Historic preservation is the topic for this column installment, from Richmond honoring its past to Berkeley and the fate of one of its most notable Civic Center buildings.

Nominations are now open for the 2014 Historic Preservation Awards in Richmond and should be submitted by March 28.

The award program, established by the city's Historic Preservation Commission and now in its seventh year, was established "to increase public awareness of Richmond's heritage by recognizing individuals, organizations, businesses, and agencies whose contributions demonstrate outstanding commitment to excellence in historic preservation, local history or promotion of the heritage of the city."

Eligible award subjects go well beyond historic structures and "projects may include media, publications, presentations and exhibits, parks, burial grounds, public art, oral history, theater productions, events and video presentations."

Richmond has embraced its past in recent years and has a national park based on its history during World War II. The annual awards include one sponsored by the National Park Service through its Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park that recognizes "individuals or organizations whose efforts and support greatly advance the understanding and appreciation of the values that led to the formation of Richmond's national park."

A nomination form that includes rules, eligibility guidelines and submission details can be downloaded at www.ci.richmond.ca.us/preservationaward.

Additional questions about the program can be directed to Richmond Planning and Building Services Department Senior Planner Hector Rojas at 510-620-6662 or hector_rojas@ci.richmond.ca.us.

  • One of the key pieces of the Rosie the Riveter park is the SS Red Oak Victory, built at the World War II Kaiser shipyards and now docked at the Port of Richmond, where the cargo ship's restoration is ongoing.

    "For the Love of OUR Ship," a new exhibit that opened last weekend and runs through March 23 at the Richmond Museum of History (400 Nevin Ave.), looks at the restoration efforts of dedicated volunteers and the issues they have tackled.

    Museum Executive Director Melinda McCrary noted in her welcoming remarks at the Feb. 9 opening reception that volunteers come from different generations and backgrounds, and said that their efforts are an example of how "this one tangible piece of history can connect people across time, across place."

    Longtime volunteer Cliff Warren told the audience that "The Red Oak is the biggest toy I've ever had to work with."

    He noted that unlike the big military ships, the Red Oak was launched with little fanfare in 1944.

    "The Red Oak was built to work," he said. "The history of the Red Oak is the history of this country."

    Attending the opening reception were several visitors from Red Oak, Iowa, the town the ship was christened after. The visitors coincidentally happened on the museum and exhibit, and a private tour of the ship was quickly arranged to be held the next day.

    The Richmond Museum Association is "working very aggressively with the Coast Guard to get the engine going, hopefully this year," said RMA President John Ziesenhenne, with a goal of getting the Red Oak on the water under its own power.

    At the same time, "We would like to enlarge the museum on the Red Oak Victory," Ziesenhenne said, appealing to the community to donate artifacts from the World War II era to better tell the story of the period.

    For more details on the exhibit, on donating artifacts or on the Red Oak Victory, call 510-235-7387 or 510-237-2933, or visit www.richmondmuseumofhistory.org.

    HISTORY ISSUES IN BERKELEY: A plaque honoring Moe's Books, a mainstay on Telegraph Avenue since 1959, and its late founder Morris "Moe" Moskowitz, was installed Feb. 10 by the Berkeley Historical Society.

    Farther west, however, a battle is shaping up over a historic and architecturally significant Civic Center building. Not the downtown post office, which preservationists and elected officials are already actively working to spare from being sold to private hands, but the 1909 building known as "Old" City Hall (officially titled the Maudelle Shirek Building).

    The building has been declared seismically unsafe and the Berkeley City Council is considering moving its meetings to another location rather than take on the cost of retrofitting the structure.

    The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association sent a letter to city officials on Feb. 5 opposing those plans and expressing its concerns about the fate of the building it calls an iconic symbol of the city.

    From the letter:

    "This action is misguided for many reasons, including the following:

  • "It moves the most basic city government functions, the Mayor and Council, out of the city's heart;

  • "It ignores the important symbolic, historic, and touristic values represented by Old City Hall;

  • "It leaves the existing building to destruction by neglect;

  • "It ignores the opportunity for retrofit and effective reuse.

    "Berkeley City Hall; the Martin Luther King Jr. Building the Main Post Office; and the Berkeley High School campus constitute the heart of the city. This is where the council belongs."

    "If 'Old' City Hall is vacated and 'secured' (i.e., boarded up), this venerable Berkeley icon will end up being demolished by neglect."

    The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

    WEST COUNTY NOTES: "I'm With Cupid IV: Back to Bacharach" is a tribute to pop music composer Burt Bacharach to benefit the WriterCoach Connection at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, 1501 Washington Ave. in Albany.

    "First Person Singular presents pianist Joshua Raoul Brody accompanying a horde from HOOT! -- Joe Christiano, Anza and Wendy Fiering, Tim Kieschnick, Theresa Kelly, Dave Tilton, and Chie Treagus -- in this celebration of a singular composer's catalog."

    Suggested donation at the door is $10 to benefit the program that pairs volunteer writing coaches with high school students.

    Contact Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/christreadway. Stay up-to-date on West Contra Costa news at IBABuzz.com/westcounty.