Northbrae Public Improvements


at Marin Circle map it


designated in 1992


John Galen Howard, Architect, R.E. Mansell, Landscape Architect, 1907

Berkeley’s Northbrae residential subdivision was opened in 1907 by the Mason-McDuffie Company. John Galen Howard—then Supervising Architect of the University of California—designed the Circle and the stairways, benches, and stone pillars used as street markers. The landscape plan of broad, curving streets and a network of pathways and staircases that connected with streetcars and a commuter train was designed by University of California professor and landscape architect R.E. Mansell. Many of the streets in Northbrae were named after California counties as part of a nearly successful effort to persuade the state legislators to move the capitol from Sacramento to Berkeley. A number of parks sited around large natural outcroppings near the Circle contain grinding stones that are evidence of the area’s indigenous population.

The Circle, surrounded by Classical balustrades, is the focal point of Northbrae. The adjacent Fountain Walk connected the Circle to a train station at the south end of the Northbrae Tunnel, where neighborhood shops and a bank were clustered. Dedicated in 1911, the original Circle fountain was destroyed in a 1958 traffic accident. It was replicated through the efforts of North Berkeley residents with City cooperation and rededicated in 1996. More than 1,200 residents and friends contributed to the restoration campaign organized by Friends of the Fountain and Walk. The bears on the replacement fountain that recall the originals designed by Arthur Putnam were sculpted by Sarita Camille Waite.

Berkeley Historical Plaque Project

  • “Northbrae” Mason-McDuffie promotional brochure (1907), BAHA Archives.

  • The Circle at Marin Avenue (1915), source unknown.

  • Northbrae area map, detail, BAHA Archives.

  • Northbrae Public Improvements (2010), photo R. Kehlmann.

  • Marin Circle fountain rededication (1996), photo courtesy S. Entwistle.

Photo credit abbreviations:
BAHA: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn.
BHS: Berkeley Historical Society