How Quirky is Berkeley? Berkeley rocks quirky

815 The Alameda. Photo: John Storey
815 The Alameda. Photo: John Storey

In 2007, Ten Speed Press published Jonathan Chester’s Berkeley Rocks: Building with Nature. It is a beautiful and insightful book about how we in Berkeley have built our homes and landscaped around the large rock formations that are part of our geological heritage.

This post is not about that. Here, I present photographs of Berkeley yards that feature added rocks. They may be stacked or balanced, drilled or painted or arranged. We like rocks, we do.

1510 Henry. Photo: John Storey
1510 Henry. Photo: John Storey

The hole in this front-yard rock (above) is from its past life in a rock climbing store. The hole was used to demonstrate aid-climbing apparatus.

834 Euclid Photo: John Storey
834 Euclid Photo: John Storey

The rock above was intended to be a fountain in the backyard of the house. Drilling the length of the rock for a water line proved a difficult challenge, and the prospect of hoisting the rock over the house to the backyard by crane tipped the argument. No fountain, just rock.  A great rock to be sure, but just a rock.


2219 Marin. Photo: John Storey
2219 Marin. Photo: John Storey

There are several examples of balanced stones in Berkeley. I thought that there was a specific name for this type of rock balancing, but I could not come up with the name. Quirky Berkeley reader Vanessa Moraga wrote me, suggesting that “axial stones” was perhaps the name I was looking for, directing me to the artist Georg Quasha and his book Axial Stones: An Art of Precarious Balance. Some balanced stones are supported by internal rebar, which is the case here in Mike Nagamoto’s yard.

680 Peralta Street. Photo: John Storey
680 Peralta Street. Photo: John Storey

Mark Haggitt made this stone circle.  He is drawn to Celtic design and was inspired by Celtic stone circles here. There are approximately 1,300 stone circles in the British Isles. They have no equivalent elsewhere in Europe. Stonehenge is the best known. Avebury is the largest, then the Stanton Drew stone circles, then the Ring of Brodgar. And then there is this on Peralta.

Some of our better stone walls:

431 Spruce Street. Photo: John Storey
1431 Spruce St. Photo: John Storey
836 Hearst Avenue. Photo: John Storey.
836 Hearst Ave. Photo: John Storey
875 Arlington Avenue. Photo: John Storey
875 Arlington Ave. Photo: John Storey

And then rocks for the sake of rocks:

1652 Chestnut Street. Photo: John Storey
1652 Chestnut St. Photo: John Storey
1537 Comstock Court. Photo: Tom Dalzell
1537 Comstock Court. Photo: Tom Dalzell
2905 5th Street. Photo: John Storey
2905 5th Street. Photo: John Storey
1805 5th Street. Photo: John Storey
1805 5th Street. Photo: John Storey

Closing with a bang, a house in the Uplands once featured an elaborate rock grotto, made with locally quarried chert, a fine-grained silica-rich microcrystalline, cryptocrystalline or microfibrous sedimentary rock. Today, even the remnants inspire:

25 Oakvale Avenue, Berkeley. Photo: John Storey
25 Oakvale Ave., Berkeley. Photo: John Storey

So — Berkeley rocks indeed. There is nothing more for me to say: we like rocks and we like stones and we add them to what we present to the street.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.

A longer version of this post may be found at Quirky Berkeley.

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