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Press Contact: Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, Public Information Officer, (510) 981-7008

Building to be a permanent monument to the inspirational civil rights leader

Berkeley, California (Thursday, March 22, 2007) - Countless people, organizations, and careers stand as a monument to Maudelle Shirek’s devotion to fighting for social justice.

Now, so does the Old City Hall.

The 98-year old building at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way was renamed for Shirek today, as a permanent reminder of the good that a single person can do.

“Maudelle Shirek has worked to improve the lives of Berkeley citizens in so many ways,” said City Manager Phil Kamlarz. “She has worked for peace, for the ill, for the aging. Now, this building will remind us of her devotion to her community.”

Maudelle Shirek served eight terms on the Berkeley City Council and ended her career in political office as one of the oldest elected officials in California. Ms. Shirek moved to Berkeley in the 1940s and immediately gained a reputation for her dedication to civil rights issues.

Shirek was active in the anti-war movement, founded two Berkeley senior centers, championed those with HIV/AIDS, and helped organize the Free Mandela movement. Throughout her career, she has inspired hundreds of young people to go into community service. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and are just a few who have been inspired by Shirek’s deep commitment to ensuring that people of all races, ages and abilities would have the same opportunities.

Lee spent several years working to have the U.S. Post Office named after Shirek. Conservative Representatives blocked her effort in 2005, arguing that Shirek’s past “sets her apart from … the most consistent of American values.” Soon after, the City Council voted to rename Old City Hall after their former colleague. Shirek served eight terms on the City Council.

Berkeley’s Old City Hall was completed in 1909, five years before Sather Gate, and has been in continuous use since that time. When City Hall was completed, its design, scale, and elegant silhouette reflected Berkeley’s growth from a town to a city. It set the stage and became the keystone for the future civic center. City Hall was, appropriately, the first building to be designated a city landmark in 1975 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It is now the administrative home of the Berkeley Unified School District, although the City Council and several other City boards and commissions still meet there.

It is an example of Beaux-Arts Classicism, using decoration derived fm Greek and Roman sources in a symmetrical arrangement. It was one of the first buildings designed by John Bakewell and Arthur Brown, Jr. Other works by the partners include the more elaborate San Francisco City Hall (1913–1915) and the San Francisco Opera House (1932).

To ensure that the newly named Maudelle Shirek Building stands for another 100 years, the City prepared a concept design study and preliminary construction budgets in 2002 for several retrofit and rehabilitation options. After a bond measure to rehabilitate Old City Hall failed to win passage in November of 2002, the City continued work to update the plans and develop alternative funding strategies. That work continues.


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