Berkeley is a city on the east shore of San Francisco Bay in northern California. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington. The eastern city limits coincide with the county line, which generally follows the ridgeline of the Berkeley Hills.
Today's City of Berkeley was once the territory of the Chochen/Huichin band of the Ohlone. Remnants of their life and communities in the area include pits in various rock formations which were used to grind acorns from native oak trees, and a shellmound now almost completely leveled and hidden at the mouth of Strawberry Creek along the shoreline of San Francisco Bay. Other artifacts were discovered in the 1950s near the upper course of the same Strawberry Creek in the downtown area during the remodeling of a commercial building.
The first people of European ancestry (most of whom were actually of mixed ancestry and born in America) arrived with the De Anza Expedition of 1776, which is today noted by signage on U.S. Interstate 80 which runs along the San Francisco Bay shoreline of Berkeley. The De Anza Expedition resulted in the establishment of the Spanish Presidio of San Francisco at the entrance to San Francisco Bay (the "Golden Gate") which is due west of Berkeley. Among the soldiers serving at the Presidio was one Luís Peralta. For his services to the King of Spain, he was granted a vast extent of land on the east shore of San Francisco Bay (the Contra Costa, or "opposite shore") for a ranch, including that portion which now comprises the City of Berkeley.
Politically, the area that became Berkeley was initially part of a vast Contra Costa County. On March 25, 1853, Alameda County was created by division of Contra Costa County. The area of Berkeley was at this period mostly a mix of open land, farms and ranches, with a small though busy wharf by the Bay. It was not yet "Berkeley", but merely the northern part of the "Oakland Township" subdivision of Alameda County. According to the Centennial Record of the University of California, the city was named after the 18th century British philospher and poet, Biship Berkeley, from a suggestion by Frederick Billings. He got his inspiration as he stood watching two ships standing out at sea from the Golden Gate and was reminded of Berkeley's words, "westward the course of the empire takes its way."
Berkeley's population grew rapidly after the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. The town and other parts of the East Bay somehow managed to escape even moderate damage from the massive temblor, and hundreds if not thousands of refugees flowed across the Bay. The next big growth occurred with the advent of World War II when large numbers of people moved into the Bay Area to work in the many war industries, such as the immense Kaiser Shipyards in nearby Richmond. The postwar years saw moderate growth of the city, but events on the U.C. campus began to build up to the recognizable activism of the sixties. In the 1950s, McCarthyism induced the university to demand a loyalty oath from its professors, many of whom refused to sign any such oath on the principle of freedom of thought. In 1960, a U.S. House committee (HUAC) came to San Francisco to investigate the influence of communists in the Bay Area. Their inquisition was met by protesters, including many from the university. Meanwhile, a number of U.C. students became active in support of the Civil Rights Movement. Finally, the University in 1964 provoked a massive student protest by banning the distribution of political literature on campus. This protest began what became known as the Free Speech Movement. As the Vietnam War rapidly escalated in the ensuing years, so did student activism at the university, particularly that organized by the Vietnam Day Committee.
Today the city is home to approximately 101,555 (2006) people and is still has a very large politically active community that celebrates its history, culture and diverse ethnic heritage. There are many noteworthy sites in the city that include Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Cloyne Court Hote, Hearst Greek Theatre, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Regional Parks Botanic Garden, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley Rose Garden, and the Pacific Film Archive. Landmarks, parks, and entertainment venues include the Telegraph Avenue and People's Park, both known as centers of the counterculture of the 1960s; Chez Panisse, the birthplace of California cuisine; The Claremont Resort, originally, the Claremont Hotel; Berkeley High School (the city's main public high school), which is considered a landmark; The Berkeley Community Theatre, a well-known concert hall; 924 Gilman, an all-ages punk rock music club where Berkeley natives Operation Ivy, Pansy Division, Green Day, Rancid, Tiger Army and AFI started out; The Freight and Salvage, a folk, traditional, and world music club in West Berkeley; and The Cheese Board, a collective bakery, cheese shop, and pizzeria.