Tuesday, May 31, 2011

signs: Esther's Orbit Room

Esther's Orbit Room

Once upon a time, 7th Street in West Oakland's Prescott neighborhood was a happening place for music. In the 40s, 50s and 60s, legendary blues, R&B and jazz greats came through, the likes of Billie Holiday, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, and BB King.

In 1942, Esther Mabry came to California from Texas for work during WWII. She worked at Slim's as a waitress and cook, saved her tips, and eventually opened her own restaurant across the street. She and her husband saved money and bought the music hall next door. Esther's Orbit Room was at the center of a 24 hour a day commercial hub of clubs, restaurants and stores, with blue-collar clients from the nearby shipyards and surrounding neighborhoods.

The building of the Cypress structure which divided West Oakland from downtown, the demolition of hundreds of homes to build the post office sorting facility, and the addition of the noisy overhead BART tracks, all conspired to shut down the music scene. Esther herself died a year ago at age 90, but the great sign of former times lives on for now.

Esther's Orbit Room

More reading:
Oakland Streets
Oakland Daily Photo
Blues Historian

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