Napoleon Bonaparte Byrne House
CITY OF BERKELEY LANDMARKdesignated in 1976
In 1858, prosperous farmer Napoleon Byrne sold his Missouri land and journeyed west with his wife Mary Tanner Byrne, four children, and other relatives. Two freed slaves, Pete and Hannah Byrne, came with the family and became Berkeley’s first known African-American residents.
Byrne bought 827 acres of hillside land here beside Codornices Creek for $25 to $35 an acre and built a formal Italianate-style house. The land proved unproductive for farming, so the Byrnes moved to the Sacramento River Delta. Pete and Hannah chose to remain in the East Bay. Pete Byrne later started a whitewashing business in Oakland, and Hannah became a domestic worker.
Napoleon Byrne sold his land in Berkeley to developers Henry Berryman and Felix Chappellet. Other owners followed, and from 1951 to 1997 the property belonged to the Chinese Christian Missionary Alliance Church. The Byrne house was destroyed by fire in 1985; only the concrete wall along Oxford Street remains from the past.
In 2005, Berkeley’s Jewish Congregation Beth El moved from its first synagogue at Arch and Vine streets to this building designed by architects Moore, Ruble, Yudell.
Berkeley Historical Plaque Project