Maybeck Designed Rose Walk
By SARAH WIENER-BOONE Special to the
Cathy Powers opens up her balcony doors, points
toward San Francisco Bay, and smiles. “On a clear
morning or a sunset,” she says, “there’s
nothing better.” Powers, a 30-year resident,
lives in a story book home. It graces the cover of
Susan Cerny’s book Berkeley Landscapes, and
is deemed a cultural asset by the author. Powers
doesn’t really care.
“The cover is nice and everything, but the
ambiance of the place is what is important to me.”
What makes this house and others nearby so unusual
is what begins outside their front door: Rose Walk,
between Euclid and Le Roy avenues, one of the most
celebrated paths in the North Berkeley Hills.
Powers uses the path every day and passes through
the Euclid entrance, high-walled and dipping in
the middle like two petals, and molded in rose
and cream concrete. She smells the roses and walks
the sweeping set of stairs that flank the entrance.
When her walks take her to the Le Roy entrance, she
sees benches nestled in corners, boulevard lamps,
gnarled as well as newly planted lemon trees, and
abundant flowers. All are tucked between the path
designed by Bernard Maybeck in 1913, and homes
built 10 years later by architect Henry Gutterson
to be an integral part of Rose Walk.
“From time to time as a child, my grandmother
would take me [to Rose Walk], and we would play
on the steps. It sure was fun,” says John
Underhill, tour guide and Rose Walk historian.
On his tours, organized by the Berkeley Path
Wanderers Association, he tells about his grandfather’s
involvement in the walk’s creation.
About 1910, Underhill and his neighbors raised
money to build the path to allow residents
to circumvent long, winding roads to reach
the City Street Car line, which had been extended
from Hillgard to Berryman Reservoir. By the
time the street cars were replaced by city
buses in 1948, Rose Walk had become a Berkeley
“The irony of this story,” says John
Underhill, “is although my grandfather
was so helpful in getting it built, he never
got to see it finished.” At a party seven
months before completion, Underhill died of
a heart attack.
Today, Cathy Powers revels in her view and
her ambiance, and kids still have fun on the
steps. John Underhill looks forward to the
2013 centennial of Rose Steps. “I’d
like to do something special for that,” he
says, “If I’m still around.”