Wednesday, September 8, 2010

2347 Prospect Street, Berkeley, California

About a year ago, I visited the house in which I lived when I was a student at the University of California. It had turned into a Co-op and was a shell of its former beauty. When I was living in the house, it was well kept. The girls residing in the house were expected to participate in the upkeep. We washed dishes, set the tables, polished the silver, etc.

Recently, I thought about the house and wondered what had happened to it between the time I lived in it and when I visited it. My search for information led me back to the period before I lived there. I remember that I was told the house was built around 1904-1906 and had been donated to the university by Phoebe Apperson Hearst (by whom I don't recall). Since Mrs. Hearst gave large contributions to the University of California and was a strong supporter of women students, I believed what I was told. I distinctly remember knowing that the silver that I polished belonged to Mrs. Hearst.

As I searched for more information about the house, I became suspicious about Mrs. Hearst's connection to the house. I learned that the house was built in 1906 but have not discovered who had it built. However, based on an academic paper written by Professor Frederick Parker Gay, he was living at that address in 1913. Who's Who in Berkeley 1917 has an entry on page 87 for Dr. Gay stating that he was a professor of Pathology at Cal since 1910.

I came across a page at the University of California website about the centennial celebration and history of the university. The page included information about women's living groups and made reference to Beaudelaire Club. 2347 Prospect St. (Formerly Al Khalail (women's club), Chi Sigma Phi sorority, and the residence of Professor Fredrick P. Gay.) 1950.

Professor Gay was living at 2347 Prospect Street in Berkeley according to the Polk-Husted Directory Company's Oakland-Berkeley-Alameda City Directory of 1923. I found an "In Memoriam" in the New England Journal of Medicine that said he was at Columbia University from 1923 until his death on July 14, 1939 in New York City.

I then found a paper written by Michael A. Green (Class of 1962) entitled "A Brief History of UC Berkeley Greek System." Enewah Incorporated 1913-1914 became Al Khalail and Al Khalail 1914-1927 became Chi Sigma Phi, a local sorority. Chi Sigma Phi closed in 1934 (page 39).

Based on various directories and Blue and Gold yearbooks, Al Khalail Women's House was  between 1919 and 1925 at 2736 Haste Street in Berkeley. In 1915 Al Khalail was at 2536 College Avenue. Thus, it seems that Al Khalail moved to 2347 Prospect Street after 1925. Then in 1927, the house at 2347 Prospect Street became the residence of a local sorority, Chi Sigma Phi. However, Chi Sigma Phi dissoved in 1934.

I have no idea who owned the house after Chi Sigma Phi closed in 1934. The first indication that I had of the existence of Beaudelaire Club was 1943. The Bancroft Library at Cal has a folder (27) from the Women's Dormitory Association Records of 1935 to 1965. This folder contains the "Minutes of the Beaudelaire Club 1943."

Because of the riots at Cal, my mother said that I could not stay at Cal. Under duress, I transferred to UCLA. When I transferred, I could not find university housing. I rented an apartment just off campus with another female. By the next year, no one wanted to live in university housing. This time was probably the beginning of the end for the grandeur of the house at 2347 Prospect Street.

I remember reading somewhere that the house was occupied by Naval midshipmen. That would have been brief as the military was not held in high regard by university students at that time. The Blue and Gold yearbook of 1978 indicated that the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity was living at 2347 Prospect.

If you do a Google search for this address, you will find hits that refer to the house as a house with an African flare. It think that Phoebe Apperson Hearst had she donated that house to the University would be rolling over in her grave to see it today. But then, maybe not.

Mrs. Hearst died in 1919. I still wonder about that silver I polished.

1 comment:

  1. I am using some else's google account. Thank you for this article. I lived there in '66, and have been searching for information!