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University Terrace has seen many changes since the Ohlone first lived on the banks of Strawberry Creek and left shells and kitchen debris behind. Part of the more than 44,000 square acre Spanish land grant Rancho San Antonio, this land was ranched by José Domingo Peralta and his three brothers who together had 8,000 head of cattle and sold their tallow and hides.

Next, as part of and after the Gold Rush, came the Irish farmers -- Yes! There were farms in Berkeley! James and Catherine McGee owned 117 acres bounded by Addison Street to the north, Dwight Way to the south, Martin Luther King, Jr. Way to the east, and California Street to the west. In the late 1870s, James McGee gave Mother Mary Teresa Comerford, leader of the Presentation Sisters in San Francisco, the northwestern 2.7 acres of his Tract to found a convent, school, and ultimately a church.

Initially cloistered, the Sisters developed with James McGee's help a meditation garden complete with a grotto modeled after one in Lourdes, France. Their schools were award-winning; in addition to academics (many of the graduates of the high school -- all female -- went on to enroll in the University of California), the Sisters were known for their skill in teaching musical instruments and producing elaborate programs involving hundreds of performing students. A haven for the Presentation Sisters who lost their own convents in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, the Convent at different times housed the Sisters, their novices, and boarding students.

But times change: James McGee and, after his death, his daughters Catherine and Mary Ann, sold off the remaining lots in the Tract where homes were built to accommodate the burgeoning East Bay and Berkeley population. St. Joseph's Parish, at one time comprising all of Berkeley, slowly shrank as more parishes in Berkeley were carved out of its original territory. When BART took out 16 blocks of the few remaining blocks in the Parish, the life of the Parish -- including local Parish children attending the schools -- was greatly affected. The sense of community, which had gradually frayed as people aged and their children moved into the eastern suburbs, eventually tore. Old-timers, the "Golden Friends," meet for mass daily, but the Sisters are now gone and their schools and students with them.

Still there are remnants of those who came before us. Our original pink buildings became these different shades of pink intentionally. The monkey puzzle tree, large oak, and palm tree on the central Green were all part of the early design of the grounds. Circular pathways guided the meditating, prayful Sisters in their walks in the Garden. The stone pillars by the rose garden on California Street originally graced the California Street entrance to the Convent, a bit closer to Addison Street. The oak staircase at the northern end of Building 9 is the original staircase from St. Joseph's Academy built in 1892. The trains' whistles still echo off the hills and over University Terrace. And pets and children play.

We begin with a question. That one leads to another and then another. We follow a trail, sometimes getting sidetracked, sometimes losing the trail and so making our own. "Aha!" moments are balanced by "But then, why?" moments. We meet many who help, who encourage, and some who have answers. Old photographs speak. The handwriting from 150 years ago of one sought startles. Children are born, grow up, age, die, and are buried. Sometimes the laughing, squealing sounds of today's children playing on the Green echo with those of children long gone. Was that a dog or cat chasing a squirrel? There's the music heard through a half-open window, a mother calling a child, the train whistle in the distance — all evocative of a time past. Sorda, one person says, meaning deaf, but more in the sense of: "If I don't know, how can I hear or see; if I can't see or hear, how can I know? How can I understand?" The past does become present. The story continues.


Ohlone man circa 1816
Ohlone on the Bay in a tule canoe - circa 1820
Ohlone circa 1810-1820
Primarily acorn-gatherers, they lived in small villages (~200 people) around the Bay. Colonized by the Spanish Franciscans, many lost their lives due to disease. Those surviving developed the missions -- the buildings, the crops, the stables. When the Spanish land grants were established, many became vaqueros and worked the ranchos.
Jose Domingo Peralta
José Domingo Peralta
"Small in stature and dark in complexion like his father, José Domingo Peralta (1795-1865) was described as friendly and courteous but "with an impulsive nature" that could manifest itself in "moody and argumentative behavior." A ranchero who together with his three brothers had ~8,000 cattle that roamed the ~44,000 square acres of the Rancho San Antonio, he built the first non-Ohlone home in Berkeley, an adobe on Codornices Creek, just across from today's St. Mary's College High School. Like his brothers, he was overwhelmed by the changes -- including squatters and swindlers -- that came with the Gold Rush. Eventually he sold or lost almost all of his quarter-share of the rancho and died a poor man. He is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Oakland.
Catherine and James McGee - circa 1870s?
Catherine (née Catherine Lusk, 1822-1877) and James McGee (1814-1899) originally came from Ireland to the U.S. in 1840, ahead of the Great Potato Famine. After 14 years in Boston, they traveled to Berkeley via the Isthmus of Panama and started farming right away. One of the original Pioneers, James McGee was known for his philanthropy, starting with his gift of 2.7 acres of his 117-acre Tract (between Addison and Allston, MLK, and California) to Mother Mary Teresa Comerford of the Presentation Sisters. Catherine and James' two daughters, Mary Ann and Catherine, never married and lived in Berkeley their whole lives in homes that were within six blocks of each other. All four are buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Oakland.

Mother Mary Teresa Comerford
Née Bridget Comerford in 1821, Mother Mary Teresa Comerford (1821-1881) was the driving force behind the Presentation Sisters' initial establishment and growth in San Francisco and Berkeley. Described as "a lady of captivating personality, refined and highly educated, [with] an exceptional gift for making friends, and so of gaining the patronage of the cultured elite," she was also known for her "legislative ability, her personal attractions and pleasing manners, [which] with great zeal and charity, drew a host of friends and benefactors through whose patronage and benefactions, difficulties were cleared away." She established five convents -- two in San Francisco, one in Sonoma, one in Kilcock, Ireland, and St. Joseph's in Berkeley, where she sought a climate warmer than San Francisco for Sisters suffering from tuberculosis as well as an opportunity to teach the Catholic children of Berkeley.

When she died prematurely in 1881, her funeral procession to the ferry taking her from San Francisco to Berkeley filled Market Street from Sixth Street to the Ferry Terminal with friends, current students, parents, and alumni walking four abreast followed by 60 carriages. Donohoe's Magazine, a publication for and about Irish-Americans, eulogized her, "It is with deepest feelings of sorrow that we announce the death of Rev. Mother Mary Teresa Comerford... the beloved member of an ancient and highly respectable Irish family... In 1869 Mother Comerford founded the magnificent convent on Taylor Street, [San Francisco,] which was erected under her direction and through her tireless exertion. Here she continued her labors for both parents and pupils until 1878, when she went to Berkeley to found the convent that still flourishes in that suburban retreat [emphasis added]." She is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Oakland.
Mother Mary Teresa Comerford
One of the many adventures of Mother Mary Teresa's life was her crossing of the Isthmus of Panama on her way to San Francisco in 1854. She recreated in drawings two incidents for the novices in Ireland on her last trip there, shortly before her death: being thrown in a mudhole by a willful mule; and being carried by "a brawny Indian" to the "tug" that took her to the steamship carrying her from Panama City to San Francisco -- both times in full wool serge habit.

Falling in the mud - crossing the Isthmus

Being carried to the tug

Mother Mary Bernard Comerford
Mother Mary Bernard Comerford (1830-1911), née Catherine, the younger sister of Mother Mary Teresa Comerford, traveled to San Francisco to join her sister in 1861, starting immediately as the submistress of novices. In 1903, on the 50th anniversary of her professing her vows, she was lauded by the San Francisco Call as a "venerable woman." In 1907 she fled the Presentation Convent in North Beach, making her way on foot to the Ferry Terminal as the Fire following the Great Earthquake threatened the Sisters' San Francisco Convents and all were evacuated to Berkeley.

Mother Mary Bernard remained in Berkeley until her death in 1911, when Father F. X. Morrison eulogized her, "What a testimony to Faith that she when young and strong and with all the affiliations of home, and all the inducements to remain in her own country — with all these attractions she left her native land — She came no doubt encouraged by other members of her family. We in Berkeley have good reason to reverence this good religious. Mother Mary Bernard Comerford did not build material structures as did the other members of her family, but her building was not less real, she built with living stones." She is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Oakland.

Father Pierce Michael Comerford
Father Pierce Michael Comerford (1818-1905), one of Mother Mary Teresa's older brothers, served in Mauritius for 30 years before returning to Ireland where he was recruited by his sister to join her in Berkeley in 1878. Before his arrival, there had only been an itinerant priest serving the predominantly Irish Catholics in Berkeley. His arrival provided the impetus for the Archbishop to create St. Joseph's Parish and name Father Comerford the Parish priest. In 1879, Father Comerford used his own funds to build the first Rectory facing Addison Street and across St. Joseph Avenue from the Convent on land donated by James McGee. A year after the Rectory was built, Father Comerford built a school for boys, St. Peter's Boys' School, across the street, 100 feet south of the Convent, facing St. Joseph's Street. When the School officially opened on January 2, 1881, the Sisters added teaching the boys to their responsibilities. Years later, the children of St. Joseph's Academy tell stories about Father Comerford's "insulted horse Abraham," insulted because after working "diligently for Father Comerford for three years, carrying the priest all around the area to visit the sick and do business for the Church," he was sold to finance the building and furnishing of a school. The new school was named after Peter, Father Comerford's patron saint.

Father Comerford retired from his service at St. Joseph's in 1899, but remained active as a chaplain at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose until his death in 1905. "Though ascetic in frame, Dr. Comerford remained erect and vivacious to the end."

Mother Mary Josephine Hagarty
Mother Mary Josephine Hagarty (1811-1911) was the second Superioress of St. Joseph's Convent, a position she was named to when Mother Mary Teresa Comerford left Berkeley to found the Presentation novitiate in Kilcock, Ireland. She was described as "a woman of remarkable, rare personality. Though of a gentle, refined, unassuming, and retiring disposition, she caught the exigency of the moment with quick perception and was equal to any demand; hence, it was that changes in educational systems met her, as it were, already prepared. She grasped the situation, fell in line, and often with kindness achieved marvelous results." She needed this resourcefulness when Mother Mary Teresa left her with just 10 cents to take care of the Berkeley Convent!

Father F. X. Morrison
Father F. X. (Francis Xavier) Morrison (1865-1924) became the pastor at St. Joseph's in 1905. A native of Canada, he had three doctorates: in philosophy, theology, and canon law.

Reports in the San Francisco Call described Father Morrison's many involvements not only in Church ministering such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals as well as regular Church services, but also in meetings with the Elks, the Knights of Columbus, and multi-denominational services in the Greek Theater on campus. The Call even reported about his finding an abandoned baby on the doorstep of the Rectory. He also enjoyed the company of the University's President, Benjamin Ide Wheeler, and others from campus.

On his watch, today's St. Joseph's was built to accommodate the growing parish population after the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, and the large U-shaped Convent was built.

Music at St. Joseph's - 1899
Student musicians at St. Joseph's in 1899.

Sister Mary Evangelist's "Little Gentlemen" from the 1st and 2nd grades - 1909
Sister Mary Evangelist's "Little Gentlemen" -- first and second graders from 1909 posing in front of the monkey puzzle tree in the garden

St. Joseph's Academy - Class of 1913
St. Joseph's Academy -- Class of 1913
Sister Canice O'Shea's class - circa 1908
St. Joseph's Academy -- circa 1915
St. Cecilia's Choir - 1915
St. Cecilia's Choir -- circa 1915
Boys riding bikes - circa 1910s-1920s
Boys enjoying bikes -- circa 1920s
Boys crossing Jefferson Avenue going towards the Convent - circa 1920s
Little boys crossing Jefferson Avenue and walking towards the Convent -- circa 1920s
Class of boys posing in the orchard - circa 1920s
Class of boys posing in the orchard with St. Joseph's in the background -- circa 1920s
Class of boys - circa 1920s-1930s
Class of boys posing outside Presentation High School -- circa late 1920s-1930s
Tough boys - circa 1910s-1920s
Tough little boys -- circa 1920s
Why are their arms folded?
Third grade boys - circa 1923
Class of boys -- circa 1922
Presentation High School - Class of 1924
Presentation High School -- Class of 1924
Presentation High School - Class of 1937
Presentation High School -- Class of 1937
St. Peter's School - Class of 1937
St. Peter's School for Boys -- Class of 1937
Girls playing basketball - circa 1943
Basketball is a popular sport
at Presentation High -- 1940s

Presentation High School - Class of 1946
Presentation High School -- Class of 1946
Leaving Berkeley for the new novitiate in Los Gatos - 1957
Sisters leaving Berkeley for
the new novitiate in Los Gatos -- 1957
Parish picnic in the cafeteria - circa 1950s-1960s
Parish potluck in the cafeteria on the ground floor of Presentation High School -- circa 1950s-1960s
Cheerleaders practicing on the basketball courts - 1967
Cheerleaders practicing on the basketball courts south of the high school -- late 1960s
Student leaders "plan activities" at the grotto - circa 1960s
Student leaders "plan activities" at the grotto -- 1960s
Presentation High School - 1976
Presentation High School -- 1976
Presentation High School - 1988
Presentation High School -- 1988

Buildings and grounds

Ohlone hut made of tule reed
Ohlone hut made of tule reeds
Rancho San Antonio's grasslands - undeveloped in 1861

This view of the land between the hills and the Bay, with Albany Hill, "El Cerrito," on the right, was used in 1861 by José Domingo Peralta in his deposition regarding his ownership of the land given to him by his father, Luis Maria Peralta.

The interior of the two rooms
of Luis Maria Peralta's adobe in San Jose
Luis Maria Peralta's adobe in San Jose - circa 1820
The main room

Luis Maria Peralta's adobe in San Jose - circa 1820
The sleeping room

José Domingo Peralta's first home was an adobe like the one his father built in San José. As he prospered, José Domingo built a two-story wooden frame house close by the site of the adobe. In the 1860 census, James McGee and José Domingo were listed next to one another, even though the McGee Tract, which is most likely where the McGee's lived, was several miles from the Peralta house.

Cattle drive
Cattle drive in the early-mid 1800s

William Heath Davis, a contemporary of the Peralta brothers, described a cattle drive.

Although the cattle belonging to the various ranches were wild, yet they were under training to some extent, and were kept in subjection by constant rodeos. At stated times, say, two or three times a week at first, the cattle on a particular ranch were driven in by the vaqueros, from all parts thereof, to a spot known as the rodeo ground, and kept there for a few hours, when they were allowed to disperse. Shortly they were collected again, once a week perhaps, and then less seldom, until after considerable training, being always driven to the same place, they came to know it. Then, whenever the herd was wanted, all that was necessary for the vaqueros to do was, say twenty-five or thirty of them, to ride out into the hills and valleys and call the cattle, shouting and screaming to them, when the animals would immediately run to the accustomed spot; presently the whole vast herd belonging to the ranch finding their way there. At times, cattle strayed from one ranch to another and got into the wrong herd. Whenever a rodeo was to be held, the neighbors of the ranchero were given notice and attended at the time and place designated.

Looking west toward the Bay from the top of Bancroft Way - 1874
Looking towards the Bay from the top of Bancroft Way - 1874

The Rectory, Convent, and Church - circa 1884

The perspective: Looking south-southwest across unpaved Addison Street with unpaved St. Joseph's Avenue (now Jefferson Avenue) running perpendicular to Addison Street.

The buildings, starting clockwise on the far left: The Rectory, built in 1879, located on the northeast corner of Addison and St. Joseph's, where today's St. Joseph's Church is located; the small, single story building across St. Joseph's is St. Peter's School for Boys, built in 1880-81; the large squarish, two-story building is the original Convent, School, and Chapel, built in 1878; the Convent is connected by a small enclosed walkway to the first St. Joseph's Church, built between 1883 and 1888 and located on the northwest corner of Addison and St. Joseph's, where UT's Building One is located today. Behind St. Peter's School for Boys is a water tower that is located on the banks of Strawberry Creek, the southern edge of the Sisters' property. Between St. Peter's and the Convent is where the Sisters grew fruit trees.

St. Joseph's Church

This is the first St. Joseph's Church on the northwestern corner of Addison Street and St. Joseph's Avenue (now Jefferson Avenue) -- built between 1883 and 1887. The Church, like the Convent to its left, faced east toward the Berkeley Hills.

St. Joseph's Academy - 1892

This is the north entrance of St. Joseph's Academy, built in 1892 so that there was finally dedicated classroom space at St. Joseph's for the female students. This two-story building to the south of the Convent shared the courtyard with a monkey puzzle tree, visible on the far right, and with the Convent.

St. Joseph's Academy and Church - circa 1892

This view is from across the still unpaved Addison Street looking south-southwest. St. Joseph's Academy (for girls) is on the left, while the east-facing St. Joseph's Church is on the right. A fence rims the property, perhaps a symbol of enclosure for the cloistered Sisters. The trees are gradually maturing.

St. Peter's School for Boys, St. Joseph's Academy, the Convent, St. Joseph's Church

A wooden sidewalk lined St. Joseph Avenue, with a fence separating the grounds of the Convent, School, and Church from the street. On the far left is St. Joseph's Academy (1892), in the middle the Convent (1878), and on the left, the first St. Joseph's Church (1883-1886).

East and south side of the Convent - circa 1901

The south and east sides of the original Convent, from the St. Joseph's Avenue end, after the three-story addition was constructed in 1901, bringing the Convent all the way to California Street. The monkey puzzle tree in the front courtyard is maturing.

South side of the Convent - circa 1901

This is the south side of the Convent, showing the 1901 three-story addition on the left with its balconies and a bell tower. The circular pathway of the main garden is clearly visible as it wends it way through a variety of trees that James McGee had planted.

South and west side of the Convent - circa 1901

This is the west and south sides of the 1901 addition to the Convent. This addition allowed the Sisters to expand their own living quarters and also to offer boarding for some of its female students. Other than the palm near the western, California Street-facing door, there are few plants close to the building.

West side of the Convent - circa 1901

This is the west side of the 1901 addition to the Convent taken from California Street. Two stone pillars flank the entrance, while mature trimmed hedges and other plants define the border of the Convent.

The Rectory is moved to make way for the St. Joseph's Church - 1907

In 1906, the Rectory was moved east along the still unpaved Addison Street to make room for the new, greatly expanded St. Joseph's Church built in 1907 under the direction of Father F. X. Morrison. Then its twin spires, at 80 feet, made the Church the tallest structure in Berkeley.

St. Joseph's Church

Trees soften the front of St. Joseph's Church, built to accommodate the growing parish population after the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire in 1906.

1913 addition to the Convent

In 1914, the original St. Joseph's Church, which had been serving as a chapel for the Sisters once the newer St. Joseph's Church was built in 1907, was destroyed. In its place was built a large, U-shaped four-story addition to the original Convent and its first 1901 addition. The open end of the U faced Addison Street. This view, showing both the original Convent and the 1914 addition, was taken from across St. Joseph's Avenue. A fence separates the Convent from St. Joseph's Academy, which is just out of sight on the left. There are no overhead wires for electricity or the phone. The monkey puzzle tree is thriving.

1913 addition to the Convent

This also shows the original Convent on the left and its 1914 addition on the right, again from across St. Joseph's Avenue. In this photo, the monkey puzzle tree is gone, replaced by a fountain in the shape of shamrock. The cypresses have burgeoned, but it's not clear if the palm remains. And there are overhead wires, indicating that both electricity and the phone have arrived at the Convent. Again, trees are maturing.

Gardens along California Street

This view of the garden looking south down California Street shows the cypress border that James McGee planted early on to give the Sisters the enclosure that their vows required. The garden is mature with a long straight walkway with a bench along California Street and a circular walkway that was part of the meditative trail through the garden. This curve is maintained in the same location today by the California Street rose garden. On the far left is St. Joseph's water tower by Strawberry Creek.

Vew elementary school - 1912

In 1915, St. Peter's School was moved across St. Joseph Avenue and greatly enlarged to accommodate the growing number of St. Joseph's Parish boys whose parents wanted a Catholic education.

Sisters posing in front of the grotto - circa 1921

Around 1921, the Presentation Sisters built a grotto modeled on the one in Lourdes, France. This large stone edifice, with numerous statues of Mary, faced California Street and backed up against St. Joseph's Academy. The grotto became a favorite place for photos, not just for the Sisters, but also for newly married couples and students. The University's consultant who researched the history of St. Joseph's recommended keeping the grotto as a historical monument.

St. Joseph's Academy expanded. A three-story concrete, sandstone structure was built along Jefferson Avenue incorporating the original 1892 St. Joseph's Academy into the north wing of the school. The main door of the school faced east onto Jefferson Avenue. An auditorium and cafeteria were in the basement. The first floor was for a primary school, while the second floor was for a high school. Only girls attended the school in this building, while the primary school boys attended, St. Joseph's School for Boys (previously St. Peter's), was located across Jefferson Avenue. On February 24, 1924, the new school was dedicated with the name St. Joseph's Academy. By the late 1920s, the name "St. Joseph's Presentation Academy" is being used. Finally, in 1964, St. Joseph's Presentation Academy was renamed Presentation High School. One of the reasons for this naming was the decline in students from the Parish even though the school was Parish-financed. To balance out this inequity, the Parish and the Oakland Diocese decided to give the school to the Sisters, who maintained it as a private, non-parochial school.

Aerial view of St. Joseph's - 1948

The aerial views above and below were taken in 1948. The Convent and the then-renamed Presentation High School are in the middle. The courtyard shared by the Convent and the high school is cemented over, with the shamrock fountain in the middle. The garden was mature, though the part near the center became a tennis court. South of the high school and where Strawberry Creek is culverted are basketball courts. Jefferson Avenue goes all the way through. And south of the elementary school are both playgrounds and private homes.

Aerial view of St. Joseph's - 1948

Dedication of new Convent - June 1966

The Convent buildings were condemned in the early 1960s. In June 1966, a new Convent was built on the southeast corner of the Sisters' property. Its dedication became a photo oppportunity.

Convent after the fire - June 1966

Just days after the Sisters moved into the new Convent in June 1966, two arsonists torched the old wooden buildings that comprised the original Convent. The buildings were empty, their contents dispersed and auctioned off. Demolition had been scheduled; the fire hurried that process along.

Presentation High School — floorplans for each of the three floors of the high school, 1989. These were included in the "Salesbook," a three-ringed binder with information about the property when the Sisters decided to sell in 1989.

Presentation High School - Ground floor floorplan - 1989
Ground floor

Presentation High School - 1st floor floorplan - 1989
First floor

Presentation High School - 2nd floor floorplan - 1989
Second floor

Presentation High School — the grounds and then the landscaping, 1990. As part of its feasibility studies, the University prepared drawings of both the grounds and the landscaping. Every tree and bush was catalogued (see the keys below the landscaping drawing); some have not only survived until today, but were incorporated into the design of University Terrace. Number 22, for instance, is the monkey puzzle tree near the BBQ grill.

Presentation High School grounds - 1990

Presentation High School landscaping - 1990

Presentation High School landscaping key - page 1 - 1990

Presentation High School landscaping key - page 2 - 1990

An historical and cultural review of the Presentation High School property, 1990. Eric Sandweiss, a graduate student at Cal, prepared this report for the University's Office of Property Development. He organized the report into three sections: Site History, Historical/Architectural Importance of the Site, and Potential Adverse Impacts and Recommended Mitigation Measures. The photographs provide historical perspective about the various uses of this site.


Father Juan Crespí's map of San Francisco Bay — the first known map of the Bay, 1772. The inscription reads: Map of the essential details of the famous Port and River of San Francisco explored by land in the month of March in the present year of 1772, taken from the diary and observations of the R[everend] P[adre] Fr[ay] Juan Crespi, Apostolic Missionary of the Franciscans' College of propaganda of the faith, Observants of San Fernando of Mexico, and Minister of the New Mission of Monterrey. Omitted are flowing, fresh-water streams, groves of trees, and Indian Rancherias, out of necessity and for purposes of clarity. From the end of the estuary (into which a fine river empties) and beyond there are many heathen everywhere; and the heathen of the upper bay were fair-haired, white-skinned, and bearded. And all were very kind and friendly and regaled the Spaniards with their fruit and food.

Father Juan Crespi's map of San Francisco Bay - 1772

Cañizares' map of San Francisco Bay, 1775. José de Cañizares, the first mate of the San Carlos, the first ship to enter the Bay, drew three maps of the Bay as he surveyed it in forays from the San Carlos' anchoring near la Isla de Los Angeles — Angel Island, named, according to tradition, after the closest religious feast day. The San Carlos was in the Bay for the rest of August and left for Monterey on September 18. This third map is the most detailed (and was redrawn, engraved, and improved upon in 1781).

The inscription reads: "MAP OF THE GREAT PORT OF SAN Francisco, discovered and demarcated by the graduate Ensign of the Spanish Royal Navy, Don José de Cañizares, first Pilot of the District of San Blas, situated on the West Coast of California to the North of the Line, in the Asian Sea in North Latitude 37 deg. 44 minutes, and engraved by Manuel Villavicencio in the Yr. of 1781."

Wooded Berkeley is directly across from the opening to the Bay, a bit to the north of the letter "Q." Cañizares wrote in a September 5th letter to Capitan Ayala, "...at low tide, [the Bay] is mostly dry. [There] are some logs to which are fastened black feathers, bunches of reeds and snail shells, which gave me the idea that they are fishing floats, since they are in the middle of the water...there is nowhere possible to anchor, due to lack of shelter."

Canizares map of the Bay - 1775

Diseño del Rancho San Antonio: Alameda, Calif., 1820. To request a land grant from the Spanish government, a Californio submitted a diseño roughly defining the boundaries of the proposed rancho to the Spanish government. In 1820, Luís María Peralta submitted a diseño for a land grant as he was concerned that the San José pueblo would appropriate his small grant on the Guadalupe River in San Jose as the town expands. A diseño must include at least a rough drawing of the boundaries of the land being requested. This is Luís María Peralta's diseño.

Diseno of Juan Luis Peralta in petitioning the Spanish Crown for a land grant, ca 1820

An historical map of the East Bay Area, 1936. Spanish and Mexican land grants are shown this map as well as major roads and topography. The Peraltas' Rancho de San Antonio dominates.

An Historic Map of Rancho San Antonio - drawn circa 1930s

Kellersberger's map, 1852. In 1852-1853, José Domingo Peralta started selling parcels of his part of the Rancho, mostly in order to pay off debts. The parcels were defined on a map surveyed by Julius Kellersberger, who had been hired by three land developers to survey the northern part of Rancho San Antonio to assist in the determination of land ownership. Filed by Kellersberger on September 2, 1853, this map shows José Domingo Peralta's "reserve" to the far left. José Vicente Peralta's "reserve" is in the center.

Kellersberger's map - 1853

Berkeley, 1874. This 1874 map shows James McGee's tract as relatively undeveloped.

Start at San Pablo Avenue and University Avenue. Note that there was already a rail line, "Berkeley and University Rail Road," running west to east from the "New Wharf/Ferry Landing" — today's Berkeley pier — up University Avenue to Oxford Street (unnamed on this map), where it stopped right on the edge of campus. The street just east (above on the map) San Pablo Avenue is Sacramento Street (unnamed on this map). North to south, James McGee's tract is between Addison Street (marked but unnamed) just south of University Avenue, and Dwight Way. East to west, his tract is between California Street (unmarked on this map) and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way (then Sherman Street), which is the next street marked (but unnamed) above Sacramento Street.

Between Bancroft Way and Dwight Way, some streets had been laid out in a grid, including Channing Street. But between Addison Street and Bancroft Way, there was only the slightly curving Strawberry Creek flowing down from the Hills above the campus to merge just to the east of Fulton Street near what is today Center Street, and then continuing to the Bay, ending just south of the New Wharf at the end of University Avenue.

Note that there were already two rail lines in addition to the Berkeley University Rail Road: one was from the campus (where Sather Gate is today) to Oakland via Telegraph Avenue; the other, which ran close to the Bay, is labeled "CPRR Bantas Branch." This is the Central Pacific Railroad that had only recently, in 1869, been joined with the Union Pacific Railroad in Promontory Summit, Utah, to create the transcontinental railroad. The Bantas Branch refers to Banta, California, a small town near Tracy located on the route of the transcontinental railroad from Sacramento to the Bay Area by way of the Altamont Pass and Niles Canyon.

Berkeley map - 1874

Alameda County townships, 1878. The names of different towns, districts, and cities were being sorted out in Alameda County in 1878. Berkeley was often referred to as "Oakland Township, City of Berkeley" or "Berkeley City." The map below (click on the map for a larger view) shows Point Isabel at the very top of the map (on the left) and the new "University of Cal" just below to the right. Rail lines are the broken lines; the Northern Rail Road hugs the coast in Oakland Township. San Pablo Avenue is the main road running north to south close to the coast. Just above the Oakland Estuary, "Oakland" appears to be fairly well mapped out into blocks. "Brooklyn Township" was where the Peralta Hacienda was located, the hub for the Peralta family, with Antonio María's (A.M.) section of Rancho San Antonio to the north and Hermengildo Ygnacio's (Ygnacio) to the south, right up to the edge of San Leandro.

Alameda County Townships - 18

Oakland Township, 1878. This map of the Oakland Township also shows Point Isabel at the top, with Cerritos Creek marking the Alameda County-Contra Costa County line. Cerritos San Antonio is the Albany Hill. Codornices Creek winds down from the hills. The intersection of three tracts near Codornices Creek - two owned by Schmidts, one by Cal. Ins. Co. - are roughly where Domingo Peralta lived in 1860. James McGee's tract, #67 on Kellersberger's map and here as well, was not yet mapped out into blocks. The Berkeley Branch of the Northern Rail Road extends up to Shattuck and University Avenues, facilitating travel to Oakland and, by ferry, to San Francisco. Both men and women, many with names familiar today, owned land.

Oakland Township - 1878

Berkeley, 1880. All of the colored lots in the map below, except for the green ones (the State University grounds and the Trotting Park), were for sale. Almost in the center is the "Jas. McGee" Tract, undeveloped save the Convent, the green rectangle in the Tract's upper left-hand corner. The railroads are clearly marked with striped lines. Some streets' names remain today, but many have changed. And the area defined by the thick green line representing the "charter line of the town of Berkeley" is smaller than today's Berkeley.

Berkeley - 1880

Map of Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda, 1884. This 1884 real estate map of Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda shows few changes from the 1880 Berkeley map above. "Temescal" is added as the name of the area between Berkeley and Oakland, starting just below the intersection of Adeline and Alcatraz Streets. No structures are shown other than the Oakland Trotting Park and wharves at the terminals of various railroads. The McGee Tract, still labeled "No. 67," its old Kellersberger number, is empty, with the only streets rimming it and developed Dwight Way and California Street. Addison Street is a dotted line to the north of the tract, while to the east, Dover or West Street (today's Martin Luther King, Jr. Way) is also a dotted line. No roads cross Tract No. 67.

Berkeley 1884

"Beautiful" Berkeley lots for sale, 1890. Charles A. Bailey, "Berkeley Land Owner," produced a map that showed the lots he owned in "Beautiful" Berkeley that were for sale. They were to the north and west of the McGee Tract and included the block between Addison Street and University Avenue near California Street. The McGee Tract was blocked out. The original names of the some of the streets differ from the names used today. Today's Roosevelt Street was named Catherine Street here - after the McGee's younger daughter, while today's McKinley Street was named Mary Street - after the McGee's older daughter. Today's Martin Luther King, Jr. Way is West Street here. And today's Jefferson Avenue is St. Joseph "Street." "Avenue" and "Street" were often used interchangeably for St. Joseph.

Berkeley - 1890

McGee Tract, Berkeley, Cal., October 20, 1904. By fall 1904, the McGee Tract had been completely subdivided into lots. The standard lot size in Berkeley at that time was 150' x 30' — which placed most homes fairly close together, side by side, but with deep backyards which many used for outbuildings, including garages for their vehicles, which might have included a new automobile. Strawberry Creek, the thick wavy line on the right of the drawing, apparently had been culverted or bridged where it crossed streets (see the small dark rectangle). A selling point, noted in three of the four corners, was proximity to the trains. The Convent is indicated by the words "CATHOLIC CHURCH" in the upper right corner, while City Hall is the square just to the left of the Creek in the lower right hand corner. Berkeley High is a square cater-corner to City Hall. And one more important detail: the faint dotted lines running down the middle of each street indicate sewer lines.

McGee Tract for sale - October 1904

Berkeley, 1909. In the 1909 image below, railroads criss-crossed the East Bay, many ending at ferry piers that extended far into the Bay in Oakland, with a somewhat shorter pier at the end of University Avenue in Berkeley. In the lower left corner, the Claremont Hotel was already flying its flag, although, still under construction, it would not open for business for another six years. About midway up the left side, where 55th Street is marked, Idora Park took up a full city block. The University appears to have been expanding its southern border into city blocks. Within three blocks from St. Joseph's were three rail lines: the Southern Pacific Railroad Red Train on California Street, the Key Route on Sacramento Street, and the Santa Fe Railway on Santa Fe Avenue — all running north-south. Follow the Southern Pacific from St. Joseph's north across Hopkins Avenue, past the Peralta Park Hotel, where José Domingo Peralta built his first adobe, to its terminus in the northern part of Northbrae. This was at today's intersection of Colusa and Solano Avenues. Far north Berkeley, Albany, and El Cerrito were only sparsely settled.

Berkeley - 1909

Berkeley neighborhoods, 1909. Berkeley's neighborhoods were being given names — in some cases to woo post-Earthquake potential land or home buyers. The real estate map below, by Frances Ferrier Real Estate and Insurance, shows some of the names.

Berkeley neighborhoods - 1909

Map of Berkeley, California, 1910. The 10 years from 1900 to 1910 brought great changes to St. Joseph's and Berkeley: an addition to the Convent to accommodate more Sisters and their students; an influx of neighbors and children for the St. Joseph's Presentation Academy after the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire; and a new church. In this close-up of another real estate map, the McGee Tract has been blocked out. The Convent, Academy, and original Church are in Block 6, while the new Church and Rectory are in Block 7. Streets had been laid out and named: Jefferson Avenue replaced St. Joseph Avenue; Roosevelt Street replaced Catherine Street; McKinley Street replaced Mary Street; and West Street became Grove Street.

Berkeley - 1910

Map of the California Line Red Train, 1924. Starting at Thousand Oaks station at the intersection of Solano and Colusa Avenues (Colusa Wye) in Berkeley, the California Street line traveled via Colusa Avenue, Monterey Avenue, a private right-of-way, California Street, and Stanford Street to the upper platform of the 16th Street Station in Oakland, and from there to the Oakland Pier, where ferries took passengers to San Francisco.

California Street Red Train - 1924

The final map of Tract 6417, 1994. Construction is complete, so the University presents to the City the "final map of Tract 6417," which shows both University Terrace and City of Berkeley property lines. At the May 10, 1994, City Council meeting, the Council adopts a resolution approving this map, thereby accepting the dedications and improvements.

The final map of Tract 6417 - 1994

Special images

In the early 2000s, a San Francisco Presentation Sister was visiting the Presentation Convent in Kilcock and was presented with a 14-foot scroll. Perhaps she might be interested? The scroll, when unfurled, depicts the original five Presentation Sisters' journey from Aspinwall on the Atlantic coast of Panama across the Isthmus to Panama City where they boarded the SS Golden Gate to sail to San Francisco, and their time establishing two convents in San Francisco and ultimately, the Berkeley Convent. Who was the artist? Could it have been Mother Mary Teresa, known for her drawing, trying to depict for the Kilcock Sisters, novitiates who would eventually become members of the San Francisco and Berkeley communities, what kinds of challenges awaited a Pioneer?

The original scroll is located at the Sisters of the Presentation's Sacred Heart Convent (Shalom Community) in Kilcock, Ireland.

The first two scenes, depicting the Pioneer Sisters' trip across the Isthmus of Panama, can be found above. The two scenes below are Berkeley scenes.

Berkeley first time - 1877

In "Landing in Berkeley," Mother Mary Teresa and her escort — cloistered nuns never traveled alone — are met at the Berkeley wharf, the original Jacob's Landing, at the bottom of Delaware Street by James McGee, who has brought a buggy to transport them on their tour of Berkeley's farmlands and possible Convent and School sites.

James McGee, in this initial meeting, greets a woman who is "tall, erect, and well proportioned; her movements dignified and graceful; her complexion fair; her features well-formed, serene and intelligent, and the whole expression of her countenance... benignant and energetic." And Mother Mary Teresa is met by a man who is offering the first of many years of kindnesses and generosity.

Leaving Berkeley for Kilcock

In "Leaving for Kilcock," Mother Mary Teresa shows James McGee driving her to the train from St. Joseph's, while a Sister (perhaps Mother Mary Josephine?), some children and a domestic wave their handkerchiefs good-bye, and even a black dog, Orettle?, leans against the carriage wheels, perhaps reluctant to see her depart (she did favor pets). There are other animals, dogs and cats, including one named Greenie, around the Convent grounds and even what appears to be a doghouse in the area used to hang laundry to dry. A water tower is next to the laundry area, which is most likely between the Convent and the new fence that runs along Addison Street, according to later Sanborn maps.

Many of the images are courtesy of the the Presentation Archives, San Francisco, and St. Joseph the Workers Church, Berkeley. Further information about citations and sources is available upon request to Dianne Walker.

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