Historic receipt for the purchase of stock from the College Homestead Association issued in 1865. This document was printed by Towne & Bacon and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of a farmer plowing his fields driven by oxen. This item has the signatures of the Company's Secretary and is over 142 years old.
The College of California was the predecessor of the University of California. The private College was founded in 1855 by Henry Durant, a Congregationalist minister. It was located in the recently established city of Oakland, California.
In 1853, Henry Durant had founded the Contra Costa Academy in Oakland with an eye to preparing students for his ultimate goal of establishing a Christian college. By 1855, he was ready and the new college opened in Oakland on the block bounded by Twelfth, Fourteenth, Franklin and Harrison Streets.
In time, the Oakland site was considered unsuitable owing to the general rowdiness of the area.
In 1866, the trustees of the College sought out a new site for the College. They planned to finance this expansion by selling land in the vicinity of the prospective College site. To this end, they formed the "College Homestead Association" and purchased 160 acres (650,000 m²) of land north of Oakland on a site that is part of today's Berkeley.
Sales of lots were less than had been hoped for. Consequently, the trustees collaborated with the State of California's Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College to establish a public university.
The University of California came into existence on March 23, 1868. While the campus at Berkeley was being constructed, the new University used the buildings of the College of California in Oakland. In September of 1873, the University moved to Berkeley.
The site of the College of California in Oakland is now California Historical Landmark #25.
The College Homestead Association Tract is the area between College and Shattuck avenues, Bancroft and Dwight ways. Busy Telegraph Avenue bisects the tract. The College Homestead Tract was recorded in 1866. The streets were laid out in a grid pattern. It was intended to create a campus community of mixed uses and to generate income from the sale of lots for the College of California (the precursor to the University of California.)
When the university moved from Oakland to its new Berkeley campus in 1873, the area south of the campus was sparsely populated. The most prominent buildings were at the State Schools for the Deaf and Blind and on the University campus. At Bancroft and Telegraph, there were a few homes and a hotel, which had a small store and restaurant. But settlement was slow during the 1870s and 1880s and the area had a rural character because of the large size of the lots and the remoteness of Berkeley.
A typical building lot was 150-feet wide by 300-feet deep because it had to accommodate stables, water wells and windmills, and other outbuildings. The blocks themselves were larger, as neither Haste Street nor Durant Avenue was cut through until around 1900.
By 1910 the College Homestead Tract was a fully built, predominantly family-oriented neighborhood with churches, schools, an occasional duplex or student boarding house, and some shops on Telegraph Avenue. Around 1910 and ending with the stock market crash in 1929, a building boom intensified the density and filled in the empty lots.
Following World War II, dramatic increases in the student population put demands on the neighborhood. The rooming houses, often converted from large homes, were considered unsanitary firetraps and entire blocks were demolished. With accelerated university expansion and urban renewal during the 1950s and 1960s, approximately ten city blocks were cleared for high-rise dormitories, sports fields and parking lots.
While most of the homes are gone, there are a few scattered clusters of houses and churches that evoke the memory of the old college town. Many of Berkeley’s important landmarks are located here, and the close proximity to the university gives them high visibility. These buildings and sites reveal the layers of history and explain the diversity of building type, age and use in the College Homestead Tract.
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