BAHA 2014 Spring House Tour Focuses on Rose Walk

By Daniella Thompson
Saturday April 05, 2014 - 10:02:00 AM
Rose Walk
Rose Walk

Maybeck’s Rose Walk and Surroundings

On Sunday, May 4, the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) will hold its 39th annual Spring House Tour and Garden Reception. This year’s tour, themed Maybeck’s Rose Walk and Surroundings, will focus on the beloved path and the adjacent Wheeler Tract.

The Berkeley hills abound in scenic paths and byways, many of them vestiges of the early twentieth century, when commuter traffic was largely based on the Key System’s trains and streetcars.

Each weekday, morning and evening, hill dwellers on their way to and from work in San Francisco and Oakland bounded up and down the shortcut paths that connected their residential streets with the traffic arteries along which the streetcars ran.

Although the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association has identified 136 named paths in Berkeley, it is safe to say that none of them is as famous as Rose Walk, whose name has spread virtually around the world. Its gracefully curving double stairway, “elephant pink” stucco, and carefully tended flowerbeds, surrounded by rustic cottages, continue to charm visitors from far and wide.

Like many notable street improvements in the districts lying directly to the north of the University of California campus, Rose Walk owes its distinctive appearance to the members of the Hillside Club and its moving spirit, Bernard Maybeck. 

In 1908, the People’s Water Company, owner of Berryman Reservoir, leased the land surrounding the reservoir to the City of Berkeley and the Hillside Club for 15 years at $1 per year. Around 1910, the first plans for a path on the Rose Street right-of-way just south of the reservoir were drawn up by City Engineer J.J. Jessup. None of Jessup’s half a dozen or more plans found favor with the Hillside Club or the neighbors. 

The following year, the Hillside Club took matters into its own hands by forming a committee, which raised path-building funds by subscription from the neighbors. Maybeck donated his design services. His plans called for the path “to be constructed of concrete, bordered with hedges of roses and decorative trees.” 

Rose Walk was completed in July 1913. Ten years later, the great Berkeley Fire wiped away the entire built environment in the neighboring Wheeler Tract. The houses built after the fire gave the neighborhood an entirely new appearance. Brown shingles no longer dominated the streetscape, but architects channeled their creativity in new directions, no less picturesque than the old. 

Today, the Wheeler Tract consists of houses built primarily in the 1920s and clad mostly in stucco, although brick, shingle, and board-and-batten make an appearance here and there. The 1920s saw the flowering of period revival and storybook style, and variations of these idioms are abundant on the hillside slopes. 

On BAHA’s 2014 Spring House Tour, visitors will have the opportunity to see an interesting palette of architectural expressions reflecting the varying sensibilities of their creators, including leading architects such as Bernard Maybeck, John Galen Howard, Julia Morgan, Ernest Coxhead; Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr.; Warren C. Perry; William I. Garren; Sidney, Noble & Archie Newsom; Edwin Lewis Snyder; and Roger Lee. Several glorious secret gardens will also be on view. 

See the BAHA website for information and tickets. 


BAHA 2014 Spring House Tour & Garden Reception 


Where: Rose Walk and surroundings 

When: Sunday, May 4, 2014 

Time: 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm 

Tickets: $45 general; $35 BAHA members