Berkeley: Meikle, Brock & Skidmore, . Folding map, approximately 18 x 26 inches. A couple of short separations at fold points. Contemporary manuscript docketing on blank verso. Light tanning. Very good. Item #2082
An early 20th-century cadastral map that shows block and lot numbers, property dimensions, railroads, partial land ownership, and more, in a new subdivision north of Berkeley, here called Berkeley Highlands and now known as Kensington. The depicted area is bounded generally by Arlington Road, Highland Avenue, Purdue Avenue, Beloit Avenue, and Yale Avenue, oriented with north to left. Land development companies had bought most of the Kensington area by 1911, when it was first surveyed. The area was named "Kensington" in 1911 by Robert Brousefield, a surveyor who had lived in the London borough of South Kensington at one time. The Berkeley Highlands, with most streets named for colleges and universities, was subdivided slightly later than Berkeley Park and Kensington Park. The map was produced for Meikle, Brock & Skidmore, the agents who developed this land in the East Bay Hills and then sold the lots.
The map is also notable for its notation in the lower right corner of the “Private Estate of George Shima." Shima was a Japanese immigrant who became the first Japanese American millionaire (His assets were valued $ 18 million in 1920). At one point, he produced about 85% of the state's potato crop, which earned him the nickname, "The Potato King." His business success did not bring him respite from racism, however. In 1912, he moved to his new home in this Berkeley neighborhood, where he lived in regal fashion, employing a retinue of servants, and also purchased the adjoining lot and converted it into a garden adorned with rare shrubs and flowers imported from Europe and Asia. Despite being the subject of hundreds such newspaper headlines as "Yellow Peril in College Town", Shima became active in the community, donating $500 to the local YMCA, and gradually won over his neighbors. Still, the opposition he encountered led him that same year to become the first president of the Japanese Association of America and to unsuccessfully fight the passing of the California Alien Land Law of 1913 which was written to prevent Asians from owning land. Scarce, we locate copies at Berkeley and Yale.