Walter H. Ratcliff
Berkeley Landmark Structure

Ratcliff structure
City Report Dec 17, 2002
Public Works HISTORY
City Council APPEAL

B. Ratcliff Building

The single story Ratcliff building, with its distinctive lines and detailed windows, is perhaps the district's most recognized historic structure. Neighborhood stories about the building abound, including that it was once a schoolhouse. These stories have been fostered by the unique look of this 1916 city construction. On closer examination, it is clear that the structure was designed to function as a barn and garages, but also with "special reference to adaptability for use with present equipment or complete motor equipment."(20)

A special architectural study was undertaken for this construction at the Corporation Yard. The result was a single story, decorative structure, with a long rectangular shape to create a courtyard. The original entrances of the building were inside this courtyard, helping to isolate operations from the surrounding neighborhood.

The building's design, with its sensitivity to zoning and the neighborhood, is quite noteworthy. Because of the new Housing Code and Zoning Ordinance instituted in 1915, this was probably the first time an industrial structure was built in Berkeley to appear more residential both in its scale and style. The city architect, Ratcliff, who designed the building, played an important role in developing these new standards.

The distinct Ratcliff design has long been recognized as part of the fabric of the neighborhood and as a community resource. A sound wall, constructed in 1995 along the Bancroft Way border of the Corporation Yard, was also influenced by this building. Neighbors worked together with staff on the project, and incorporated the design of the brick pilasters from the Ratcliff structure into the columns of the cinderblock sound wall.


Portion of Allston Way facade of Ratcliff Building

Doors on Ratcliff Building

Ratcliff Ratcliff
Windows on East side of Ratcliff Building overlooking employee lunch area
Detail of Ratcliff Building

Ratcliff Ratcliff
Detail of Ratcliff building
Detail of Ratcliff building

Ratciff Ratcliff
Original entrance to Ratcliff Building
Present entrance to office area of
Ratcliff Building

C. Vehicle Maintenance Building

Since the 1930's, the vehicle maintenance building has seen many alterations to its structure which have rendered the building less than architecturally significant. Instead, the vehicle maintenance facility's historical importance is founded on being one of the oldest active auto repair facilities in Berkeley (75 years).

The vehicle maintenance facility was constructed nearly a decade after the Ratcliff building to meet the growing fleet and equipment needs of the City of Berkeley. Today, the City's fleet maintenance and repair activities are conducted at both the Transfer Station and the Corporation Yard. However, the Corporation Yard vehicle repair facility continues to play the major role in meeting the challenges of fleet management.

D. Quonset

The Quonset "hut" building is quite unique, given its steel fabrication and round shape. Originally designed in the early 1940's for WWII as a portable structure, the Quonset provided an inexpensive way to create a large modular building. This may be the only structure of this type and size, in Berkeley.

E. Cedar Trees

The twenty-eight remaining cedar trees are a neighborhood resource, both in size and number.

Berkeley Citizen © 2003
All Rights Reserved