The Berkeley Rose Garden was created 75 years ago this year. Photo: D.H. Parks

It was once described as nothing more than a “weed and poison oak slope,” but is now one of our city’s most treasured open spaces. The Berkeley Rose Garden turns 75 this year, and a gala celebration will be held this Sunday to honor the visionaries of the 1930s who made the transformation possible.

The Berkeley Rose Garden, scene of many a high school graduation photo shoot, owes its existence to the Great Depression when the WPA put unemployed people to work building parks and other infrastructures. Berkeley Historical Plaque Project describes how the garden came to be (it received its plaque in 1998):

Vernon M. Dean, the City’s landscape architect, designed the garden in a rustic style, with a redwood pergola and semicircular stone-walled terraces facing San Francisco Bay. Hundreds of tons of native rock were quarried in the Berkeley hills to construct the terraces. The garden was sculpted into the hillsides west of the Euclid Avenue streetcar line that crossed the canyon of Codornices Creek on a trestle. More than 2,500 rose bushes were selected by the East Bay Counties Rose Society led by Charles V. Cowell. The planting arrangement emphasized one color per terrace, starting with red at the top and descending through bronze, pink, and yellow to white at the bottom. The entry overlooking the garden was redesigned by architect Helene Vilett in 1996 and rebuilt with community donations and funds from the City.

The Rose Garden from the air, 2011. Photo: Michael Layefsky

Part of the motivation for Sunday’s celebration is to re-introduce the Berkeley Rose Garden to the community. The garden needs restoration work and maintenance which can only be done with community support.

The gala celebration takes place Sunday Sept. 23 from 11:30-2:30 and is organized by the City of  Berkeley Partners for Parks, Council Member Susan Wengraf, community members and rose aficionados. It is supported by Bebe McRae of The Grubb Company, Andronico’s Communtiy Markets, Navarro Vineyards, and many individual donors.

The event will include music, food, entertainment, family carnival, kids’ stage, magic show, garden expo, garden tours, and wine garden. Berkeleyside will be there too, with a booth, so stop by to say hello! Visitors are encouraged to walk, bike, bus or BART to the event. There will also be a shuttle running between the North Berkeley Bart Station and the event site.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...