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Berkeley CA WPA Tour - California, United States

by rejnerk  
with a iPhone 4
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This year, 2010, is the 75th anniversary of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) founded in 1935 as part of the New Deal.  In commemoration of that and other New Deal organizations we decided to explore the legacy in Berkeley.  The walk was led by Janet Byron and Bob Johnson for Greenbelt Alliance's Outings Program (check us out at www.greenbeltalliance.org) with the kind participation of resource person Harvey Smith of California's Living New Deal Project.  You can learn more about them at:
http://livingnewdeal.berkeley.edu/index.php.  Harvey is also chair of the National New Deal Preservation Association.

Starting at the Civic Center of Berkeley (formerly a federal Farm Security Administration office), we heard a summary of the New Deal programs and then looked at the Martin Luther King Jr Civic Center Park and three buildings on the Berkeley High School Campus that were WPA projects--buildings G, H and the Community Theater.  We also saw artwork from the New Deal at the Berkeley Main Post Office (bas relief sculpture and inside mural) before visiting the former UC Press Building at the edge of the campus.  

Leaving downtown we moved onto campus to see the WPA-era culvert that takes Strawberry Creek under downtown (and heard about plans to try and daylight more of the creek).  We also visited the Old UC Art Gallery/Power House with its WPA-financed exterior mosaic murals and heard about the Pelican Building (Anthony Hall) which is not a New Deal project but has an interesting history as the home of the campus humor magazine.

Finally beginning to hike in earnest we left the campus and headed uphill for the Berkeley Rose Garden, briefly stopping on the way to see the old Hillside School, Greenwood Commons, and Rose Walk (not WPA projects but each having a unique charm).  After lunch in the lovely Rose Garden amphitheater we heard about the history of this WPA project and also saw the Berkeley home of famed New Deal photographer Dorothea Lange.  

Heading downhill (but taking various public paths and stairways that sometimes led us uphill again) we visited the Marin Circle to hear about its role in the attempt to make Berkeley the California state capital.  We also visited the North Branch Public Library and the Whittier School (Berkeley Arts Magnet School), the former a WPA project and the latter PWA-financed, on our way back to the downtown Civic Center where we saw the final day of the WPA/New Deal exhibit at the Berkeley Historical Society.
There is a bit of steep uphill walking on the latter part of the hike and some steps.  One could avoid the steps by going straight up Euclid from the University North Gate to the Rose Garden.  This would mean not seeing a few intermediate sites but they are not WPA projects.  The paths and stairways do make for an interesting walk and we highly recommend the work of the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association and their excellent map (see them at
WPA, Downtown Berkeley, Berkeley Rose Garden
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Trip Info
by rejnerk
August 21, 2010
Trip Location: Berkeley, California, United States
Length: 5.7 miles
Duration: 5 hours
Activity: Historical Walk
Trip viewed 3,122 times
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