daily californian logo


Secrets of the Berkeley City Club

article image


We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

OCTOBER 04, 2014

Imagine a luxurious and majestic building with architectural authenticity that reminds you in many ways of a castle. Now imagine this beauty of a building running its own private club. A membership in this club would give you access to a fancy restaurant, an indoor pool and a day spa, just to mention a few amenities. “Wouldn’t it be cool if there were one in Berkeley?” you’re probably thinking. Well, congratulations — there is.

On Durant Avenue, between Ellsworth and Dana streets, you’ll find this club that no one really seems to know about. The exterior of the building is a vision in and of itself, but it’s the inside that’s going to blow your mind.

The building was originally constructed to be the Berkeley Women’s City Club and opened in 1930. At that time, the women of Berkeley were craving a center for social, cultural and recreational activities. The club is also known as “Julia Morgan’s Little Castle.” It wasn’t until 1962 that the club opened its doors to men as well and changed its name to the Berkeley City Club. In 2012, the lavish restaurant inside the building, Julia’s, opened to the public.

Even though the exclusivity of the former Berkeley Women’s City Club has faded to some extent, the Berkeley City Club has definitely kept a lot of its flair and classical appearance. It’s like that gorgeous venue that you saw in that one romantic comedy and thought, “Imagine getting married in a place like that.” In fact, in the Berkeley City Club, you can.

Membership privileges of the Berkeley City Club include gourmet dining; a luxurious, indoor heated pool; athletic facilities; a hair salon and skincare spa; monthly member mixers; tickets to Berkeley Chamber Performances, and privileges at similar private clubs throughout the United States and the rest of the world. You can also receive event-planning services for your own private events. So, if you really want to make that wedding happen …

Because another name for the club is Julia Morgan’s Little Castle, you might be asking yourself who Julia Morgan is. Morgan was born in San Francisco in 1872. Instead of getting married and joining high society after high school like most girls by whom she was surrounded at the time, Morgan attended UC Berkeley, which had just started enrolling women. After receiving her degree in civil engineering as the only woman in her class, Morgan attended Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and received her master’s degree in architecture. Here she was the first woman to ever get admitted to the school — talk about girl power. In the middle of a flourishing career, Morgan designed the Berkeley Women’s City Club, which was constructed in 11 months, and all finances were covered by Berkeley women. When the club opened, it had more than 4,000 members. In 1977, the Berkeley City Club was declared a city landmark. 

So, if you want to become a member of a historic private club, have a really fancy dinner or just spend a night in a “little castle,” you know where to go.

Image sources: Sanfranman59 under Creative Commons

Contact Cathrine Pettersen at [email protected].

OCTOBER 06, 2014