Panoramic Hill Association

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Panoramic Hill Association

The Uniqeness of Panoramic Hill

Panoramic Hill has been called "Berkeley's Most Romantic Neighborhood" by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, and few would disagree. The hill contains many one-of-a-kind houses which were designed to complement their hilly, irregular lots. Despite the sometimes oppressive presence of Memorial Stadium at its base, the hill maintains a remote, unspoiled quality which enhances the presence of its numerous historic dwellings - many by well-known California architects. Although only one principal road, Panoramic Way, serves the hill, several old paths and public steps provide access for the hardy to its higher elevations (about 1000 ft above sea level). Surrounded on three sides by hiking trails, canyons, ridges and open land, the Hill offers a rare combination of natural beauty, context sensitive development, spectacular vistas and convenience to the University and downtown Berkeley.

A Brief History of the Hill

In 1888, Dr. Silas Mouser and Mr. Charles Bailey each purchased tracts of land from the University of California. In 1904, both holdings were bought by Warren Cheney, a former editor of the literary magazine "The Californian." In addition to Panoramic Way (which had been previously terraced into the hillside with multiple switchbacks by Bailey), Cheney added Mosswood and Arden Roads and Orchard Lane, a romantic path through the almond orchard that had been planted by Mouser. The Hill's proximity to the University and its rural beauty attracted professors, artists and nature lovers. Many, inspired by "The Simple Home," written in 1904 by Berkeley poet Charles Keeler, built their homes in the craftsman or shingle style - to be the antithesis of the elaborate, ornamented, multi-colored Victorian architecture which reflected the "materialism and artifice" of the day.

Architectural Greatness

The "simple home" was to be lovingly crafted of natural materials, built in subtle harmony with its natural setting. This ethos inspired architects such as Bernard Maybeck, Julia Morgan, Walter Ratcliff, Ernest Coxhead and Walter Steilberg to design some of their most distinctive homes on the Hill. The "great Berkeley fire" of 1923 led to the design and construction of unusual buildings made of fire resistant materials such as concrete. Happily, architectural creativity continues to flourish on the Hill with a number of unusual contemporary homes including a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house and a recent renovation by California architect Mark Mack.

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