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Revive Northbrae's Historic Entrance Lanterns

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Charles Wilson, Treasure of the Friends of the Fountain and Walk (Marin Circle Fountain), and Darrell Owens, North Berkeley researcher and neighborhood historian, are working to restore the Northbrae Lanterns on top of the historic giant pillars on The Alameda and Hopkins Street. The project will restore history and brighten the Alameda and Hopkins intersection with a beautiful portal to the Northbrae neighborhood, similar to the iconic and preserved neighborhood entrances of Claremont, Berkeley.

Goal: Using John Galen Howard's drawings, we're working with Coe Studios in West Berkeley to rebuild two lanterns. The project will cost $15,000 with minor design differences. The new Northbrae lanterns will be remade with bronze, instead of lead and cast iron as the old ones were. They will be solar-powered with a small invisible panel on top of the pillar. We’ll wash away the century of vehicle exhaust on the giant entrance pillars, along with two smaller street pillars on Alameda ones between Hopkins and Yolo, to give a bright look to the entrance of Northbrae again.

History: The Northbrae neighborhood was built as a "residential park" in the early 1900s, as part of Berkeley's expansion northward by Key System (now AC Transit) and Southern Pacific streetcar railway companies, as well as an attempt to move the state capital to Northbrae, Berkeley. The developer hired John Galen Howard, lead architect of the UC Campus, to design tons of public art in Northbrae. Galen Howard designed pink sidewalks, the ornamental stairway and traffic circle balustrade over the Northbrae/Solano tunnel, four beautiful fountains, four major streetcar stations, rock bridges over Codornices Creek, and handsome stone pillars of the cream-colored rhyolite rocks topped with concrete engravings of street names at every corner.

Four giant pillars were built at each corner of The Alameda and Hopkins Street intersection as the official entrance into Northbrae and as a transfer station of two streetcar lines. Topped with bright, big lanterns and concrete seats below, North Berkeley residents or Berkeley Public Library visitors would sit and wait on the pillars for trains going to San Francisco via Hopkins, to downtown Berkeley and Oakland via Grove Street (now MLK Jr. Way), or the Berkeley Hills via The Alameda and Arlington Avenue. The pillars also signaled that the street name had changed from Grove to The Alameda.

In the 1920s, the gas stations demolished the Northbrae Entrance pillars on the northeast and southeast corners. Still, the westside pillars with their lanterns survived as high-use train stops. Once the Key System ended streetcar service in the late 1940s, the Hopkins and Alameda intersection was given fully to cars, and the lanterns on top of the pillars were sawed off in the 1950s. The cause of their removal is unknown, however many old lanterns were removed around the city as they were made of lead or fell into disrepair.

Over the years, the Northbrae neighborhood saw many of its beautiful pillars, as well as all of its fountains and stations destroyed by automobiles. Today the two Northbrae Entrance pillars remain disfigured without their lanterns and have been rich cream rock color darkened by a century of car exhaust. We're forming a group called Northbrae Improvement to repair lost public art throughout North Berkeley, beginning with the lanterns of the two surviving Northbrae Entrance pillars. The only Northbrae art that has been restored is the Marin Circle fountain which was destroyed in the 1950s and restored by neighbors in the 1990s.

We appreciate any support and are excited for this project to restore brightness and history to the intersection and the Northbrae neighborhood. Research for this project has been greatly aided by the Western Railway Museum, the Berkeley Historical Society, the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Alliance, the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design, and fundraising guidance from Friends of the Fountain and Walk.



  • Darrell Owens
    • $600 
    • 1 d
  • Katherine Calvert
    • $10 
    • 2 d
  • William Serber
    • $200 
    • 3 d
  • Thomas Leonard
    • $25 
    • 4 d
  • Sara Fain
    • $100 
    • 5 d

Organizer and beneficiary

Darrell Owens
Berkeley, CA
Charles Wilson

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