Those who’ve lived there will tell you that the “Berkeley Paths” quickly become an important part of life in the hills of Berkeley, California. The Berkeley Path Wanderers Association website presents maps, photos, and stories about the quaint pedestrian passthroughs that zigzag those hills.
Where did these beautiful footpaths come from? According to the Berkeley Paths history page:
Berkeley ‘s population grew rapidly in the early part of the century due primarily to the growth of the University of California, the extension of the Key System rail line from San Francisco in 1903, and the influx of refugees following the 1906 earthquake and fire. Traction companies were formed and bought large areas of undeveloped land in the hills to the north, northeast and south of the University campus, and platted residential lots which were sold individually to home-builders.
These new Berkeley neighborhoods (developed before the automobile became the common mode of transportation) included Claremont (1900), Northbrae (1907), Thousand Oaks (1911), and Berkeley View Terrace (1926). Due to the slope of the northeast and southeast hills, upper lots were relatively inaccessible. Pathways served as pedestrian transportation routes linking hill residents to rail lines, parks, schools, and as short cuts for neighborhood residents.
Some of you already know of my inordinate fondness for the Orchard Lane Steps, part of the path system off of Panoramic Way. It’s less than a block away from Memorial Stadium, just around the southern outside edge of Strawberry Canyon on Panoramic Hill. When I lived in Corner (yes, all the rooms have names) at the Alpha Omicron Pi House on Prospect, I had a full frontal view of the Orchard Lane Steps. The Bancroft Steps – which connected the end of Bancroft way to the stadium parking lot/Panoramic Way/Prospect above – was our daily route to and from campus from our house.