Dinosaur at house at 1024 Keith St. Photo: Tom Dalzell

For the last few years, Tom Dalzell has been wandering the streets of Berkeley, camera in hand, to document all the strange, fascinating, and unusual items he can spot in yards and gardens. They range from animal-themed birdhouses to Hansel and Gretel cottages to wild lawn art to unusual signs to art cars. The only criterion he has: they must be quirky.

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 8,400 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means. 

Dalzell has managed to zero in and capture the small, material things that define and illuminate the city that is sometimes, often derisively, referred to as Bezerkeley. But captured through his eyes and sensibility, the individual objects resonate, often deeply.

Dalzell plans to write a number of Quirky Berkeley posts for Berkeleyside. If you like this and want to see more, check out the Quirky Berkeley website. Dalzell will also be giving a talk about his website and walks on March 27 at 7:00 p.m. at 1931 Center St. in a presentation sponsored by the the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and the Berkeley Historical Society.

By Tom Dalzell

Dinosaurs strike me as a metaphorically appropriate place to start my sharing of the quirky material culture of Berkeley with Berkeleyside readers. Dinosaurs were here long ago — from 200 million years ago until their sudden, near-complete extinction 66 million years ago. But they survive in Berkeley front yards, where small, medium, or big they stand as declarations of individualism in a city of individualists.

My two favorite are of the big variety, or at least medium. Sadly, we have none of the giant dinosaurs that roamed America’s highways in the era of roadside vernacular architecture, but we have two that represent us well, on Keith between Spruce and Euclid and on 9th Street.

Dinosaur on house at 1647 9th Street. Photo: Tom Dalzell

On Francisco Street, there is an elaborate found-object sculptured dinosaur skeleton. It is dangerous. Stay away.

Dinosaur on 1256 Francisco St. Photo: Tom Dalzell

And then there are the little dinosaur worlds. On Spruce Street, above Los Angeles, there is a good stretch of modestly quirky presentations, including a fence with dinosaurs and human figures between the top rail and the cap rail (I think).

Spruce Street, above Los Angeles. Photo: Tom Dalzell

On Ada Street across from Jefferson School there is a busy, ever-changing front yard with a mix of sculpture, found objects, mardi gras beads, toys, and dinosaurs.

Ada Street across from Jefferson School. Photo: Tom Dalzell

To end, a simple, stately display from Delaware Street. Art is not eternal, and I suspect that this display has changed a time or two since I photographed it. At the moment that my camera happened to catch it — perfect.

Delaware Street. Photo: Tom Dalzell

To read more and see more about Berkeley’s dinosaurs, giant dinosaurs elsewhere, and Bedrock City amusement parks, visit Quirky Berkeley.

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Freelancer Tom Dalzell has lived in Berkeley since 1984. After working for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers for 10 years as a legal worker and then lawyer, he went to work for another labor union...