First Unitarian Church (Berkeley, California)

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First Unitarian Church
First Unitarian Church (Berkeley, CA).JPG
Location 2401 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, California
Coordinates 37°52′7″N 122°15′36″W / 37.86861°N 122.26000°W / 37.86861; -122.26000Coordinates: 37°52′7″N 122°15′36″W / 37.86861°N 122.26000°W / 37.86861; -122.26000
Area 0.2 acres (0.081 ha)
Built 1898
Architectural style Shingle Style, Bay Area Tradition, Other
NRHP Reference # 81000143[1]
Added to NRHP December 10, 1981

The First Unitarian Church at 2401 Bancroft Way in Berkeley, California is a former church building that was built in 1898. It was designed by Albert C. Schweinfurth, who made unconventional use of Shingle Style architecture, usually applied to homes, in designing a church. It was also highly unusual for a church building in several other ways, including the use of industrial-style metal sash windows, sections of redwood tree trunks as pillars, the strong horizontal emphasis, and a semicircular apse with a conical roof.[2]

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the California State Historic Resources Survey, and is a City of Berkeley Landmark.[3] It has also been known as University Dance Studio and Bancroft Dance Studio for its current use.[1]

Although originally outside the university grounds, it is now the second oldest building still standing on the Berkeley campus. At the time it was built, facing a block of Dana Street that no longer exists, it joined a cluster of Protestant churches that had been built since the 1870s with the encouragement of the university administration. The land was acquired by the university in 1960 through eminent domain for the construction of a student union complex.[3][4]

The church was the first meeting place of the Hillside Club, formed in 1898 to promote Arts and Crafts movement principles in the growing university town.[3]

When it was built, A.C. Schweinfurth, the architect, was well on his way to an eminent career with the patronage of the Hearst family, but this church ended up being his last project. While it was under construction he began a two-year European tour with his wife and daughter. He came down with typhoid fever and died in September 1900.[2]

In 1908 the congregation built an adjacent building called Unity Hall, designed by member Bernard Maybeck, which was demolished in 1965 for the construction of Zellerbach Hall. The Schweinfurth-designed building was preserved, landmarked, and restored with seismic upgrades and new shingles in 1999.[3]

Courtesy of Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Note the wisteria vines covering the west wall.


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "Berkeley Landmarks: First Unitarian Church". 2008-05-15. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  3. ^ a b c d Harvey Helfand, University of California, Berkeley (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002), pp. 177-180.
  4. ^ Betty Marvin (April 24, 1981). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: First Unitarian Church / 2401 Bancroft; University Dance Studio" (PDF). National Park Service. 

See also[edit]