Monday, November 10, 2014

Oakland Urban Paths: Lakeshore to Park Blvd.

Saturday we had perfect weather as about 40 people and 3 dogs joined Oakland Urban Paths for a walk exploring the pathways and stairways between Lakeshore and Park Blvd. It's a walk we've done before, but there's always more to see. And Paul changed things up a little from the last time, in part because a stairway was closed because the city is doing some repairs and upgrades on it.

Part of the area originally belonged to Peder Sather, who Sather Tower (the Campanile) and Sather Gate at UC Berkeley are named for. Jane Sather allowed some of it to be used as a park, and that was the main destination of people riding trains over the railroad trestle that gave Trestle Glen its name.

We heard from Gerry Montemorency, former head of the Lakeshore Homes Association, the second oldest homeowners association west of the Mississippi. Among other things, the LHA created and maintains Oak Grove park, a privately-owned public space. We also talked about landslides in the area, including the 1926 Lerida slide which led to the destructuion of several homes, and Lerida Avenue being renamed Balfour.

We wandered up stairways and pathways to Park Blvd. where we stopped for a coffee break near the former Glenview Library. We went back via a different route along different stairways. One of the houses we passed was designed by Julia Morgan, but everyone agreed it was not her best work. There's also a house in the area (1041 Ashmount) designed by her mentor, Bernard Maybeck.

Another great walk, and the first half of a larger walk. We'll do the second part in December, when we go from Lakeshore to Piedmont Avenue.

Lots more pictures from the walk:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

signs: Uptown Nightclub

I've posted a picture of the Uptown Nightclub before (wait...5+ years ago? How did that happen?) but that photo was during the day. It popped into the news with the announcement that they're closing next week. "Our lease is up and we've chosen not to renew." Bummer. In their honor, here's a night time picture of their great sign, plus a bonus of the smaller one in the window.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

photo of the week: clearing storm

Unfortunately we didn't get much rain from Monday's storm, but we did get a glorious sunset.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chapel of the Chimes

If you know how I've spent some of my days off and how much time I've spent learning about Oakland history in local cemeteries, you can probably guess my reaction when I was asked if I wanted a tour of Chapel of the Chimes. I knew a little about it: legendary Oakland architect Julia Morgan worked on it (but what parts?), some notable Oaklanders are interred there (but who?) and it had the first electric crematorium in the world (wait, what?). So I jumped at a chance to learn more.

It turns out Julia Morgan did a lot of work on the Chapel, even incorporating some items that had been at Hearst Castle. It's difficult to see what she worked on from outside, but if you're familiar with her style, you can quickly spot it while wandering the inside. Her work includes retractable skylights in several areas, though not all of them still function. (Note that the Julia Morgan Chapel within Chapel of the Chimes was not designed by her, but was renamed in her memory in 1995.)

I also learned more about some of the notable Oaklanders who are interred at Chapel of the Chimes:

What struck me this time through Chapel of the Chimes is how beautiful and peaceful it is. It's not so peaceful during some of their events like Jazz at the Chimes, but it's quite remarkable. And various spaces within Chapel of the Chimes are available for events other than funerals, too. Weddings have been held in the main chapel (which has a Wurlitzer organ), and of course you're free to wander around Chapel of the Chimes any time it's open.

All of this information will be more useful some time next year, as I'm planning a "Dead Tour" for Oakland Urban Paths. I'm still figuring out the details, but we'll probably start at the Chapel of Memories (which is owned and operated by Chapel of the Chimes), into part of St. Mary's Cemetery, down through Chapel of the Chimes, through the Home of Eternity, and around part of Mountain View Cemetery. And of course there are several historic and some still extant related businesses.

Lots more pictures from Chapel of the Chimes:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Oakland Urban Paths: Butters Canyon

We had a good turnout and perfect weather for Saturday's walk in Butters Canyon with local historian Dennis Evanosky. We started our walk in front of fire station 25 on Butters Drive shortly after the morning fog burned off.

As we wound around the hills, Dennis told us some about the history and geology of the area. Of particular interest is the California state rock, serpentine, which is common in this area of the hills. Soil formed from serpentine tends to be poor in calcium and rich in things toxic to plants, so plants and trees grow sparsely. When poet Joaquin Miller first came to the area, the hillsides of what are now Joaquin Miller Park were largely bare. Miller planted thousands of trees, including oaks, redwoods, and the less popular eucalyptus and acacia. A number of streets in the area are named for Oaklanders who died in WWI, including Butters, Brunell, and Burdeck.

We stopped by the Naturfreunde, an Oakland German-American group. It started back in the 1920s as a strictly German speaking club, but now is open to all who support nature and Austrian-German-Swiss culture. Nearby we got our first glorious view, looking over Oakland from above Holy Dames University.

Further up Butters, we heard from Dolores, who is both a frequent OUP walk participant and a member of the Butters Canyon Conservancy that has been working since 2001 to preserve Butters Canyon and the local Peralta Creek watershed. With the exception of a couple of "pumpkin teeth" still sticking out, most of the canyon has now been preserved either through acquisition or conservation easements. The group is now working to remove invasive plants and help mitigate fire danger.

Then it was up the hill and across Joaquin Miller Rd. into Joaquin Miller Park. After Joaquin Miller died, part of the land became a city park, The Heights (Miller had called his 75-acre estate 'The Hights'), and part became Sequoia Park, which was home to the Oakland Zoo for a few years. We saw some of the monuments that Miller erected, got another spectacular view, and finished the walk at The Abbey, Miller's former home across from the end of Butters Drive.

Our walk took us briefly near the Woodminster Cascade. Usually the water isn't running in it but it was Saturday, so after the walk I went back and took some pictures. I found out from some OPR workers that there was a wedding scheduled for later that afternoon.

Lots more pictures from the walk and of the Woodminster Cascade: