The Good Shepherd Church in all its former glory, before it was devastated by an electrical fire. Photo: Rev. Este Gardner Cantor.
The Good Shepherd Church in all its former glory, before it was devastated by an electrical fire last fall. The church will hold a fundraiser this weekend to help raise money for restoration efforts. Photo: Rev. Este Gardner Cantor

By Julia Hannafin

When an electrical fire devastated the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church last October, it gutted a community stalwart and one of Berkeley’s true architectural landmarks.

Designed by architect Charles L. Bugbee in 1878, Good Shepherd is the oldest church in continuous use in Berkeley and the city’s second oldest building. The church, on the corner of Hearst Avenue and Ninth Street in West Berkeley, has a rich history: it once housed a preschool for the Black Panthers, and it was the founding site of Head Start, the federal program for preschool education and nutrition. Today, the church remains a community staple, feeding 200 people a week with hot lunches, groceries and fresh organic produce supplied by the Good Shepherd Free Farm. 

Last year’s fire, discovered late at night on Oct. 20, was a blow to the community.

“Since the devastating fire at Good Shepherd Church, we have been overwhelmed with the support from the Berkeley community and beyond,” said Rev. Este Gardner Cantor. “We are now deep into the process of rebuilding, and simultaneously fundraising to bring this beautiful architectural treasure back to its former glory, and continue our important ministries.”

According to Cantor, the city of Berkeley has let the church divide the restoration process into three stages: fire damage demolition, restoration of the sanctuary, and the rebuilding of the sacristy.

In the midst of rebuilding. Photo: Rev. Este Gardner Cantor.
In the midst of rebuilding. Photo: Rev. Este Gardner Cantor

Berkeley architectural firm The Bay Architects is working with the church to accomplish its new vision. A new design for the sacristy to improve handicapped access has been completed and submitted to the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association for approval. The stained glass windows are also in the process of repair and re-creation, depending on the level of damage.

According to Cantor, however, many basic elements of the work are not covered by insurance. As one of its many fundraising efforts, this Sunday, June 23, the church is holding a concert featuring the Spohr Octet at the 1928 Julia Morgan-designed home of Rev. Don and Carol Anne Brown, at 2821 Claremont Blvd. in Berkeley. More information and tickets are available on the church’s website.

Learn more about the church and its fundraising and restoration efforts on Facebook.

Julia Hannafin is a summer intern at Berkeleyside and a student at Columbia University studying creative writing and American studies. She writes for the music blog The Metropolitan Jolt.

Fire damages Good Shepherd Episcopal Church on 9th St. (10.21.12)

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