Ask the Archivist

Tables (Re)Turned

Q. Thanks for your column on the former law libraries. Has anything historic survived from those buildings (other than the books, I mean)? DNJ, Danville

A. Well, some of the books are pretty historic....But we are excited about having succeeded in rescuing a very tangible part of the Law Library’s history.

When the School of Law moved out of the original Boalt Hall in 1951, we left behind the library study tables that had been custom made for us by the San Francisco design firm of Vickery, Atkins and Torrey. Those 1911-vintage tables were used by law students for 40 years, and later served the East Asian Studies program well, but with the opening of the new East Asian library in 2008, the furniture was slated for disposal via UC’s Excess and Salvage Department. The Law Library swooped in to rescue the tables, and they have now been beautifully restored. Soon they will grace the new Law Library reading room, and once again generations of law students will be able to study at these historic tables.

1916 Reading Room
1916 Reading Room

The law school's modern day reading room

An update on our July column:  a blurb from the December 7, 1903 Berkeley Daily Gazette reveals a temporary location for the law collection before it was moved to its first permanent home in the basement wine cellar:

At last the law library, which has been so cramped for space in the south end of the art gallery of the University Library building [Bacon Hall] is to have larger and better quarters. The large room in the basement has been fitted up and will be much superior to the old location. Five large and handsomely equipped bookcases have been installed besides those already in use. [University] Librarian Rowell and his assistants are busy today changing the books and arranging them in their new cases.”
 So we have our roots in both an art gallery and a wine cellar. Is that classy, or what?

 Do you have a question?  Ask the Archivist: