AKA: First Church of Christ, Scientist, Berkeley, CA; First Church of Christian Science, Berkeley, CA

Structure Type: built works - religious structures - churches

Designers: Maybeck, Bernard R., Architect (firm); Bernard Ralph Maybeck (architect)

Dates: constructed 1910

1 story

2619 Dwight Way
Berkeley, CA 94704-3028

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Northeast corner of Dwight Way and Bowditch Street, Alameda County.

Building History

The 1st Church of Christ Scientist in Berkeley stands as one the nation's most creative and stylistically diverse buildings. Here Maybeck accomplished several things. He reconciled the building with its tight urban site, utilizing ground-hugging lines, skylights and rustic redwood trellises in the manner of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Maybeck directed that windows be translucent, allowing in light, but not views, which might distract from religious services. The mélange of stylistic details--Japanese, Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic Revival--was probably the most energetic and unexpected combination in American architectural history. The architect also stayed current with new technological trends and experimented with new materials that fit life in California. In fire-prone Berkeley, he tested Transite panels for the exterior, a new cladding product made of asbestos. To resist the region's periodic earthquakes, he utilized supports of reinforced concrete. To admit a maximum light, he chose industrial steel windows, common in factories of the time, but almost unheard-of in church architecture. In short, Maybeck reconciled the period's need for historicism--albeit in unconventional stylistic combinations--with its impulse to suit contemporary requirements with modern means in this landmark building. The vigor and daring of his synthesis fit the experimental culture developing in California and more specifically in the intellectually vibrant college town of Berkeley.

Building Notes

One of the most justifiably famous buildings in California, the First Church of Christ Scientist was designated a Berkeley Historic Landmark #5 by the Landmarks Commission, Berkeley, CA, 12/15/1975. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. It was also named a National Historic Landmark, a high distinction. Its site lies directly across the street from People's Park, a Berkeley counter-culture landmark; its site suggests how important the iconoclastic church was symbollically for the city's counter-culture.


Berkeley's brilliant resident Bernard Maybeck (1862-1957) worked in 1928-1929 with Berkeley architect Henry Gutterson on a Sunday School appended to the church's eastern site. The Architectural Resources Group and Degenkolb Engineers supervised a roof replacement, accessibility, and seismic improvements in 2007.

Berkeley Historical Landmark (1975-12-15): 5

National Register of Historic Places (December 22, 1977): 77000283 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 1185