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Land Use
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Obata ("Alamo") Building Landmarked
Updated 7/17/2009

From Donna Graves:


With generous help from wonderful Anny Su and members of Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA), I've submitted a landmark application for 2525 Telegraph Avenue, which we are calling the Needham/Obata Building. As most of you know, the historical significance of this building jumped out when we surveyed Berkeley as part of the Preserving California's Japantowns project (www.californiajapantowns.org).

For a few years prior to WWII, internationally renowned artist Chuira Obata had a painting studio and taught classes at 2525 Telegraph Avenue. His wife Haruko, an esteemed ikebana sensei, taught the Japanese art of flower arranging there as well, and their son, Kimio, ran an art goods store. I've attached an image from the BAHA archives that shows the building in 1939. Additional research established that the building, which was constructed by William Needham in 1907, held Japanese American businesses as early as the 1910s. A building permit dated 1914 showed that a T. Morimoto ran a barber shop and bathhouse at 2525 Telegraph, and later permits from the 1910s and '20s show that an Aki Grocery operated on the premises.

Berkeley has very few landmarks that recognize our city's diverse heritage and none that I know of reflecting Japanese American history. The current owner of 2525 Telegraph is proposing major alterations to the building. I hope you can join me next Thursday night when the Landmarks Preservation Commission will consider this application. There will be time for public comment and it is important for the commissioners to hear community support for this application and recognition of Obata and Japanese American history in Berkeley.



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