Photograph of Gray Brechin, 2007 Welcome to Gray Brechin’s official website

Dr. Gray Brechin is an historical geographer, the author of Imperial San Francisco, a frequent radio and television guest, and a popular public speaker. He is currently a visiting scholar in the U.C. Berkeley Department of Geography and founder and project scholar of the Living New Deal Project.

» About Gray Brechin & contact information

In the News

Brechin Receives Preservation Citation

Dec 27, 2013
Living New Deal founder Gray Brechin has been honored by the California Preservation Association with its annual President’s Award.  The Board of Directors selected Dr. Brechin for his work as an author and advocate, and, in particular, his work advocating for the protection of U.S. Post Offices being sold off across the country –

Mill Valley man, grandson of Franklin Delano Roosevelt talks about New Deal

Marin Independent Journal, Dec 16, 2013
When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt enacted his New Deal programs in the 1930s, John Boettiger, of Mill Valley, was just a baby and knew the president as "Papa."

The plot to kill the U.S. Postal Service

SF Gate, Dec 16, 2013
No other nation in the world possesses the cultural heritage so nobly embodied in America's prewar post offices and the New Deal works of art they often contain.

The fading genius of the US post office

The Guardian U.K., Aug 2, 2011
The superb post offices of the New Deal era are a monument to America's democratic ethos. Now we’re selling off FDR's legacy.

New Deal’s legacy in danger of being ruined

San Francisco Chronicle, Mar 27, 2011

Decades-old model of S.F. needs a home

San Francisco Chronicle, Feb 26, 2011

Old glories of New Deal still chime in a time of crisis

The Guardian U.K., Mar 10, 2010

Articles & Publications

Read Gray’s articles from publications including Antipode, The New York Times, and Focus.

Recent POSTS:

The Guttering Promise of Public Education

U.C. Berkeley Department of Geography Commencement Address, May 16, 2009

Recent articles on the Web:

“We’re all Venice now”, Nov 5, 2012
Three days after superstorm Sandy devastated New York CIty and New Jersey, an exceptionally high tide flooded nearly 60% of Venice but few outside its region noticed.

New Deal Civil Works Project Remembered in Berkeley

The Berkeley Daily Planet, Feb 11, 2009

Two Views of the New Deal: The Pitfall of Low Expectations

San Francisco Chronicle, Dec 19, 2008

News Analysis: Public Relations (Again) Trumps Public Safety at UC Berkeley

The Berkeley Daily Planet, Oct 16, 2008

Excavating The Buried Civilization of Roosevelt’s New Deal, Aug 13, 2008

photo of Works Progress Administration plaque

Forgotten Foundation: The New Deal for Bay Area Parks

Bay Nature, Jan-Mar 2008

photo of workers building The Mountain Theater at Mount Tamalpais

Upcoming Speaking Appearances

October 16, 2014 “Recovering from Depression: The New Deal’s Contributions to San Francisco"

Dr. Gray Brechin will delve into the history of San Francisco’s Depression-era architecture and public art, including iconic places such as Coit Tower, the Mother’s Building, and Aquatic Park. Presented in partnership with the Living New Deal.
San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chesnut Street, San Francisco

August 17, 2014 “That Morning in the Far West: The Reverend Joseph Worcester's Bay Area Circle presented by Dr. Gray Brechin"

The major key of the Anglo conquest of the West was a reckless conversion of its natural resources into legendary fortunes, but a few envisioned possibilities in its landscape and climate for intellectual and spiritual expansion available nowhere else. Chief among them was Swedenborgian minister Joseph Worcester whose charismatic personality attracted a circle of designers whose creations continue to influence thought and lifestyle in California long after Worcester's death.

Dr. Gray Brechin is a historical geographer and author of the popular book on urban studies, Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin. Closely associated with the University of California at Berkeley for the past forty years, he currently serves as a visiting scholar in the department of geography and project scholar of California's Living New Deal Project.
5 PM, Swedenborgian Church, 2107 Lyon Street (at Washington)
San Francisco

March 14, 2014 “Geology and Genealogy”

A walking tour of downtown San Francisco for the American Society for Environmental History

March 7, 2014 “Ruin in Progress: How Its Buildings Reflect the University’s Changing Mission”

5 PM, 315 Wheeler Hall (Maud Fife Room)
U.C. Berkeley campus

March 4, 2014 Commentary on new book of Peder and Jane Sather’s contributions to U.C. with Dean Carla Hesse

5:30, Durant Hall atrium

March 1, 2014 “On the Ropes: The WPA at the Treasure Island World’s Fair”

San Francisco History Fair, Old Mint, 3 PM

February 12, 2014 Talk for UC art history class on New Deal art projects

Februrary 12, 2014 "The Two Hearst Plans for U.C."

Lunch talk for Century Club, San Francsico

View all upcoming appearances

See selected past appearances…


Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin - Gray Brechin, authorImperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin

Berkeley, University of California Press, 1999
» Buy now at UC Press

Farewell, Promised Land: Waking from the California Dream - Gray Brechin, authorFarewell, Promised Land: Waking from the California Dream

with photographer Robert Dawson
Berkeley, University of California Press, 1999
» Buy now at UC Press

In addition to numerous articles, Gray Brechin has published two books taking on the fragile and contentious relationship between the Western United States as an earthly paradise and the settlers who came to inhabit these places. More books…

The Living New Deal

The Living New Deal Project is an unprecedented and growing collaborative effort to identify, map, and interpret the vast public works legacy of President Roosevelt's New Deal in the U.S. Supported by donor contributions, the Living New Deal is hosted by the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley. In addition to our interactive website, illustrated talks, and tours, our long-range goal is to establish the nation’s first museum and memorial to the men and women of the New Deal. It will also serve as a study center to keep the New Deal’s comprehensive moral vision alive. View the video introduction.


Dr. Brechin has tht since 1986 at numerous institutions, including U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, Mills College, California College of Arts and Crafts, and University of California Extension. See all teaching work.

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