History of the Elmwood


The Elmwood is a Berkeley neighborhood of craftsman houses, gracious tree-lined streets, and a shopping area of small stores that have retained its sense of the past with a spirit of community. The name “Elmwood” first appeared in a 1905 promotional real estate brochure extolling its bucolic charms and its white unpaved avenues of elm and poplars.


According to “Tales of the Elmwood,” the Elmwood Business District is a well-preserved small town “Main Street” complete with movie theater, post office, library, bank and assorted shops; “to walk the blocks is to step back into a pleasant time.” Architecturally, the buildings represent some of the best in commercial design of the 1920s. Architects such as Walter Radcliff and Hutchinson & Mills contributed their design skills, as did local builder John A. Bischoff, who constructed an entire half-block of memorable shop buildings. Many of the buildings have an impressive use of tile, and many of the original low scale buildings have been maintained.


One of the pioneer businesses in the Elmwood Business District was The Strand Theatre which opened in 1914. The forward-looking entrepreneurs who established this neighborhood theater when there was barely a neighborhood were H.L. Beach and Will Krahn, who as the Beach-Krahn Amusement Company has a small chain of three theaters in Oakland-Berkeley border country in the 1910s and 1920s. This Beach-Krahn theater was well known for its moral distinctions; the neighborhood theater catered to the family and made sure the films fit with the good will of the inhabitants of the neighborhood. In 1947, the Strand Theatre was remodelled and reopened as the Elmwood Theatre, and was known as “Berkeley’s first post-war motion picture house” operating as a show house for outstanding foreign films.



To this day, independent businesses continue to inhabit these historic facades. Come check out this beautiful intersection of College and Ashby where you will find a special shopping experience featuring fine gourmet food, cafes, and shops that feature unique clothing, jewelry, gift items and quality personal services from local merchants.