When you stay at our beautiful historic Berkeley hotel, you are experiencing a part of history. Our building was built in 1928 for the College Women’s Club, a Pan-Hellenic group for College age women. The club began as a group of recent graduates who were helping with the war effort. They distinguished themselves from other women’s clubs by actively promoting new educational opportunities, helping to start the Berkeley Day nursery (the first of its kind in the country) and worked on the first Braille translations. The club wanted a home for their group and commissioned Walter Steilberg, a Berkeley architect and UC professor to design a building. Steilberg had worked as Julia Morgan’s (of Hearst Castle fame) chief draftsman and engineer.
The original design was for a much larger building that included an indoor swimming pool and extended to the corner of College and Bancroft. As estimated costs came in, the club had to revise its plans and the result was the beautiful building we see today. The building is a prime example of the Craftsman movement that was made famous by architects like Steilberg, Julia Morgan, Bernard Maybeck and Greene and Greene. But Steilberg also was greatly influenced by Asian aesthetics and spent time in China. Indeed, the columns in front of the building reflect this as they are not cylindrical, but actually rectangular with rounded edges. He eschewed overly ornate styles of architecture and preferred subtle, simple aesthetics. Read more about Walter Steilberg here.
After the Women’s Club sold the building, it served as a rooming house and a sorority. In the early nineties, in need of repair, it was lovingly restored including a major seismic renovation. Large steel I-beams are well hidden within the bookcases and ceiling of the Great Hall and are anchored in piers poured into the foundation. The beautiful historic hotel became the Bancroft in 1993.