The First Unitarian Church of Berkeley was founded on Sunday, July 12, 1891, in space rented from the Berkeley Odd Fellows Temple, then on Shattuck [Avenue], a couple of blocks south of its present location. Some have said that this first meeting was held in a saloon on the first floor, but if so, suitable quarters were found for subsequent meetings.
In its first six years, the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley experienced numerous difficulties and financial hardship. There was a great deal of borrowing and “refinancing” from members, from funds, and from banks. Straitened circumstances notwithstanding, in 1893 the congregation purchased a desirable and apparently affordable site on the corner of Dana Street and Bancroft Way. The seller was William Carey Jones, founder and first director of the University of California’s law school and author of the Illustrated History of the University of California.