Barrington Hall was a student housing cooperative in the University Students' Cooperative Association (USCA) system in Berkeley, California, from 1935 to 1990. It is currently privately operated student housing.


The first Barrington Hall was a boarding house on Ridge Road, housing 48 students, purchased by leaders of the student co-op movement in 1933. Located at 2315 Dwight Way, at Ellsworth, the better-known, second building was opened to house 200 men in 1935, two years after the founding of the USCA.[1] The building was leased to the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1948; the Navy returned the building significantly upgraded. Barrington Hall, along with all the USCA residences, was always open to all students regardless of race, religion or nationality. In 1967, Barrington Hall's house council voted to become co-ed, which by the rules of "locus parentis" meant the house lost its accreditation with the University.

In the 80s, the co-op was the focus of numerous accusations regarding drugs and noise. In 1989, after three previous attempts to close the hall, all defeated within the USCA by campaigns organized by Barringtonians and former Barringtonians, it was closed by a USCA referendum intended to stem the growing liability associated with Barrington's wild atmosphere. The closure was fought by the residents during the referendum campaign, in court and in the building by student squatters.[2] The squat climaxed in a night-long riot — in March, 1990, which began as a poetry reading — involving Berkeley police, off-duty police officers (hired by the USCA), and the residents.

Throughout its history, Barrington Hall had a reputation for supporting social and political activism. In 1960, "Cal undergrads, particularly residents of the Barrington Hall co-op on Dwight Way, were part of the crowd of demonstrators protesting against the San Francisco meeting of the House Committee on Un-American Activities."[3] By the time of the People's Park Riots in May of 1969, Barrington Hall, which was only two blocks from People's Park, was an infamous place in Berkeley. The devotion to cooperation in a nation committed to competition bore radical fruit after thirty-five years. Barrington became a 'safe house' for deviance, good or ill. It was safe for unmarried men and women to live together, safe to paint and draw on the walls, safe to do or sell any drug, safe to crash in if you had no other place to stay. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was also the headquarters of the anti-apartheid movement, and offered sanctuary and meals to the homeless. In 1984, Barrington residents voted to make the Hall open as an official sanctuary for refugees from El Salvador. [4]

The former Barrington Hall now serves as privately operated student housing.

Musical historyEdit

Before legal arbitration with the neighbors in 1984, Barrington was the launching pad/petri dish of Bay Area Punk, and bands played frequently.

The song "Frizzle Fry" by the band Primus as well as the theme of their album, Tales From the Punchbowl, was inspired by one of the Barrington's recurring parties, called "Wine Dinners," held at the house at which punch laced with LSD was served.[5] The pop group Camper Van Beethoven played at one such "Wine Dinner" in 1988-89, under the name Vampire Can Mating Oven. Black Flag, Flipper, X, NOFX, and The Dead Kennedys played at Barrington in the 80s, along with hundreds of other punk rock bands. The song "Barrington Hall" by Les Claypool's Frog Brigade, released in 2002, is all about Barrington, and includes the lyrics "Just when I had thought I'd seen it ah ah ah all, I stumbled 'round the corner into Barrington Hall. Does anyone here remember Barrington Hall? Does anybody here remember Barrington? They care not for wrong or right, they electrocute the night, the people that live in Barrington Hall . . ."[6]

The legal arbitration restricted Barrington to three parties a semester with "amplified music," and so bands could only perform at Wine Dinners after that.

Musicians in Barrington house band Idiot Flesh went on to perform with Charming Hostess, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Faun Fables.


Much of the building, which was four stories high and a block deep, was covered with murals and graffiti.

"Every surface in Barrington was covered with psychedelic murals and layer upon layer of graffiti. The graffiti wasn't just tags--it contained long debates about revolution, religion, art, everything ....... which would go on for years."[7]

The tradition of murals began in the 60s, and many of the "original" murals were painted by house members, such as a large mural of the Beatles Yellow Submarine. As times changed, so did the murals; the 80s murals were more punk rock. But old murals were considered sacred by house by-laws,[8] and so the artistic expressions of several decades adorned Barrington, making its walls a living history of late 20th-century counterculture in the US. One mural from the 70s was of Sacco and Vanzetti. A prominent mural from the 80s, painted in a neo-psychedelic style and with Japanese anime characteristics, made reference to 50s icon Disneyland. Stationed just inside the front entrance of the building, it said:

"Welcome to Barrington, kids! Please keep your hands and arms inside the ride at all times." [9]

Graffiti was a tradition which began in the 80s, and consisted of everything from large multi-color spray paint tag designs to merely scrawled words, such as "Only seven more shopping days till Armageddon." [9]

Barrington graffitiEdit

  • "You're persona non grata in my hippy van, bitch."
  • "Better living through chemistry."
  • "You can't fistfuck with nuclear arms."
  • "Only seven more shopping days 'til Armageddon."
  • "Everybody is alienated but me."
  • "Is the nightmare real or did someone paint the window black?
  • "Squat or rot."
  • "Fuck the Dead"
  • "Time is a crutch, eat mandarin oranges."
  • "Please keep arms and hands inside the ride at all times"
  • "Welcome to the we can wear more black than you building."

Insect banquetEdit

For many years, there was a yearly insect banquet at Barrington Hall at which entomophagy was practice. It was often mentioned in Herb Caen's column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

New Member DisorientationEdit

At the beginning of every semester in the 1980s, a new member orientation, called the "New Member Disorientation" was held for incoming students. Two films were shown, and nitrous oxide was procured for a big party. One of the films was a super 8mm film called "Leo and Phred," which depicted Leo and Phred engaging in sex acts while on heroin to the tune of "White Lines" by Melle Mel and Grandmaster Flash. The other film was a claymation film which featured "Onngh Yanngh." Onngh Yanngh was the legendary folk hero of Barrington. His motto — adopted from a famous quotation of Lao Tzu's — was "those who tell don't know, and those who know don't tell." The film was made circa 1980, and humorously tells the "story" of Onngh Yanngh. Later, when the neighbors tried to persuade the city to prosecute Barrington under the RICO Act for drug sales in the building, one of their claims was that Barrington's Onngh-Yanngh/Lao Tzu motto was actually akin to the mafia code of omertà.

Barrington BullEdit

The Barrington Bull was an in-house publication of Barrington Hall, published from 1936 to 1989. (The name was briefly changed to The Barbarrington in 1938.) It was the first USCA publication of any kind. Volume I Number I of The U.C.S.C.A. News appeared on October 24th, 1938, "a publication," claimed the lead article, "designed to create greater unity of purpose and action among the five houses of the co-operative association." Ed Wright, the editor, was also the editor of The Barbarrington. In the 60s, a tradition of giving each issue a theme began. Some themes from the 70s include: The "Onngh Yanngh" Bull, Spring 1978 The "Wasted" Bull, May 1978 and "The Hippie Ghetto" Bull, Fall 1979.[10]

Barrington collectiveEdit

In 2002, a group of UC Berkeley students founded a cooperative organization, [11] and named themselves after Barrington, to commemorate its "spirit." [12] The collective publishes the "Disorientation Zine," as a complement to the orientation information UC Berkeley provides to new students.

Notable Barrington ResidentsEdit


  • Thompson, Chris. Tale of Two Animal Houses East Bay Express. Published May 4, 2005. Retrieved at on 1.24.07
  • The Green Book A Collection of U.S.C.A. History; a compilation of two sources. The first, Cheap Place to Live, was completed in 1971 by Guy Lillian as part of a U.S.C.A. funded project. The second, Counterculture's Last Stand, was completed in 2002 by Krista Gasper.
  • apRoberts, Alison. Living with Pink Cloud California magazine, November 2003, 114 (2)
  • American Arbitration Association Report on the Arbitration Matter of Ellsmere Apartments Claimants and Barrington Hall Respondents, Barrington Hall miscellany,, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
  • `A Long Strange Trip, East Bay Express, December 15, 1989
  • "Barrington Policy, U.C. Archives, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Barrington miscellany,
  • "Onngh Yanngh on Campus, Toad Lane Review, February 1980.
  • "Co-op Sanctuary Movement, Toad Lane Review, Spring 1985.
  • Report from City of Berkeley Health and Human Services of March 21, 1984, Barrington Hall miscellany,, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
  • "Expulsion of Barrington heroin users, dealers threatened, U.S.C.A. News, February 27, 1986.
  • Peoples' History of Berkeley, #21: "Barrington Hall,' barringtoncollective [1]
  • "Berkeley Mayor Wants Talks: Friday's student riot at Barrington Hall" The San Francisco Chronicle, April 10, 1990, Tuesday, Final Edition Section: News; Pg. E11; Bay Area Report
  • Steve Rubenstein,"Berkeley Cops Roust Dozens at Big Party," The San Francisco Chronicle, November 22, 1989, Wednesday, Final Edition, Section: Daily Datebook; E12

External linksEdit

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