Historic urns restored in Berkeley’s Thousand Oaks

One of the two newly installed urns, at Great Stone Face Park. Photo: Ira Serkes

By Jane Tierney

Some things are a hundred years in the making. On Saturday, a dedication will be held to celebrate the restoration of three giant urns, signature features of the Thousand Oaks neighborhood, which were originally installed in the early 1900s.

When Thousand Oaks was subdivided in 1909, the developers placed monumental urns, in the style of Maxfield Parrish, around the new residential tract. Civic art, like the stone pillars of Northbrae and Cragmont, the fountain at Marin Circle and the gates of the Claremont and Claremont Court, was popular at that time and gave each new area an identity.

Originally 20 or more urns graced Thousand Oaks, but only one of these, at Indian Trail and The Alameda, remained. Until now.

Inspired by the successful restoration of the Marin Circle Fountain, in 2003, the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association (TONA) began fundraising to restore the existing urn and recreate two new ones as a centennial project. Many neighbors worked on the project and many more made donations, totaling nearly $20,000.

Two historic locations, both part of the original 1909 Thousand Oaks subdivision plan, are the sites for the new urns: Great Stone Face Park at San Fernando Avenue, and Yosemite Road, and the triangle at the intersection of Yosemite Road and The Alameda. Jim Horner and Gray Brechin, a historical geographer affiliated with UC, advised on the sitings.

One of the new urns is unloaded prior to being placed at its new site. Photo: Suzanne Riess

A $7,600 grant from the UC Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund, awarded in 2009, supplemented neighborhood donations and included the advisory services of UC Landscape Architect Jim Horner. The grant application was supported by Council Member Laurie Capitelli, Diana Aikenhead of the Department of Public Works, and numerous community groups.

A fabricator with extensive historic preservation experience produced the new urns. A mold was made from the existing urn, and the missing lip was recreated by artist Sarita Waite, who sculpted the bears eat the Marin Circle Fountain.

Local architect and TONA board member Alesia Connelly, as well as contractors Michael McCutcheon and Jim Duval, donated their services, assisting with site plans and installation.

The project coordinators were Elizabeth Sklut, TONA Board Member and Past President, and Trish Hawthorne, a local historian.

The dedication to celebrate the restoration of north Berkeley’s Thousand Oaks neighborhood signature features will be held on Saturday, September 10, from 3 – 5 pm. After a brief ceremony at Great Stone Face Park, a celebration with music, refreshments and an exhibit of historic photographs will be held in a private garden nearby. The Berkeley Path Wanderers Association is also offering a neighborhood walk at 1pm. See their website for details.

Jane Tierney is President of the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association.

To find out what is going on in Berkeley and nearby, be sure to check out Berkeleyside’s recently launched Events Calendar. You can also submit your own events.

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  • Neil Mishalov


  • BrianY

    There are bears eating the Marin Circle fountain???

  • Anonymous

    A dedicated group of Berkeley Path Wanderers spent the afternoon spiffing up Indian Trail which starts across the street from Great Stone Face Park. Come check it out on our Thousand Oaks neighborhood walk at 1pm leaving from the park!

  • Civics201

    Hi All,

    The only remaining original urn was on our property where I grew up at 715 the Alameda during the ’50’s and ’60’s adjoining the Indian Trail.  Visiting last month after a lengthy absence, I saw that the urn had been modified with addition of a lip and the top had been sealed so that it looks nothing like it’s original appearance. This is appears to have been an old modification. I used to play in the urn when I was small and jump from it’s top across the Trail’s stone steps to the bushes on the other side.  My brother, over 50 years ago, excavated a trove of penneys from the ’30’s and 40’s from it’s interior.

    In walking around the block I saw two of the new urns that were installed and are based on the non-original design.  It appears that the insatallations, while commendible, are not historically accurate.

    Timothy Nye (timpnye@gmail.com)