Faculty Club reaches century mark
Tales abound of ghosts, monks and moose heads

By Fernando Quintero


faculty club interior

With craftsman-style architecture and rustic charm, the Faculty Club has been a place for festive parties, lively debates, weddings, even ghosts during its 100 years.
Photos from “Faculty Club” by James Steele

13 March 2002 | It began as a quaint building where new members of the university community could eat, drink and unwind, or delve into academic debates as heated as the discussions of Charles Darwin or Galileo Galilei must have been.

One hundred years later, Berkeley’s Faculty Club still offers that opportunity today.

Club members will tell you about the time-honored traditions, the special memories and the lore that surrounds this century-old institution. From its halls spring legends that would keep any child up at night: a ghost that reappeared in the tower where a professor had stayed years after he died; the “Monks’ Chorus,” a group of robed professors who would celebrate Christmas Medie-val style every year; the controversial moose, nicknamed “Moosetradamus,” which was displayed proudly in the main dining room until a new sensitivity for animals swept over the campus community.

“The club has very sentimental meaning, especially for those of us who have been around long enough to remember the many people and events associated with it,” said Phyllis Brooks, a member of the club for more than 40 years.

Brooks, who first visited the club as a guest of her husband, the late Professor Edward Schaffer, is a walking encyclopedia of memories, recalling banquets, annual holiday parties, lectures and controversies that have given the Faculty Club its character.

Club beginnings
The Faculty Club was envisioned as a private club, owned and operated by and for faculty independently of the university. Designed by famed Berkeley architect Bernard Maybeck, the building was a classic example of American craftsman-style architecture. Additions over the years — guest rooms, a new kitchen, decks, lounges and private dining rooms — were also built in the craftsman style.

The club itself was incorporated on March 28, 1902, and the new building was dedicated in September of that year, upon its completion. It was a single-room clubhouse, now the western half of the Great Hall, the part of the club with the big fireplace, the high gabled ceiling with beam-ends hand-carved in the form of dragon heads.

In his book, “A History of the Faculty Club at Berkeley,” James Gilbert Partridge noted: “The Faculty Club was founded on the idea that members of the new university community needed a clean and comfortable place to live and where they could take their meals.”

But more than that, Partridge wrote, it was to be a place where members from different academic disciplines and administrative posts could meet, relax, and in the clouded atmosphere of weekly “smokers,” discuss affairs of the mind or listen to scholarly papers offered by fellow members.

“This intellectual ambiance has survived to a remarkable degree through the decades, when there has been an ever-increasing amount of intellectual fodder available in every corner of the campus,” Partridge wrote.

Membership rules change
Its membership has changed, however. At the turn of the century, the club was reserved for men. Women were invited on special occasions only.

Phoebe Apperson Hearst was one of the exceptions. She gave the new club gifts of furniture, pictures and portraits, for which she was later made an honorary member, and later became one of the first women to be accepted into the all-male club. In 1915, the directors passed a resolution granting visitors’ cards for women faculty and administrators.

It was not until 1972 that the membership voted to “eliminate all discrimination against female membership in the club.” But Betty Calarosa, a clinical professor of optometry, claims to be the first woman to break the “men only” tradition of luncheons in the Great Hall. She smoked a large cigar after lunch each day in keeping with the old-time club tradition.

In its formative years, the all-male members would gather “to chat, sing, read or play billiards, and to rub elbows with fellow members.” There were special occasions, such as the annual St. Patrick’s Day Ball and the New Orleans Night Dance. There were “members only” dinners costing 75 cents (including wine and cigars), which would be followed by the readings of academic papers by faculty members from different disciplines.

The club threw dances, lectures and banquets, and hosted a variety of groups, including the Kosmos Club for science buffs and the Arts Club, which is still around today. Paintings by members of the Arts Club still hang in the corridor outside the Great Hall. And many of the club’s early records, photographs and papers have been preserved and are available in the Bancroft Library.

“This place was a focal point of social activity on campus because there wasn’t much to do in Berkeley then. You didn’t have all the restaurants, theaters and other amenities you see today,” Brooks said. “People who belonged to the club made their own amusement.”

Special camaraderie
As the years went by and Berkeley gained national and international prominence, a special camaraderie developed among this prestigious group of faculty and administrators. Club members gathered to hear lectures in their own disciplines, as well as in other fields.

Bruce Bolt, professor emeritus of earth and planetary science, saw all three of his daughters married at the club. “No other campus has quite what we have in the Faculty Club,” said Bolt, who came to Berkeley in 1963. “For me, it’s a center for contact with colleagues, not only in your own field but in other disciplines as well.”

VIPs added to the mystique of the club, as well as to its lore. One particularly noteworthy visit by Professor Henry Morse Stephens turned into a ghost story years later.

In 1919, Stephens reportedly moved into the Tower Room, now hotel room 219, and lived there until shortly before his death that year. In 1974, a visiting scholar staying in the same Tower Room announced that he had seen a ghostly apparition sitting quietly on a chair by the bed. Rumor has it that it was the ghost of Stephens.

During the Free Speech Movement of the mid-1960s and into the early 1970s, the club became part of “the establishment” and a focal point for noisy student demonstrations.

But few incidents, even during that tumultuous time, seemed to top the controversy that erupted over a stuffed moose that came to live on the premises.

When Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology received a huge Alaskan moose in the 1920s, it was given to the club for display over the massive stone fireplace. The moose head quickly became a fixture, and for decades, “Moosetradamus” presided over luncheons, dinners, weddings and bar mitzvahs.

All of that changed in 1986, when “a pervasive new sensitivity to animals” swept over the campus, and a committee of the Academic Senate requested that Moosetradamus and other animal trophies be removed. After bitter protest, the moose was allowed to stay. Club members argued then, as they do today, that Moosetradamus was part of the Faculty Club’s ambience — and a memento of bygone days.


Home | Search | Archive | About | Contact | More News

Copyright 2002, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.

Comments? E-mail