It was a beautiful day in Berkeley on Aug. 24, 1867, perfect for a picnic. But there was a bigger reason than the weather to celebrate: The California College Waterworks' 30,000-gallon Strawberry Canyon reservoir was finished.

Constructed of bricks and wood, the reservoir was located 100 feet above "the Plain," reported the Daily Alta California.

The water was tapped from Strawberry Creek, one of nine springs located in the hills, and there were plans to use the other springs if needed.

In 1857 the California College, which had been located in Oakland, bought 130 acres, soon increasing that to 343 acres, in the Berkeley hills. It bought the land not only for the college buildings, but to control the water supply; water availability was why the college chose the Berkeley site.

"The quantity of water which they can control hereafter by building dams and, as Californians say, corralling the brooks, is almost immeasurable: certainly no less than 300,000,000 gallons," reported the Daily Alta California.

The plan was to supply both the school and the homes being built on college-owned land aimed at "gentlemen of wealth and taste, who have or will shortly erect suburban residences on their property."

Picnic attendance was by invitation only, and the Daily Alta reporter counted himself lucky to be asked.

"Yesterday, in compliance with a cordial invitation extended by Rev. S.H. Willey, Acting President of the California College, a large number of ladies and gentlemen gathered themselves to witness the inaugural ceremonies attendant on the introduction of water into their domain. These lands lie five miles and a half, a little east of north, from our suburban city of Oakland."

Many of the guests came from San Francisco.

"The merry party who crossed the bay on the early morning boat could scarcely see the flapping of a sail in the placid harbor. Among the passengers were representatives from the various professions in this community ... law, clergy, physic, mercantile, editorial to say nothing of the school master-torial, all were represented. ... An abundance of vehicles were in readiness at the Oakland depot to convey visitors to the new college grounds."

The guests brought their own lunches, but "they needed not to hamper their baskets with liquids, for lo this was an aquatic festival and the sparkling liquid from the cool spring was within their sight and to their taste."

School officials describing the reservoir construction said water was conducted a mile to the school grounds through a 4-inch pipe.

The College of California, unable to make it alone, in 1867 offered its Oakland and Berkeley holdings to the state to be merged with the agricultural, mining, and mechanical arts college. In 1868, UC Berkeley was born.

The reservoir, which sat just above the California Memorial Stadium site, lasted until the East Bay Municipal District took over the job in the 1920s.

Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at nildarego@comcast.net.