The W. C. Morse Building (4270 Broadway, at the corner of Mather Street) was designed by architect James Placheck, and constructed c. 1920–21. The initial magazine description from 1920 stated that the building was designed for auto sales, although Mr. Morse was better known for trucks rather than automobiles. The 1941 Polk’s Directory for Oakland noted that Mr. Morse’s full name was Wendell C. Morse, and stated that he lived at 1615 Cedar St., Berkeley. A 1939 Oakland Tribune article (regarding an accident caused by a blind man stepping into the path of Mr. Morse’s car) referred to Mr. Morse as a truck salesman.

Blue Bottle Coffee opened their new cafe in this building on February 6, 2014. Note that numerous websites and blog posts mistakenly report that the building was constructed in 1905. It is unclear where this piece of incorrect information originated.

W.C. Morse building
photo from Our Oakland
W.C. Morse building
photo from Our Oakland

Western Architect and Engineer, Volumes 62-63 (1920)Excerpt from 1911–12 Sanborn map showing vacant lot 1
(public domain)
Ad and article from November 5, 1921 Berkeley Gazette (public domain)

Oakland Tribune picture, October 28, 1923, page O-9 Oakland Tribune advertisement, May 10, 1922, page 23Oakland Tribune ad, September 19, 1926, page O-3

Rich Plan ad
from October 7, 1953 Oakland Tribune
(fair use)
W.C. Morse closed its shop in this building sometime in the 1940s. It appears that he ran into financial trouble in the early 1940s, since a notice published in 1942 noted that Golden West Building and Loan Company intended to foreclose on his home at 1615 Cedar Street.2 Mr. Morse passed away in 1949 while living in an apartment building on University Avenue near Curtis Street, and his obituary noted that he was "an investigator for the shipyards during the war," and had been operating an ice vending machine business for the past three years.3 By 1951, according to a Sanborn map update, the building was used for meat cutting and cold storage. In 1953, the building was used as the Oakland office of the Rich Plan, which delivered frozen foods directly to consumers’ houses. This was apparently a franchise, although the company still exists today.

Excerpt from 1951 Sanborn map
showing use of the building for cold storage and meat cutting & grinding
(fair use)

Links and References

  1. Sanborn map page Oakland+1911-1912vol.3,1911,+Sheet+340.pdf
  2. "Notice of Pending Trustee's Sale," Berkeley Daily Gazette, April 17, 1942
  3. "Final Rites for Wendell. C. Morse Slated Tomorrow," Oakland Tribune, November 30, 1949, page D51