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Environmental Design Library @ UC Berkeley

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San Francisco Bay Area Architects and Architecture

This is a bibliographic research guide to finding information on Bay Area architects and architecture. Unless otherwise specified, materials are held in the UC Berkeley libraries. For further assistance consult our Architectural Research Guides, Finding Local Information, Vernacular Architecture, or consult the Environmental Design Library reference staff, 210 Wurster Hall.

Compiled by Elizabeth D. Byrne. Content reviewed: September 2005

Getting Started

Use these resources to learn about the process of investigating the history of a building or neighborhood. See also our web guide Finding Local Information.


Finding Books

Use library catalogs to search for books on your building, although there are few entire books devoted to one building. Search under subject or title keywords or corporate name [name of building, city] or [name of neighborhood, city]. If there are no books on your building, search for books on that building type, such as these selected examples:

Apartment Houses--Calif.--Berkeley
Architecture, Domestic--California
Architecture, Domestic--California--Oakland
Berkeley, Calif.--Historic Houses
Church Architecture--California
Office Buildings--California
Public Buildings--Calif.--San Francisco
San Francisco, Calif.--Office Buildings
Skyscrapers--California--San Francisco

See the section on Architectural Guidebooks and Architectural Styles for additional tips. You may also search under the architecture of a place, such as:

Architecture--California--Alameda County
Architecture--California--San Francisco Bay Area
Berkeley, Calif.--Buildings
Historic Buildings--Calif.--Oakland
San Francisco, Calif.--Buildings


Architectural Guidebooks

Guidebooks often provide basic facts, such as the name of the architect and date of the building, or information about the neighborhood. Use these guides to look for information on buildings and neighborhoods in the Bay Area. This is a selected list. For additional titles, check the library catalogs under subject keywords such as these:

Architecture--California [name of city]--Guidebooks
Architecture, Domestic--California--Berkeley--Guidebooks
Berkeley (Calif.)--Description--Tours
Berkeley (Calif.)--Buildings, structures, etc.--Guidebooks
Historic buildings--California--Berkeley--Guidebooks
Rincon Hill (San Francisco, Calif.)--Description
San Francisco (Calif.)--Description--Views


Architectural Style Books

Use these books to identify the style or architectural period and date of your house or building. Search the Library catalogs for books on architecture in that style, using subject keywords such as:

Architecture, Domestic--Shingle Style
Architecture--Mediterranean Region--Influence
Architecture, Mission--California
Architecture, Modern--19th Century--California, Northern
Architecture, Spanish Colonial--California
Architecture, Victorian--California--[name of city]
Art Deco Architecture--California Gothic Revival Architecture
Arts and Crafts Movement--California
Colonial revival (Architecture)--California--[name of city]
Greek Revival Architecture
Romanesque Revival Architecture


Bay Area Architecture

See also the section on Guidebooks.









Biographical Sources

Use these resources to find information about architects who practiced in the Bay Area. It is helpful to know full name, dates, and in what cities he or she had offices. Directories, such as these, are a good place to start. Also, search for your architect in the library catalogs under personal name and subject to see if there is a book on him or her. For a general list of biographical sources on architects, see Biographical Resources on Architects.

NOTE: If there is no book devoted entirely to your architect, check the library catalogs for collective biographies of California architects under these subject headings:


If you are searching for the name of an architectural firm, search library catalogs under corporate author, or corporate name, e.g., Maybeck and White, or Anshen and Allen. See also Newspapers and Periodical Indexes for articles on your architect. Checking City Directories in the city in which the architect practiced may also provide helpful information.


Periodical Indexes

Detailed information on Bay Area architecture not available in books is often available in periodicals or journals. Periodical titles owned by the UCB Libraries are listed in the library catalogs, but for an index to the contents of the periodicals, you must use a periodical index. Although some periodical indexes or databases are now available online, many of those for historical information are only available in print. These print periodical indexes in the Environmental Design Library are located near the Reference Desk and are arranged in call number order.

Use the subject headings/keywords identified from your book search to locate articles. If you know the name of the architect or architectural firm, look directly under that name. Search online indexes using "subject word" or "title (keyword) word," or search "corporate name" when you are searching for a firm name or name of an institutional building, such as a church. For a more complete list of indexes see our web page Architecture Periodical Indexes or History of Architecture Periodical Indexes. The major periodical indexes for locating information on the history of Bay Area architecture are listed below.



Newspapers are an often overlooked source of information on local architecture. Most public libraries have collections of newspapers from their own cities, either in subject clipping files or on microfilm. Many Bay Area newspapers have been collected and selectively indexed at the Bancroft Library on campus.


Archives & Organizations

After you have exhausted printed/published resources, be sure to check appropriate archives or organizations, such as historical societies, to review unique materials in these special resources. Call ahead for hours and possibly an appointment.


Public Records

Public records are important resources in researching buildings and places. Local government agencies often maintain useful records, such as: Building and water or utility permits will help you determine dates a place was built or altered, provide plans and/or drawings, and indicate ownership and designer. Deeds and tax assessment records also help identify who lived in or owned a place. Plat maps and city block books show land boundaries and street layouts. Older records may be sent to local historical societies or public library special collections. Most state libraries also maintain archival collections of records, and federal agencies also have materials related to historic buildings and places. Refer to the section on Archives for a list of local collections, or search the Online Archive of California. The following sources offer advice on locating and using public records.


City Directories

City Directories are good sources for identifying individuals who lived or owned a structure, or businesses which operated at a particular address, in a particular year or years. Many city directories were produced annually and offer cross listings so you can search either by address or name. Most state and public libraries, as well as local historical societies, collect city directories for their region. See the Archives section for a listing of Bay Area organizations with collections of city directories, or check the library catalogs under subject word [name of city]--Directories for additional resources in the UC Libraries. Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco Public Libraries maintain special collections, as does the UCB Bancroft Library. Below is a very select list of examples of early city directories and collections.



In addition to the books and resources elsewhere in this guide, use these sources, some print and some Internet, for locating pictorial material on your architect or building. See also the section on Archives and Special Resources.



Maps are a good source for tracing the developmenet and dating of a neighborhood. Plat maps show a variety of details, including actual lot boundaries, special uses, building materials and building footprints. The most common are fire insurance maps. The Earth Sciences & Map Library and Bancroft Library have an extraordinary collection. Check library catalogs under location and format maps for additional resources.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are large-scale plans containing data used originally to estimate the potential risk for urban structures, and include an outline of each building, the size, shape and construction materials, heights, and function of structures, and location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers. They are an excellent source on the history, growth, and development of American cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Description of Sanborn maps