In 1877 John G. Wright, an Englishman, opened Berkeley’s first wholesale-retail bakery at 2026 Shattuck Ave., just north of where the Kress building stands today. The original bakery which is pictured here, was a two-story wood frame building that had tall storefront windows and a covered wood veranda in front. The owners, as well as their bakery workers and student boarders, lived on the second floor.
The bakery produced 26 varieties of bread, twelve types of cakes and pies and also had a catering service, dining room and retail sales shop. By 1905 the business had grown so large that it had a fleet of 40 horse-drawn trucks and motor cars.
Wright was active in organizing the bakers union which was formally established in 1904 at the Golden Sheaf Bakery. But unionization led to the demise of family run bakeries and the rise of large companies. In 1909 the Wright family sold their business to Wonderbread and the old bakery building was torn down.
Around the corner at 2071 Addison St. is a remnant of the Golden Sheaf Bakery. The brick-sided building was constructed in 1905 as a storage building and loading area for the bakery. But despite its rather humble use, the building was designed by noted architect Clinton Day.
It is a Classic-inspired, two-story red brick and terra-cotta building with a three-part composition. Four pilasters frame three vertical bays, which contain three sets of paired arched windows on the second story. Above the central bay there is a sign molded in brick-colored terra-cotta depicting a sheaf of wheat and under this, the bakery’s name. Molded terra cotta was also used for the bases and capitals of the pilasters and for the cornice. The terra cotta was made by the Gladding McBean Company.
After the bakery was sold, the building served as offices and shops until 1927, when it was converted into a garage. On July 20, 2000 a dedication ceremony was held for the Nevo Educational Center of the Berkeley Repertory Theater. The remodeled bakery-warehouse building will provide space for the theater’s education program.
Susan Cerny, author of “Berkeley Landmarks,” writes this series in conjunction with the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.