Piedmont Way & the Berkeley Property Tract, East of College Avenue between Dwight Way & U.C. Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Alameda County, CA
Significance: The design of Piedmont Avenue and the adjacent University of California campus and residential tract are significant for several reasons. Olmsted was in California at a crucial time in his career. He had recently completed the design for Central Park in New York City with Calvert Vaux, he had left the US Sanitary Commission, and he was seeking to explore his future, possibly leaving the field of landscape design. The opportunity to manage a gold mining operation seemed to promise a new opportunity. Vaux was asking him to return to New York and work on Prospect Park in Brooklyn. But his design work and residence in the California gold country at the Mariposa Estate helped him in clarifying his thinking and bringing him to the conclusion that he would continue his career in landscape design.
The design work that he did for the Berkeley Property Tract, i.e., the design of the campus, residential area, and roadways curved to the topography, is significant in its own right. The alignment of the roads, the shape of the residential blocks, the relationship of the private blocks to each other, and the opportunities for healthful views and walking outings are all representative of Olmsted's civic and design principles. (Hallinan: 2004, 28) The written Olmsted report to the Trustees accompanying his design provides his vision for the property. These significant design details and ideas would go on to inform his subsequent work in New York. This is particularly important in his most well known suburban developments, Riverside, Illinois and Druid Hills, Georgia.
The ideas of broad roadways, curved to the terrain, separated or controlled access roads, curved lot lines, views and vistas and tree-lined spaces, including parks, and recreational areas were new to the thinking of town planning. He was no doubt familiar with Llewellyn Park, laid out by Alexander Jackson Davis or possibly even Glendale, Ohio (1851) also laid out with a curving pattern of streets shaped to the topography as well as with London examples by John Nash and James Pennethorn.
Many of the cities in Olmsted's east coast experience had been laid out on the grid pattern with simple square open spaces, such as New Haven, where he attended Yale for a period. He lived in San Francisco when he first came to California and was thus very familiar with a rigid grid street pattern overlaid on the very hilly terrain. He broke from such molds to establish new models designed to enhance the lives of the residents of these newly planned communities.
Survey number: HALS CA-2
Building/structure dates: ca. 1865- ca. 1865 Initial Construction
Building/structure dates: ca. 1868- ca. 1878 Subsequent Work