Walter T. Steilberg Collection, ca. 1910-1974

Processed by the Environmental Design Archives staff
Environmental Design Archives
College of Environmental Design
230 Wurster Hall #1820
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California, 94720-1820
Phone: (510) 642-5124
Fax: (510) 642-2824
© 1999
The Regents of California. All rights reserved.


Arts and Humanities--Architecture History--California History--Bay Area History History--California History Geographical (By Place)--California Geographical (By Place)--California--Bay Area Geographical (By Place)--University of California--UC Berkeley History--University of California History--UC Berkeley History

Walter T. Steilberg Collection, ca. 1910-1974

Collection Number: 1973-1

Environmental Design Archives

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Contact Information:

  • Environmental Design Archives
  • College of Environmental Design
  • 230 Wurster Hall #1820
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Berkeley, California, 94720-1820
  • Phone: (510) 642-5124
  • Fax: (510) 642-2824
  • Email:
  • URL:
Processed by:
Environmental Design Archives staff
Date Completed:
December 1998
Encoded by:
Campbell J. Crabtree
Arrangement and description of this collection was funded by a grant from the Getty Foundation.
© 1999 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Collection Title: Walter T. Steilberg Collection,
Date (inclusive): ca. 1910-1974
Collection Number: 1973-1
Creator: Steilberg, Walter T., 1817-1974
Extent: 12 boxes, 5 card file boxes, 10 flat file drawers, ca. 35 tubes
Repository: Environmental Design Archives. College of Environmental Design. University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley, California
Language: English.

Administrative Information


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from materials in the collection should be discussed with the Director.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Walter T. Steilberg Collection, (1973-1), Environmental Design Archives. College of Environmental Design. University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley, California

Access Points

Building materials.
Buildings--California--Earthquake effects.
Structural engineering.
Berkeley (Calif.)--Fire, 1923.
Sather Tower (Berkeley, Calif.)
University of California, Berkeley -- Buildings.
Morgan, Julia, 1872-1957
Dailey, Gardner, 1895-


Walter T. Steilberg was born in 1887 in Louisville, Kentucky. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1910 with a bachelor's degree in architecture and a minor in structural engineering.
Steilberg worked with Julia Morgan from 1910-1920 as draftsman , architect, office manager, and structural engineer. In 1920 he formed his own architecture and consulting firm, and designed the Berkeley College Women's Club, Claremont Junior High School in Oakland, the Pavilion at Lake Merritt, and numerous residential projects. In addition, he designed buildings on many University of California Campuses, and directed the preservation of Sather Tower. He also supervised the dismantling of Spanish monastery in Santa Marin de Oliva, Spain. The building was shipped piece by piece to San Francisco as a gift to the city from William Randolph Hearst, but was never reassembled. As a consultant, Steilberg collaborated with Gardner Dailey on many projects.
Steilberg became an expert in seismic architecture and engineering issues. He researched and wrote a book entitled "Earthquakes Made Simple," presented illustrated lectures, and collected reference materials on the subject. Additionally, he did extensive experimental research in concrete.
He was a member of the American Institute of Architects, the Seismological Institute and the Concrete Institute of America. Steilberg died in 1974 at the age of 88.

University of California job application, 1942 (folder II.1)
"W. T. Steilberg Dies; San Simeon Designer," San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle: 8 December 1974: 4.

Scope and Content

The Walter Steilberg Collection spans the years 1910-1973 and documents Steilberg's engineering and architectural careers, as well as his own research into building materials and the structural effects of earthquakes. The collection is organized into five series: Personal Papers, Professional Papers, Office Records, Project Records, and University of California.
Steilberg's personal papers are minimal, consisting of his student drawings. His professional papers, which contain correspondence, collected articles, writings and photographs, are more thorough. These records are primarily related to earthquakes throughout California and in other states. The Berkeley fire of 1923, the structural characteristics of concrete and the effects of termites are also documented. Office records include correspondence to various trade publications and product literature.
Steilberg's project records include correspondence, notes, reports, photographs and drawings documenting both his consulting and design work. Projects for the University of California, including the Sather Tower renovation, are well-represented. The project records also contain correspondence between Steilberg and architect Gardner Dailey, and biographical information on Julia Morgan.

Related Collections

Title: Interviews with Walter Steilberg and related material,
Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 77/97,
Contributing Institution: The Bancroft Library
Title: Gardner Dailey Collection,
Identifier/Call Number: 1988-1,
Contributing Institution: Environmental Design Archives
Title: Julia Morgan Collection,
Identifier/Call Number: 1959-2,
Contributing Institution: Environmental Design Archives

Series Description

Flat Files

I. Personal Papers, ca. 1910

Scope and Content Note

Consists of Steilberg's student drawings.
Boxes 1-3, 13-17, Flat Files

II. Professional Papers, 1923-1965


A. Employment and Professional Assocations


B. Research Files

Scope and Content Note

Includes correspondence and printed and photographic materials relating to the structural properties of concrete, the Berkeley fire, termites, and housing projects.

C. Earthquake Research

Scope and Content Note

Consists of the book "Earthquakes Made Simple," which contains detail photographs and descriptions of Long Beach and San Francisco earthquakes. Also includes photographs, notes, printed materials, and research reports on seismic activity, primarily in California locations.

D. Photographic Materials

Scope and Content Note

Contains lantern slides and 35 mm slides depicting architectural drawings, buildings, construction scenes and earthquake damage. These materials were most likely used in teaching and research.
Boxes 4-7

III. Office Records, 1920-1972

Scope and Content Note

Correspondence includes Steilberg's communication with various publications, and outgoing letters regarding his projects. Includes correspondence with Gardner Dailey and other architects for whom Steilberg consulted. Product literature contains a large selection of manuals, technical booklets, publications, construction material specifications, and engineering pamphlets, alphabetically arranged.

A. Correspondence


B. Product Literature

Boxes 7-10, Flat Files, Tubes

IV. Project Records, 1910-1967


Arranged alphabetically within subseries.

Scope and Content Note

Contains correspondence, notes, photographs, and drawings related to commercial and private construction, structural consulting, and repair projects. Includes information about Julia Morgan.

A. Files


B. Drawings

Boxes 10-12, Flat Files

V. University of California, 1913-1966

Scope and Content Note

Records of Sather Tower include information regarding its construction, repair of surface cracking, chime specifications, structure and maintenance plans, and artifacts. Additional projects include the original Architecture Building and the Faculty Club.

A. Sather Tower


B. Other University of California Projects


C. Drawings