California History

Berkeley California History, Name

The city was christened "Berkeley" in 1866 after George Berkeley, the English Bishop of Cloyne who wrote "Westward the course of empire takes it way."

While the San Francisco Bay Area was "discovered" by the Spanish in 1769, for thousands of years previous Berkeley's original habitants were a Native American people known as the Huchiun.

The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought an unprecedented influx of people to the Bay Area, and by the mid-1850s a small community of settlers began to cluster near the shores of the Bay in what was, and still is, an area of Berkeley known as Ocean View.

 The site for the University of California was dedicated in April 1860 and in 1873, U.C. Berkeley opened its doors.

Downtown Berkeley began developing in 1876 when Francis Kittredge Shattuck, one of the founding landowners in Berkeley, persuaded Southern Pacific Railroad to run a spur line through his property that served as the impetus for new commercial growth.  Berkeley was incorporated in 1878 and began a population boomlet that saw its residential rolls rise from 2,000 people in 1880 to 13,000 at the turn of the century.  But the true boom was to come, as population climbed to 50,000 by 1912 from improved transportation systems and an influx of 1906 earthquake-displaced San Franciscans. 

Berkeley continued to grow and evolve to its present-day status.  The national spotlight focused on the city during the turbulent 1960s when the U.C. Berkeley campus became a lightning rod for the political awareness and activism of the day.  The "Free Speech Movement" left a legacy that is still very much a part of contemporary Berkeley. 

Today Berkeley population is around 105,000 residents and hundreds of business entities.  It is also a city unlike any other in the world.  The contrasts of Berkeley are energizing and contribute to its civic vitality and cosmopolitan air.  Its outlook is international, while it retains a distinctive hyper-local color and a keen civic consciousness.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

More Info