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1906 Berkeley Trolley Ride Film

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A trip to Berkeley, Cal. / American Mutoscope and Biograph Company.

Trip to Berkeley, California

United States : American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1906.

This film, shot from a moving streetcar, shows portions of north Berkeley and the adjacent University of California campus, circa 1906. (A 1905 photo-panorama of Berkeley shows a virtually identical view of the area seen in the film.) The Oakland and Berkeley Rapid Transit Company began operating in 1891 and was a major factor in the development of Berkeley. Unincorporated until 1878, a decade after the foundation of the University of California, Berkeley was somewhat remote from the east-bay urban center of Oakland to the south. The apparent abundance of undeveloped land seen in the film is a bit deceptive; trees, hills and the narrow viewpoint of the camera hide much of the neighborhood, which was fairly well built-up by 1906, although much room remained for further growth. Over the following decades even the Berkeley Hills were covered with homes, as the University matured into a world-class institution. A large portion of north Berkeley burned in the 1923 fire, but the area was quickly rebuilt. (The major 1991 fire was in the Oakland Hills, just south of the university campus.) The streetcar route shown is most of the final portion of the #4 line (built in 1901) originating in downtown Oakland. The #3 Oxford Street line, seen at the start of the film, also originated in Oakland. In 1903 the Berkeley streetcar system had become part of Oakland Transit Consolidated, basis of the Key Route system that linked east bay transit lines to its Oakland/San Francisco ferries. The #3 line closed in 1932. Later-model streetcars on the #4 line were replaced by buses in 1948. The Hearst/Euclid avenues portion of that line is now part of the #65 Grizzly Peak bus line.

The following is a scene-by-scene description of the film: [Frame: 0101] The camera looks north near Berkeley Way along tree-lined Oxford Street, the western border of the university campus. Downtown Berkeley is a few blocks further west (left). Two "broom stick train" streetcars, so-called for their new electric trolley poles are visible. The streetcar that subsequently passes the camera and turns back onto our track has probably come via University Avenue from the train station in downtown Berkeley [0636]. The change of tracks allows a #3 car to pass. A few delivery carts are also seen. [0700] A pipe-smoking track sweeper adjusts the track switch with his broom handle so the streetcar can turn right up Hearst Avenue, named for Senator George Hearst (1820-1891), husband of major university benefactor Phoebe Apperson Hearst, and father of William Randolph Hearst. Today, cars turn up Hearst Avenue on a curved road cut into the corner of the campus. [1270] The camera look east up Hearst Avenue. The athletic/drilling fields of the campus are on the right. Behind the trees at right center is University House (1902), the chancellor's official residence, and the only completed building of the second (Benard, 1896) campus master plan. Barker, Koshland, and Tolman Halls now conceal this view of the residence. Note the rustic gate leading into the campus before Hearst Avenue swings past the row of trees to follow a more northerly route. The avenue is now a heavily-used commuter route for the adjacent hillside neighborhood. Most of the hills seen in the background of the film are part of the campus and are the later site of the famed Lawrence Radiation Laboratory. [2046] At the diagonal intersection of Hearst Avenue and LeConte Avenue (left) there are large, rambling Victorian homes typical of the area, several of which were owned by university professors. All the buildings seen here were burned in the 1923 fire. LeConte Avenue climbs what is now called "Holy Hill," the site of several seminaries and divinity schools. [3291] An incident takes place at the steps (now gone) opposite Scenic Avenue. A pedestrian ignores the streetcar and refuses to get off the tracks. The streetcar driver and conductor attempt to remove him, as an irate woman and a man come running to his aid. The group of women watching and the smirk of the returning streetcar driver suggest that this is a staged scene, introduced to enliven an otherwise uneventful film. Note the iceplant in full flower on the retaining wall between the two levels of Hearst Avenue. The flowers suggest a springtime setting. Note also the automobiles and wagons along the avenue. [4941] Before turning left onto Euclid Avenue, the homes up the unfinished slope of Hearst Avenue (several of which still stand) come into view. Pylons at right mark North Gate, a major campus entrance. Note the small orchard seen as the streetcar turns into Euclid Avenue [5517], a busy street now lined with shops and restaurants. In 1906, the streetcar line ended four blocks north on Euclid at Hilgard Avenue.

Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Co.; 23Jun1906; H79820.

Duration: 3:05 at 15 fps.

Camera, Otis M. Gove.

Photographed: May 24, 1906. Location: Berkeley, California.

Received: 6/23/1906; paper pos; copyright deposit; Paper Print Collection.


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