Want a great stocking stuffer to give your Berkeley friends this holiday season? Have I got a book for you! It's "Berkeley Walks: Revealing Rambles Through America's Most Intriguing City," by Bob Johnson, a longtime member of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, and Janet Byron, my former colleague at the Oakland Tribune
It features do-it-yourself walking tours of 18 different areas in the city, including 1444 Addison Street, where Mario Savio lived during the Free Speech movement in 1964, around the corner from 2315 Spaulding, where fitness guru Jack LaLanne lived when he was a student at Berkeley High (Class of 1934).
Then there's the love nest at 2267 Derby, where Bill Clinton lived with his girlfriend, Hillary Rodham, during the summer of 1971, which is just a stone's throw from 2603 Benvenue, where Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army three years later.
Not far away is a converted garage at 2628-A Regent, where Ted Kaczynski, the notorious Unabomber, lived while he was teaching at Cal. (The authors note that despite the fact he was the youngest teacher on the faculty, his students heartily disliked him.)
One block over is 2419 Oregon, where the future New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael lived from 1955 to 1964 while she was managing the Cinema Guild Theater at Haste and Telegraph.
2925 Russell Street is the former home of Jay Ward, the man who gave us not one but two cultural icons: Crusader Rabbit and "The Rocky & Bullwinkel Show." Around the corner is 2598 College, where Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder lived from 1906 to 1910 when he was in middle school. (It's now the Sigma Epsilon Omega fraternity house.)
Beat poet Allen Ginsberg wrote his masterpiece, "Howl," in 1955 while he was living in a cottage behind 1624 Milvia Street. (The cottage is gone, but his poem "A Strange New Cottage In Berkeley," which he also wrote while living there, remains.) At 1301 Henry is the commune of Woodstock emcee/Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor Wavy Gravy.
The book also highlights memorable structures by Julia Morgan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Ratcliff and Bernard Maybeck, including Maybeck's masterpiece, First Church of Christ, Scientist, at the corner of Dwight and Bowditch, one of only two designated National Landmarks in the city.
The authors aren't shy about making aesthetic judgments, such as the wonderfully quirky Normandy Village on Spruce Street, which they accurately label "a whimsical collection of apartment houses in the Hansel and Gretel style," or the house at 2325 Piedmont, which they call "another example of a Julia Morgan house destroyed by an insensitive 'modernization.'"
The book, an outgrowth of the walking tours Johnson and Byron have been conducting for years for Greenbelt Alliance, has been three long years in the making.
"We had no idea what we were getting into," says Johnson. "Five rounds of editing – two on the text, three on the galley proofs. I thought it would never end."
So what's next? A sequel.
"We have so many other areas to cover," Byron explains, "including the area between Grizzly Peak and Shasta, the wineries in West Berkeley, and the galleries near Fourth Street."
Meanwhile, they're still conducting their walking tours. To find out what's coming up and reserve your space, visit www.berkeleywalks.com.