History of Berkeley High

In 1884, with a graduating class of four, Berkeley High became the first high school to be accredited by the University of California. The school grew rapidly and by the turn of the century it was very crowded.  At the time, classes were held in the Kellogg Primary School, which was located on Oxford Street between Center and Alston Way—the same block where Ben and Jerry’s is now located.   It was considered a very bad location by Superintendent S.D. Waterman who wrote. “The noise of trains, the continued passing on the street to and from the University, the fact that almost every street demonstration of the U.C. student body includes Center Street in its line of march, the nearness to the business center of the town—all these interfere seriously with school discipline and work.”

At first the citizens of Berkeley—a new city formed by the union of Ocean View and the village clustered around the University of California—were reluctant to invest in a high school.   It took three attempts—in 1896, again in 1898, and finally in 1900—before a bond was approved to build an official high school.

With the passage of the bond, the school’s current property was purchased. It has streets on three sides and thus good air and ventilation can be secured,” wrote Waterman at the time. Building One’s cornerstone was laid in 1901and for the next 106 years the campus has been under construction with the exception of one 10 year period around World War II. Today the Berkeley High campus features eight major buildings and almost 500,000 square feet of space.

By 1904, 741 students were enrolled at the new school and 780 were expected the following year.  Then as now, Berkeley’s academic reputation attracted students from the surrounding communities. Tuition was free for Berkeley residents, but the school charged non-resident pupils $11 per term.

In 1917 an auditorium and science building were built along Alston Way at Grove—now Martin Luther King Way—and 507 students received diplomas—only slightly fewer than current class expected “to walk” at the Greek Theater in June.

In 1920 a new academic building was built across Kittredge Street. This building is now called the C Building. In 1922 a gymnasium building was built. The architect for these projects was William C. Hayes. In 1929 the pools and additions were added to the gym building; the architect was W.H. Ratcliff, Jr.

In 1938/39, after acceptance of a master plan developed by William Gutterson, the G and H Buildings were built. The goal was to build the community theater in the early 1940’s. However, World War II intervened, and the building was not completed until 1949.

The district purchased land at the corner of Allston Way and Milvia and constructed the cafeteria building at this location in 1964. At the same time the B Building was built. In 1979 the Donahue gym was built. Major campus upgrades took place during the late 1990s, including renovating the G and H Buildings and some areas of the C Building. A serious fire destroyed the B building in April 2000.

The D building was completed in 2004 to house the library, student union, College and Career center, counseling offices, administration offices, dance studios, swimming pool, and some classrooms.

The most recent renovations (2010-2015), christened the South of Bancroft plan, are complete and construction on campus has finished (for now). The athletic facilities and new bleachers on the east side of the football field and smaller bleachers on the west (MLK) side of the football field were the first part of the project. The old M building along Milvia was razed, and a new classroom building is was completed in 2014, with 16 classrooms. A softball field was rebuilt on the corner of Milvia and Channing.