Berkeley's downtown railroad station on the wedge of land where Shattuck splits north of Center, long the transportation hub of the city, was scheduled to be demolished, the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported 75 years ago, Oct. 12, 1937. The handsome station serving the Southern Pacific trains that ran up Shattuck Avenue had been built in 1907, replacing a previous wooden depot.

The Gazette described the pending demolition as "another progressive step in the rapid business growth of this city."

Stores and offices and "a modern and up to date interurban railway passenger station would replace the three-decade-old "weathered brick building"

If you've ever seen photographs of the attractive old station, you may agree with me that this proved a bad trade-off. Berkeley lost a beautiful and historic neoclassical building that today would have formed an elegant low-rise centerpiece to downtown.

The only redeeming architectural feature standing on that narrow block today is the Moderne former bus station building at the Addison Street end, now partially occupied by Pollo Restaurant.

New rectory

On Oct. 10, 1937, St. Clement's Episcopal Church dedicated its new rectory building at 2733 Ashby Ave.

"This house, designed by Julia Morgan, had been purchased at the cost of $8,300," it was reported.

There was a ceremonial fire lit in the fireplace, and congregation members sang "Bless This House, O Lord," and "Down Here."

Later that same night, the Rev. Mr. Thompson wrote a note to his congregation, thanking them for purchasing the house "after the closeness and noise of apartments for the past four years."

He added that, "I am writing this little note from the quiet of my new study late at night," and quoted from the second song, "Sure it's quiet down here, but God is very near."

The quiet would not last on Ashby. The street, as we know, would become an increasingly busy state highway funneling traffic from Tunnel Road (and the new Broadway Tunnel, opened in late 1937) into Berkeley.

Some years later, to detour that traffic around what had been an awkward right angle, Berkeley would work with the state to remove several houses and cut a diagonal across the 2700 block, just above College Avenue. The building at 2733 Ashby still stands, but now the address is on Ashby Place because of the street alterations.

Botanical trip

The Gazette said (Oct. 11, 1937) that "one of the most ambitious expeditions ever undertaken in the name of science is now in its preparatory phase at the University of California. It is known as the University's Botanical Garden Expedition, headed by Dr. T.H. Goodspeed, professor of botany and director of the botanical garden here, and for the greater part of a year it will trek through the Andean highlands in South America in search of both new and old floral treasure."

The plan was to search "among the storied wreckage of old civilizations" for many species of plants, particularly nicotiana "and for both old and new forms of plants, shrubs and other ornamentals that are expected to add new beauty and fragrance to the gardens and parks of the whole United States."

The expedition was expected to leave fall, 1938, and spend a year in South America.

"While making no bid for picturesqueness or glamour, the expedition will go fully prepared for any and all adventures and emergencies that will be encountered," the Gazette concluded.

Diplomatic death

On Oct. 12, 1937, the American consul general in Beirut was shot and killed by a man who had been refused a passport to travel to the United States.

J.T. Marriner, 45, was described as "a brilliant member of the United States diplomatic service."