Berkeley Beats Poetry: Background

1624 Milvia Street/ Ginsberg 1955-56 Residence

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The apartment complex on Milvia Street that replaced Allen Ginsberg’s cottage.

Allen Ginsberg occupied the residence of 1624 Milvia Street in Berkeley, California from September 1955 until August 1956. The site became his inspiration for the poem “A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley.” In 1964, Ginsberg’s former cottage was demolished and replaced with a 6-unit apartment complex that still stands today.[1] On the opposing side of the street there is the Berkeley Arts Magnet School, which has a Poetry Garden and plaque commemorating Allen Ginsberg’s time in Berkeley. The site is currently privately owned and rented out as a place of residence. There are no visitors to this site as there is no physical indication of its cultural and historical significance at the site.

Here is a tour of Milvia Street.

Here is a tour of the Poetry Garden.

1885 University Avenue/ U-Save Market

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What the U-Save Market looks like today.

Ginsberg wrote his famous poem “A Supermarket in California” while roaming the U-Save Market on the corner of University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way (1885 University Avenue) in Berkeley. The single-story U-Save Market building was replaced by Kragen Outlet and finally rebuilt in 2006 by Trader Joe’s Grocery Store.[2] The current building is 43,750 square feet in size and houses the grocery store and apartment units in a 5-story building. [3] The supermarket is publicly accessible as a commercial business and the management of the site is by Trader Joe’s corporation. There are no remnants of the U-Save Market, nor are there any interpretive elements or historical markers for the site.

A Trader Joe’s customer reads “A Supermarket in California” at the grocery store.

2797 Shattuck Avenue/Berkeley Town Hall Theater

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The old Town Hall Theater building today.

At the time of Allen Ginsberg’s residence in Berkeley, this site served as the Berkeley Town Hall Theater from 1956 to 1958. Ginsberg performed the first recorded reading of his most famous poem, “Howl,” here. While the building itself remains, it has been repurposed several times and has no remaining indication of its time as the Town Hall Theater. The site is now used as a Japanese restaurant called Kirala and a café and bakery named Sconehenge Café. There are ongoing plans to turn this site into a Honda showroom. For now, however, the preservation and management of this site belongs to the current business owners.

A student reads “Howl” at Sconehenge Cafe.

1111 Eighth Street/San Francisco Greyhound Station

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The Greyhound Station in its current condition.

Two more of Allen Ginsberg’s poems, “Sunflower Sutra” and “In the Baggage Room at Greyhound”, were written at 1111 Eighth Street in San Francisco. This site served as a Greyhound bus station from the time it was built in 1951 until it closed around 1995. The California College of the Arts bought the building in 1996. While the College retained the industrial aesthetic of the bus station, there is no indication of the site’s relevance to Ginsberg or the Beat Generation. The site is currently used by California College of the Arts students and faculty, and there is no popular tourism or community visitation at this location.

Read about our Stakeholders and Stewards

[1] “Berkeley Home.” 1624 Milvia St APT 2 94709. Zillow, n. d. Web. 11 Oct 2015.

[2] Jones, Carolyn. “BERKELEY / Neighbors Say No to Popular Market / Trader Joe’s Project Hits Snag Over Traffic, Low-priced Alcohol.” SFGate. Hearst Communications, Inc., 3 Oct 2006. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.

[3] “1885 University Avenue Initial Study and Environmental Checklist.” (2006): Planning and Development Department Land Use Planning Division. City of Berkeley, June 2006. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.


Posted on December 10, 2015, in Anthro136kF2015, Berkeley-Beats and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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