Berkeley Student Cooperative: Oxford Hall Reunion

Homecoming had special meaning for some alumni who had not seen their former student cooperative since it shut down 35 years ago.

The reunion was for students who lived at Oxford Hall, a student-run cooperative that opened in 1933 and closed in 1977. The building is now the site of Saturn Restaurant at Allston Way and Oxford Street.

Many of the students have gone on to distinguished careers as lawyers, lobbyists, teachers and business owners, but they still share the bond of having lived at Oxford Hall, which at the time was the largest student cooperative, with 106 rooms.

In 1977, the Berkeley Student Cooperative sold Oxford Hall for $252,000 because the students could not afford a costly earthquake retrofit. Oxford Hall was replaced with the three houses now known as Hillegass-Parker House on Southside. The necessary retrofit was a strain to the BSC’s budget, so it had to look at alternatives.

“At the time, it was more economical for us to buy several large houses than a retrofit,” states Nancy Blattel, a member of the BSC Alumni Association.

The Cal Marching Band played a special tribute on the front steps of Hillegass-Parker on Southside. The three Victorians, formerly known as Chateau, replaced Oxford Hall in the 1970s. They are now home to 60 graduate, re-entry, international and first-generation college students.

“I would not have been able to afford college had it not been for the co-ops,” said Victor Garlin, a former student of UC Berkeley School of Law from the class of 1957.

Currently, 20 properties make up the student-housing cooperative. The buildings provide homes for 1,260 university students who share in the mission of providing high-quality, low-cost cooperative housing for many who would otherwise be unable to afford a university education.