District Chronologies


1814/1820    James McGee was born in County Louth, Ireland  Information contained in the 1860, 1870 and 1880 Censuses indicates that the year of birth was about 1820.  However, information at the time of his death in 1899 indicates that he was 85 years old[2] – his year of birth would then be about                           1814.

1820     The Historic McGee-Spaulding District is part of land granted by the king           of Spain to the Luis Peralta family.


18...     McGee married Catherine Lusk, who was born in County Kildare, Ireland.[3]  Again, there is confusion about her year of birth, though we know she was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery on May 26, 1877 and her age was listed as 55 years old.[4]  Her year of birth would be about 1822.  The 1860 and 1870 Censuses would have her year of birth anywhere between 1825 and 1829.


1840      McGee arrived in New York, New York on the Lenobia with his wife               Catherine.[5]


1852     Jose Domingo Peralta sold some of his land in what is now central                    Berkeley to four San Francisco businessmen.[6]


             McGee was naturalized in Boston, Massachusetts.[7]

1854      McGee came to Alameda County.[8]


1855      McGee purchased 115 acres of land bordered by the present day Martin         Luther King, Jr., Dwight Way, California Street and Addison Street.[9]


1861      McGee’s daughter Mary Ann (Maria Anna) was born on June 19, 1861.[10]

1863      McGee’s daughter Catherine was born on January 25, 1863.[11]

1866      Four of the first names given to streets in Berkeley were Allston Way           Bancroft Way, Channing Way and Dwight Way.


1874      McGee participated in the failed first effort to incorporate Berkeley.[12]

1876     Spaulding Tract was subdivided and offered for sale by the Oakland Land       Association.


1877    McGee donated 2.7 acres in the Northwest corner of his property to            Mother Mary Teresa Comerford and the Sisters of Presentation of San                  Francisco for a Convent and School.


           Convent cornerstone was laid on May 27, 1877. 


           McGee’s wife, Catherine, died and was buried on May 26, 1877 at St.               Mary’s Cemetery, Oakland.[13]

           First Mass in Convent was December 25th.


1878    Berkeley’s Workingmen’s Party was organized.[14]

           Berkeley was incorporated.

           McGee, on the Workingmen’s Party ticket, was elected as one of the first town trustees after the incorporation of Berkeley.[15]   


           Eight sisters, including Mother Mary Teresa Comerford came from San             Francisco to occupy St. Joseph’s Presentation Convent, which was                      dedicated on June 30, 1878.


           St. Joseph Presentation Academy opened on July 15, 1878.


           Doctor Pierce Michael Comerford was appointed assistant pastor of                  Sacred Heart Church with responsibility of Presentation Convent and the                      Catholics in Berkeley.            


1879    St. Joseph’s Parish was created and Pierce Comerford was named the first       pastor.  (1879–1889)


1881     St. Peter’s Boys’ School opened on January 1, 1881.


1881     Mother Mary Teresa Comerford died in San Francisco, was brought by             ferry to Berkeley and buried in the convent cemetery on the banks of                   Strawberry Creek.


             Upon the death of Mother Mary Teresa Comerford, it was made public             that she had (reluctantly) agreed to transfer the deed to the property that                 was given to her by McGee to the Archbishop with the understanding by all that the land was intended to be used by the Sisters of Presentation Order.


1883    McGee drew up his Will.[16]


           A wooden gothic church designed by Bryan Clinch was begun - partially           on Convent land and on land given to St Joseph’s Parish by McGee.  Henry               McCullough was the builder.

1884   The unfinished St. Joseph’s Church was dedicated on September 16th.


          Alphonso Herman Broad (1851-1930), one of Berkeley’s most prolific and        acclaimed builders/designers built his first Berkeley building, now known as the Clark House, at 1545 Dwight Way.[17]


1886   St. Joseph’s Church was finished when the stained glass windows were             installed.


           McGee’s land was surveyed, divided into blocks and roads and the map              for the McGee Tract was filed with the county of Alameda in May of                               1886.[18]


1889  Thomas Phillips was made pastor of St Joseph’s Church in June 1889.                  (1889-1899)


1891   One of the first electric lines in Berkeley began operating along Grove            Street.[19]


          The 1 1/2 miles between East and West Berkeley was finally connected by          a street railway.[20]


1892    A new larger Girls’ School Building, built on the site of St. Joseph’s Boys            School, which was moved towards Strawberry Creek, was dedicated in                         July 1892.


1892    Only a few lots in the McGee Tract, now divided into lots, had been              sold.[21]


1895    The Hunter House at 2418 California Street was built (Landmark # 231).


1897    Bancroft Way School on the Southeast corner of Bancroft Way and                  McKinley Avenue opened.  The name of the school was changed shortly                   thereafter to Longfellow School.[22]


1898   The Church of the Nazarene at the Southwest corner of McKinley Avenue          and Bancroft Way was built.


1899   Father Michael O’Riordan replaced Thomas Phillips at St. Joseph’s               Church in July 1899. (1899-1905)


          There are 600 Catholic families is Berkeley, accounting for 2500 people.           St. Joseph School has 200 pupils.[23]


           Town Trustees leased six lots from James McGee at the Northwest corner        of Grove Street (MLK) and Allston Way to be used as the site for the                       Town Hall.  The lease was for three years with an option to purchase for                      $3,000.[24]


             Berkeley Town Hall began its move from Sacramento and University Avenue on October 4th to the new site at Grove Street and Allston Way.


              James McGee died on October 24, 1899 and was buried at St. Mary’s              Cemetery on October 27, 1899.[25]


1903     A double-track standard gage electric streetcar line began operating down         University Avenue.[26]


           The paving and curbing of the streets in the District began.


1904    Deeds were filed conveying twenty-one blocks in the McGee Tract from               Mary Ann McGee to George Sterling for the Realty Syndicate.  At the                          same time, Miss McGee retains a mortgage on the land of $48,000.[27]  


           Berkeley Town Hall was destroyed by fire.


1905     Father Comerford died on December 19, 1905.

           Dr. Francis Xavier Morrison became the fourth pastor of St. Joseph’s           Church.  (1905-1920)


           Longfellow School was moved to California Street and Ward Street.[28]

           Concrete culvert completed on California Street at Strawberry Creek.[29]


1906    The first issue of St. Joseph’s Monthly Record was published.  (The                Record lasted into the 1950’s.)


            Concrete culvert completed on Roosevelt Avenue at Strawberry Creek.[30]


1907     A new school, now called Washington School, was constructed and          opened at the Bancroft Way and McKinley Avenue site.[31]


            The cornerstone for the new St. Joseph’s Church was laid on June 16,       1907.    The first Mass was said on December 25th.


1908     The new St. Joseph’s Church, designed by Shea & Lofquist (Frank T.           Shea/John O. Lofquist), though completed in 1907 was dedicated in 1908                      (Landmark # 164).


1909     The new Berkeley Town Hall (Old City Hall), designed by Bakewell &                Brown was completed (Landmark # 1).


            The Dwight Way single-track electric street car line began operating.[32]


1911    F. A. Postnikov, former Russian army expert in aerial navigation and               balloon construction, moved with family to 1633 Dwight Way.  (He also                          introduced Esperanto to Japan.)[33]


          Key System electric street car line began operating on Sacramento           



1912   The Southern Pacific electric street railway (Red Trains) began operating           on California Street.[35]


1913  The old St. Joseph’s Church, which had served as the convent                  chapel since 1908, was torn down.

1914   The Chapel Wing to Presentation Convent was dedicated on August 9th.


          Bethany Lutheran Church (Swedish) at 1744 University Avenue was               dedicated.


1917    St. Joseph Presentation Academy was accredited by the University of               California.


1921   Father Thomas Joseph Brennan became pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in            January 1921.  (1921-1951)


1922    St. Joseph’s Parish purchased the land south of Strawberry Creek to              Allston Way and deeded it to the Sisters of Presentation.


1924    The new St. Joseph’s High School was dedicated.


           Berkeley Hebrew Center was completed.[36]


1925    City Hall Annex, 1835 Allston Way, (Landmark #122) was built to house              the Recreation, Fire and Health Departments.


1929    The Golden Jubilee of St. Joseph’s Parish was celebrated.


1931     First cottage of Fox Commons built by Fox Brothers at 1670 University              Avenue (Landmark # 211).


1932     U. S. Coast & Geodetic Survey official elevation datum base (Benchmark         No. 1) was placed near the Northwest corner of Allston Way and Martin                  Luther King, Jr. Way.


1933     The Red Trains ceased operating on California Street.


           Concrete culverts for Strawberry Creek (within the District) were                        completed.

1940     Mary Ann McGee died on March 4th and was buried at St. Mary’s              Cemetery on March 7, 1940.[37]

            Catherine McGee died on December 18th and was buried at St.Mary’s              Cemetery on December 20, 1940[38]


1941    Key System electric street car line ceased operating on Sacramento Street.


1944   Philip K. Dick, science fiction writer (1982 film Blade Runner adapted                  from one of his novels) moved with his mother to 1711 Allston Way.[39]


1946    Berkwood School was founded.


1947    Philip K. Dick moved to converted barn (Sill’s Barn) at 2208 McKinley             where he roomed with Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer and Gerald                               Ackerman.[40]


1949     Bethany Hall (Bethany Lutheran Church) was completed.


1951     Father Patrick J. Galvan was named the sixth pastor of St. Joseph’s                Church in January 1951.  (1951-1967)


1952    Washington School was demolished and a new school was built on the                site.[41]


1954    The rebuilt St. Joseph’s Elementary School was dedicated and St. Joseph’s        Parish celebrated its Diamond Jubilee.


1958    Walden School on the Northwest corner of Dwight Way and Grant Street            was established.[42]


1959    Congregation Beth Israel was founded.[43]


1961    A new rectory at St. Joseph’s, designed by Paul Ryan was built.


Early 1960s     Berkwood School moved into the District on Bancroft Way between       McKinley Avenue and Grant Street.


Mid 1960s       St. Joseph’s Parish gave St. Joseph’s High School to the Sisters of        Presentation.  The school became Presentation High School, a non-                           parochial school.


1966    The new Sisters of Presentation Convent at 1601 Allston Way was                    completed on land purchased for them in 1922.


           The old Presentation convent was abandoned, and then totally destroyed          by fire.


1966    St. Joseph’s Church, after extensive renovation, was rededicated and              renamed St. Joseph the Workman Catholic Church.


1970    Becky Temko Tot Park (formerly Roosevelt Tot Lot) was created with the        involvement of the Flatlands Neighborhood Association.


1973    The Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance was passed by the City of             Berkeley, placing strict restrictions on neighborhood demolitions.                    


          Father William O’Donnell was assigned to St. Joseph the Workman.                   (1973–2003)


           To give equal honor to working women, St. Joseph the Workman was             changed to St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church.[44]


1975    Old City Hall was the first landmark to be designated by the new                    Landmarks Preservation Commission. 


          Most of the District was down zoned to R-2.           

          Berkwood School merged with the Hedge School to become Berkwood                 Hedge School, opening on the former Berkwood School site.


1984    Berkeley Assembly of God Church began to hold Sunday services in the             Bayview Chapel and purchased it a short time later.[45]


1988   Presentation High School closed.


1991   The University of California purchased the land now known as University              Terrace from the Sister of Presentation in July 1991.


           Berkeley Assembly of God Church was renamed Lighthouse Assembly of            God Church.[46]


1993    The University of California built 75 condominiums (University Terrace)                for faculty and staff on the former Sisters of Presentation site.


1994    Berkeley Buddhist Monastery bought the Church of the Nazarene.


2000    The Ronald Tsukamoto Public Safety Building (2100 Martin Luther King              Jr. Way) was dedicated in July 2000.


2002    The Hall of Justice on McKinley Avenue was demolished.

2005    The new Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue was dedicated on May 8th.


2007    St Joseph the Worker School closed.


2008   The Bridge Assembly of God Church (2414 Martin Luther King Jr. Way              was formed with the merger of the Lighthouse Assembly of God Church                     and the Hilltop Community Church of Richmond.[47]


The sources for most of the information regarding the early history of St. Joseph’s Parish were based on articles written by Father Harry B. Morrison, History of St. Joseph’s Parish, Berkeley, California, 1878 – 1979, Centennial Newsletters of 1978 and 1979.  Information was also taken from Mother Teresa Comerford, Foundress of the Sisters of Presentation by Ann Curry, PBVM.

[1] Death Certificates of Mary Ann and Catherine McGee (daughters)

[2] Register at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Oakland

[3] Death Certificates of Mary Ann and Catherine McGee (daughters)

[4] Register at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Oakland

[5] New York Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1957

[6] Federal Writers Program (WPA), Berkeley, the First Seventy-five Years, 1941

[7] Great Register, Alameda County, Oakland Township, Berkeley Precinct No. 5, 1892

[8] William Warren Ferrier, Berkeley, California, The story of the evolution of a hamlet into a city of culture and commerce (Berkeley, 1933: published by the author).

[9] Ferrier

[10] Certificate of Baptism, St. Mary - Immaculate Conception

[11] Certificate of Baptism, St. Mary - Immaculate Conception

[12] Ferrier

[13] Register at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Oakland

[14] Berkeley Advocate, 2 February 1878

[15] Ferrier

[16] McGee’s Will

[17] California Architect and Building News, February 1884

[18] Copy of Map

[19] Phil Gale

[20] Ferrier

[21] Tax Assessor’s Book, Vol. I, Berkeley, ca 1892, pg. 79

[22] S. W. Waterman, History of the Berkeley schools (Berkeley Unified School District, 1918).

[23] Berkeley Gazette, July 1899

[24] Berkeley Gazette, 18 September 1899

[25] Obituaries and Register at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Oakland

[26] Phil Gale

[27] The San Francisco Call, Friday, February 26, 1904, pg 6.

[28] Waterman

[29] City of Berkeley Records

[30] City of Berkeley Records

[31] Waterman

[32] Phil Gale

[33] Serafin F. Post, The story of the Fyodor Postnikov family (Bancroft Library: Berkeley, California, privately printed).

[34] Phil Gale

[35] Ferrier

[36] Congregation Beth Israel website (www.cbiberkeley.org)

[37] Register at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Oakland

[38] Register at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Oakland

[39] Lawrence Sutin, Divine invasions: a life of Philip K. Dick (New York 2005: Caroll & Graf Publishers).

[40] Lawrence Sutin

[41] Waterman

[42] Waterman

[43] Congregation Beth Israel website (www.cbiberkeley.org)

[44] Street Spirit, December 2006 Edition

[45] Communication with Gingi M. Fulcher of Assembly of God Church

[46] Fulcher

[47] Fulcher

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