If you ever wished you could have a look at Berkeley, say, a century or so ago, you might want to drop by the Berkeley History Center before the end of this month.
There you can see photos of a very different Berkeley, when cows far outnumbered joggers in Strawberry Canyon, and when the lot where Cragmont School now stands held a haystack as big as a two-story house.
If you look at the page from the 1878 Berkeley Census, you'll find those listed as "farmer" greatly exceed those listed as "Capitalist." Here and there you can find a professor from the fledgling university then growing on the settlement's eastern flank.
The History Center – which serves as kind of local history mini-museum run by the Berkeley Historical Society – has mounted an exhibit, "Berkeley: From Farm to Urban Farming 1850 - 2013," that runs through the end of September.
A visitor can quickly learn that the current premium on locally grown food has a long pedigree in Berkeley.
Chef Alice Waters, proprietor of Chez Panisse restaurant, is rightly credited for her pioneering role in inspiring modern school gardens. She led the establishment of The Edible Schoolyard at Berkeley’s King Middle School, a garden-kitchen curriculum program that has become an influential model for other schools.
But school gardens too were around more than a century ago in Berkeley.
"We found school gardens in 1907," said John Aronovici, a fifth-generation Berkeleyan and History Center docent who was on hand when Patch dropped by on Thursday afternoon. "They go way back."
One of the school gardens, he said, recruited investors by selling stock at five cents a share and then earned income by selling seeds and produce.
Early Berkeley had not only many seeds but also establishments regarded as seedy by the growing genteel population that gravitated to the university town.
One photo in the exhibit shows the Bay View Saloon, located on the Davis Ranch near Cragmont in North Berkeley. In front of the establishment stands a group of men who appear unlikely to be thinking of Cicero.
The photo presumably dates before 1909, the year that Berkeley citizens voted to go dry and ban alcohol in the city. This vote followed earlier moves to ban saloons in Berkeley.
Berkeley featured concerted organizing against alcohol in those years and hosted the 25th national convention of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in 1898, according to the 52-page Historical Society booklet, "Fermenting Berkeley: A Spirited History," one of the several publications on sale at the History Center.
The History Center, located in the Veterans Memorial Building at 1931 Center Street, is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 1-4 p.m.
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