RBMS 2015 Blog

Oakland and Berkeley Welcome You: Part 4

Image credit: Hilgard Hall, UC Berkeley, NoeHill Travels in California.


Just a Few UC Berkeley Plaques, Marker, Tablets, and Inscriptions

As befitting an institution that is rapidly approaching its sesquicentennial, UC Berkeley has a goodly number of plaques, markers, tablets, and inscriptions dotting the campus. Here are some that you may not want to miss (or might even want to seek out) when strolling about.

Two memorials commemorating early events are found on opposite corners of the more than 175-acre core campus. Founder’s Rock at the northeast corner (Hearst Avenue and Gayley Road) was where the Trustees of the private College of California stood on the northeast side of campus on April 16, 1860 and dedicated the property for a future college campus. A memorial tablet was placed on the stone in 1896.

Near the southwest corner, the Pedro Fages Expedition marker (on West Entrance Drive where Center Street crosses Oxford Street) was placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution to designate “the area where on March 27, 1772 a scientific team under the auspices of the Empire of Spain stopped on Strawberry Creek to include an observation of is now known as Golden Gate.”

Fittingly, in the center of campus, facing the Campanile on Campanile Way, you will find the California Historical Landmark marker honoring the historic core of the first University of California campus, opened in 1873. One original building, South Hall, still stands to your right. To your left and up the small flight of steps, you will find a plaque designating the location of North Hall, the second of the two original 1873 buildings.

Several markers around the Campanile honor campus people and events. Facing the entry to the Campanile, a large marker describes the many contributions of campus architect John Galen Howard, including the Campanile, Sather Gate, and the Greek Theater. At the south side of the Campanile, you will find a sundial donated by the class of 1877 and a bust of Abraham Lincoln. The sundial was donated in 1915, the year the Campanile, with its huge clocks on each of its four faces, was completed. You may ponder how the installation of a sundial at this spot came to be. The Lincoln bust, by Gutzon Borlum – best known for the Mount Rushmore sculptures – was installed at the base of the Campanile in 1921 as an acknowledgment of Lincoln’s role in signing the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, which promoted institutions that agreed to “teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts,” such as the yet-to-be chartered University of California.

Sproul Plaza is a well-known location for both student protests and other types of student gatherings. Certainly, the Free Speech Movement is the most recognized of the protests and is commemorated in two ways. First, a small marker set into the bottom of the stairs leading up to Sproul Hall designates them as the “Mario Savio Steps,” in honor of the main spokesperson for the FSM. In 1989, the 25th anniversary of the FSM, a nearby “invisible monument to the Free Speech Movement,” a 6-inch circle of dirt surrounded by a 6-foot granite disc, was installed. The circular inscription proclaims that “this soil and the airspace extending above it shall not be a part of any nation and shall not be subject to any entity’s jurisdiction.”

Sproul Plaza is also a site for lightheartedness. Across from Sproul Hall (and obscured by the current Student Union construction project) is Ludwig’s Fountain – as in Ludwig, the dog. A brass marker nearby explains that the fountain is named in honor of “Ludwig von Schwarenburg, campus canine, by act of the Board of Regents.” Ludwig played in the fountain daily between 1959 and 1965 and was clearly much beloved. The north end of Sproul Plaza is punctuated by Sather Gate. For many years, this was the south entrance to campus, as commercial and residential buildings filled the area leading up to the gate. The gate was originally (as it is today) adorned by eight bas-relief panels, four of nude men and four of nude women. For decades, these panels were missing from the gate as an embarrassed Jane Sather (who had donated the gate in honor of her late husband Peder) had them removed when the carved inscription “erected by Jane K. Sather 1909,” in conjunction with the images of the nearby male nudes, caused her to note, along with throngs of Berkeley students, that the panels were “indecent.” When the panels were reinstalled, it was the female figures, rather than the males, that graced the side of the gate with the inscription.

Some artistic tributes include the William Keith plaque on the side of Evans Field where Allston intersects Oxford. Keith, a friend of John Muir, was a painter of California landscapes. His studio was once near the site of this plaque, which is now almost completely obscured by, appropriately enough, trees. The Old Art Gallery (located at the end of Barrows Lane), designed by campus architect John Galen Howard as a steam plant, is decorated with mosaic murals depicting musicians and artists. A small mosaic inscription notes “W.P.A. Federal Arts Project 1936-1937.” The future Art Museum (under construction at Oxford and Center streets) was the former home of UC Printing. A plaque on the building once noted that the United Nations Charter was printed there. (Presumably, the plaque will be reinstalled when the building renovation is completed.)

If you are interested in reading while looking at campus structures, you may view Hilgard Hall’s west face. Hilgard Hall (on Wickson Road not far from the West Circle) was built for the Agriculture Department and its wall states “To Rescue for Human Society the Native Values of Rural Life.” The Class of 1910 Bridge and Archway (South Drive near the Faculty Club) is the only campus structure that honors UC Regent and philanthropist Phoebe Apperson Hearst by name with its Latin inscription. Finally, two lengthy inscriptions cover the west walls of Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley School of Law, located at College and Bancroft Avenues). Raised aluminum letters on granite spell out words from Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Benjamin N. Cardozo.

I’ll leave to you the fun of discovering more of the many other markers scattered both outside and within campus buildings.

– Maria C. Brandt, Local Arrangements Committee Adjunct