Berkeley Built: Sand hoppers at Second and Cedar streets

Sand hoppers, Berkeley, 2002. Photo: David Wilson

Berkeley Built is a new occasional series in which architect David Stark Wilson of WA Design takes a look at a notable Berkeley structure or building. He begins by considering an industrial structure not far from his practice in West Berkeley.

These sand hoppers are at the Monterey Sand Company plant on Second and Cedar streets in Berkeley. I included this image as the only urban structure to appear in my 2003 book, “Structures of Utility” (Heyday Books) and explained why:

I became captivated by the agricultural buildings that punctuate the landscape of the Central Valley. The vertical forms of grain elevators, like erratics deposited by a long-receded glacier, interrupt the valley’s level terrain… The elevators are equaled in eccentricity by oversized storage sheds housing lanky, intricately evolved agricultural machinery. In the foothills, long-abandoned mines reveal only their head frames, an extension of the mines’ subterranean architecture… Their origins were in simple utility, in adaptation to functional requirements, yet they had attained an elusive and austere elegance.

Industrial buildings are no longer common in West Berkeley. It’s even more rare to see a standalone iconic structure like this one. The corrugated steel roof and side walls appear to have been cut away from below to reveal the silos inside. The helmeted composition that results is a strange building typology — and it’s right in our back yard.

Sand hoppers 650 Second Street (at Cedar)
Date: Circa mid-1950s
Architect or Engineer: Unknown

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  • Fordzilla

    Nice photo! Looks like a Becher.

  • That facility is such an eyesore.

  • guest

    take a walk down by the railroad tracks… or better yet, take a train trip through Berkeley… some very interesting old brick structures down there…

  • bgal4

    I love these hoppers for all the reasons Wilson identifies,  I especially enjoyed pulling into the bay and using the easy to operate mechanism to load a ton of sand into a small truck for my sons’ sandbox. One of my best memories of life in Berkeley.

  • serkes

    I really love industrial architecture …. they make for some great photos, particularly at night


  • samothrellim

    Another fascinating restored structure is 914 Heinz, former giant high ceilinged brick home of Scharffen Berger Chocolate, and before that the home of one of Berkeley’s early organic gardeners and coffee distributors, who made the unfortunate decision to mix cheap coffee with Kona beans and ended up serving time.  The building was originally built to store sulphur, with holes at the top so the fire department could douse the fires that often started from spontaneous combustion.

  • John V.

    I agree with “serkes” that industrial architecture can make great photos at night. I’ve photographed these same silos at night twice. You can see one photo here on Berkeleyside ( ) and the other on my website ( ).

  • serkes

    John … your photographs were a major inspiration for me to learn how to do low-light photography.

    Anyone interested in another berkeleyside night photo-shoot?  The last one I did with the berkeleyside low-light photo crew was a lot of fun.


  • serkes

    Carol loves this one.  I remember that I was annoyed that the car came down the road during the long exposure … then saw the result.

  • This structure is in active use; I jog by it several times a week. What is it used for? What was it originally used for? Can you really talk about form like this without mentioning function?

  • david wilson

    ryantate, The hoppers are for storage of sand and the two center hoppers allow for batching the sand out to trucks. The structures are from the mid 1950s and I imagine were always intended for their current use. It’s the only time I’ve seen an example of the strange helmeted roof added onto the hoppers. 

  • John V.

    Always glad to provide inspiration, Ira. Have fun out there.