin Station, and Alcatraz Station. Additional locations were to be at Butchertown, and Klinknerville. There had already been lights installed in the Fischel Hotel (at University and Shattuck) and at the Presbyterian Church. With services supplied beyond the Town limits, business had been better and was even showing a small profit.

But in 1889 it became known that the Town had never purchased the electrical system, but had only agreed to assume responsibility for its operation. In March of that year it was asked to purchase the system outright. The cost would be $24,000 and a bond was to be issued for $30,000 to provide for the purchase as well for the cost of additional lights. In April the bond issue passed almost unanimously and many new light standards were installed over the next year. However, on July 3, 1890, the Trustees announced that bond or no bond, while they had expanded the system, they had not in fact purchased the Electric Company or its equipment. The system, they decided, was not acceptable.

In spite of the major endorsement it had initially received from Barker (and others) the system that had been in operation was in fact a very mediocre system. The Jenny Company, which had been originally very strongly endorsed by the Town Fathers of Alameda, was no longer in use in that city, nor in any other municipality, and in fact the company was no longer in business.

It was at this point The Berkeley Electric Light and Power Company was formed. Incorporated in 1891, it was later absorbed by P.G.& E. In February of that year the Edison Electric Company offered (successfully) to purchase the electric light plant and replace it with one of their own design. Edison guaranteed that it would be better, cheaper, and would allow for incandescent lighting in all homes. Home installation would cost $3 for a connection fee, $1.50 per month for each light until ten p.m. and $2 if used to midnight. The first domestic installation was for the Baptist church on Dwight Way. In September, the Town Hall was aglow with electric powered light.


Town Hall

The Town Hall was located in mid Berkeley, near nothing in particular. The only real argument for its location was that it was not located in either East or West Berkeley, hence it was not unfairly placed in either East or West Berkeley. In April of 1881, Sarah Shaw, the widow of A.C.R. Shaw, and after much wrangling on the part of the Trustees, deeded a plot of land to the Town of Berkeley upon which they would construct the new Town Hall. The purchase price was $1700. The property, on the north side of University and extending as far north as Berkeley Way, was comprised of lots 1, 2,3, 17 and 18 in Block 2 of the Shaw Tract. Located just west of Sacramento, it is now the site of a motel.

This piece of property was not the first to be suggested as the site of the Town Hall, but the first lacking in factional interest. As early as December 1878, McGee offered to donate a lot at Addison and Hamilton (Milvia), 104 feet by 135 feet as a site for the town hall and "lock-up". In January of 1880 Elizabeth Heverin, acting as the guardian for Angelo Heverin, deeded a parcel of land to the Town of Berkeley, which was located on the east side of Choate, consisting of the southern forty feet of lot 8 in Block 10, for the bargin price of $400. This property is just south of the corner of Telegraph and Bancroft. Since there was no mention of this change of title anywhere but in the County Recorder's office, it is assumed that is was someone's covert attempt to finagle to have the Town Hall located within the University Community. One year later, Charles Schnelle, a man politically active and a strong advocate of West Berkeley, deeded without mention of price a piece of land on the north side of University Avenue, located 600 feet west of San Pablo Avenue. Again, the motive remains unstated but is suggested. That same year, but again at the other end of town, the real estate firm of Barker and Beardslee offered to sell to the town, for town hall purposes, a lot either on corner of University and Grant for $1800, or one even nicer at University and Shattuck for $1500. The hearts that prevailed were clearly lodged in the East.

However, the Trustees were determined to find a site that seemed fair to all citizens of Berkeley, one that would quell dissent by being equally accessible to all, even if it would be convenient to no one. On February 12, 1881 the Town finance committee recommended the purchase of the Shaw property. The original asking price was $2000. The beauty of this property was that it was located as near dead center within the town's boundaries as was possible.

With the purchase consummated, bids were open for construction. Within a scant three weeks it was determined that the winning bid was that of Carlos (sometimes Charles) .R. Lord, local contractor and soon to be Town Treasurer. In a month the frame was up, another month and the walls enclosed with the windows in place, and the town again ran out of funds. On March 22, 1884 all work stopped pending the arrival of the necessary $3000 to complete the work. Soon enough money was discovered, and by July a contract was let for painting, and another for the interior work needed for the Assembly Room. In September the Town Fathers were finally able to occupy their new space. Fifteen years later the entire building was uprooted, hauled up University Avenue and repositioned on Grove Street. In October of 1904 it burned to the ground. The construction of its replacement, Berkeley's City Hall, was completed in 1909 at the same location.

In October of 1884, a month after the completion of Town Hall, the town lockup was moved from its original location in West Berkeley to a spot behind the new Town Hall. The original Berkeley lockup, built at the southwest corner of University and Fifth Streets by W.H. Wrigley in June of 1879, had been occupied on its opening day by San Lung, a "washee", caught pilfering rooms at the Berkeley Hotel. Painted blue, the jail was known to all as the "Blue House". With its removal to the new location in October of 1884, it was painted red and renamed accordingly. In December of 1889, it was noted by one observer that the Berkeley Jail was no more than a box seven foot or so in each dimension and had been built to house one person. Often it contained as many as five; Berkeley was in need of a new jail.

 

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