The mouth of Schoolhouse Creek. All photos: Neil Mishalov

By Neil Mishalov

Schoolhouse Creek is now mostly culverted and hidden under dirt, concrete and asphalt. It must have been a lovely sight before 1913, with its brushy banks accented by open grasslands.

The creek originally carried sediment from the quake-fractured Berkeley hills and helped form the Berkeley flatlands. It is fed by springs in the Berkeley hills, some located near the site of the Berryman Reservoir on Euclid Avenue, which travel down the Berkeley Hills and merge near the intersection of McGee Avenue and Cedar Street. The creek then continues down to the Bay between Virginia and Cedar Streets.

Before there was Interstate 80, the creek fed the south end of a salt marsh east of the current freeway. A tidal slough carried its waters north towards present-day Albany.

Map shows the course of Schoolhouse Creek. Source: Google Maps

In 1854, an inn and general store was built on the south bank of Schoolhouse Creek, near today’s San Pablo Avenue and Virginia Street. It aimed to accommodate Gold Rush travelers as they headed to the Sierra to strike it rich.

The creek was named after a small, one-room schoolhouse built near the creek in 1856. As Berkeley grew, and its population increased, developers used the creek as a sewer and storm drain, enclosing much of the creek in terracotta and redwood pipes.

Schoolhouse Creek runs under this concrete parking lot between Virginia and Cedar Streets

By 1913, most of the creek was hidden under dirt and roadways. Now, almost 100 years later, the creek is still sadly hidden from view, and is mostly forgotten.

There have been discussions about daylighting a small section of Schoolhouse Creek in what is now known as the Eastshore State Park. The proposal to daylight the creek was first formulated more than ten years ago, but so far nothing has taken place.

Map of Berkeley creeks shows course of Schoolhouse Creek. Map courtesy of Janet M. Sowers/Oakland Museum of California

So, if you go to Eastshore State Park today to see where Schoolhouse Creek enters San Francisco Bay, all you see is an old concrete pipe about 5-feet in diameter emerging from the ground. My first thought when I located the mouth of Schoolhouse Creek was that the concrete pipe was a remnant of an early sewer drain, no longer in use.

But I was mistaken, the concrete pipe is the mouth of the creek. Since this is Berkeley, I feel comfortable in saying: Free Schoolhouse Creek!

Thanks to Rebecca Sutton and The Friends of Five Creeks whose research helped with this article.

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