Wednesday, August 31, 2011

walking tour: Women's History

Saturday after the West Oakland walking tour, I headed over to city hall for an Oakland Heritage Alliance walking tour on women's history in Oakland. 2011 marks the 100th year since women got the right to vote in California.

Ina Coolbrith

One of the first women we heard about was Ina Coolbrith. She was the niece of Mormon founder Joseph Smith. Her family came to California and was led over the Sierra Nevada by African American mountain man Jim Beckwourth, with Ina riding on Beckwourth's horse. Ina is probably best known as a poet, and was the first California Poet Laureate. But she was also the first librarian of the Oakland Free Library (the 2nd public library in California), and befriended and mentored 10-year-old Jack London (he called her his "literary mother") and also mentored a young Isadora Duncan. Alas, the affections of Isadora's father for Ina may have led to the breakup of his marriage. Ina was also an honorary member of the Bohemian Club, had her portrait taken in her later years by a young Ansel Adams, and was friends with Joaquin Miller (and helped him gain global fame.) Ina is buried in Mt. View Cemetery.

We also walked by the 7-story tall "Mitzvah, the Jewish Cultural Experience" mural. Amongst the people pictured are Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. I've blogged about Gertrude Stein before, so I won't repeat it here, but she was a remarkable woman. The mural is definitely worth checking out, but you need to be on foot to see it -- the mural is visible looking south on northbound Franklin between 14th and 15th. The mural also shows the dome of Temple Sinai, featured in the Churches and Temples walking tour. For better pictures of the mural, see Oaktown Art.

YWCA building

Nearby we admired the YWCA building designed by Julia Morgan. It was one of 17 YWCA buildings she designed around the west. Morgan is probably best known for designing Hearst Castle, but locally she designed El Campanil at Mills College, College Avenue Presbyterian, and an array of other buildings. Her name has come up during the "Borax" Smith and Churches and Temples walking tours, and doubtless will again. Julia Morgan is buried in Mt. View Cemetery.

Women of some means formed clubs and societies to further their educations and impact the world around them, as well as for social reasons. One such club was the Ebell Society, formed in Oakland in 1876, and named for Dr. Adrian Ebell. We saw the former location of the Ebell Society clubhouse on Harrison. Not far from that is the former Women's City Club of Oakland, now the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts. It was built in 1928, and designed by Miller & Warnecke, and housed various women's clubs. There was a surge in the number of clubs after national suffrage was passed.

Pardee House

Women got the right to vote in California in 1911, and nationally in 1919. The first woman registered to vote in California was Clara Elizabeth Chan Lee, and was the first Chinese American woman to register to vote in the U.S. But it's interesting to note that suffrage in California didn't pass in Oakland and San Francisco, but was carried by Berkeley and the farm counties.

We then walked west, past Lincoln Square, to Pardee House, past Preservation Park, past the First Unitarian Church of Oakland (where Isadora Duncan gave her first dance recital in 1890), and finished at the African American Museum and Library of Oakland (which the Ebell Society helped raise funds for).

some names from the tour:
more on Ina Coolbrith:
Wikipedia entry
"When the Grass Shall Cover Me" by Ina Coolbrith
Songs from the Golden Gate (free ebook)

more pictures:
women's history walking tour

upcoming Oakland events

Kids are back to school and the festival season is dropping down a notch, but there's still lots to do. Besides the highlights below, check the events calendar at the right with all these events in a nice calendar format.

This is a First Friday, so the Art Murmur is happening, and of course Bites off Broadway happens every Friday until October 21st. And the Art Stroll is every Saturday.

welcome home Food & Freedom Riders Thursday, 8pm at The New Parish. Welcome home the group that's been riding around the country, and hear reports on how it all went.

Oakland Pride Day - Sunday, September 4. Oakland's LGBTQ pride festival, featuring 75 artists on 4 stages.

unveiling of Remember Them - Tuesday, September 6, 1pm. Unveiling of a statue of champions for humanity, including Dr. Maya Angelou who will be present for the ceremony.

Gatsby Summer Afternoon - September 11. an afternoon with the Art Deco Society of California. Aficionados of the 1920s and 30s step back to a time when elegance was a way of life and the Charleston and Fox Trot were all the rage. This is not a spectator event; every guest is part of the scene in their vintage best.

Plus the usual events:
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Bites off Broadway (Fridays)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Downtown walking tours (Wednesdays and Saturdays)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)

For more, check the Visit Oakland event calendar.

Looking further ahead:
Park(ing) day - Friday, September 16.
Taste of Temescal - Tuesday, September 20.
Blog Action Day - Saturday, September 24.
Oaktoberfest - Saturday, October 1, in the Dimond.
Parlor and Politics - Saturday, October 1. A celebration of women's suffrage in California.
Suffrage Parade - Sunday, October 2. Continuing the celebration of women's suffrage, a parade starting Lakeside Park at Lake Merritt.
PedalFest - October 22nd. Bikes, beer, food, fun at Jack London Square.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

walking tour: West Oakland

World Impact

Saturday morning I joined Luke Prince for a walking tour of West Oakland. This isn't part of the city tours program or the Oakland Heritage Alliance tours program, but it should be. The city tours are focused downtown, and the OHA tours in different neighborhoods of Oakland, but none covers the significant history of Prescott and Lower Bottoms.

Luke and I met at the West Oakland center of World Impact, a ministry working all over the world and here in Oakland. Coincidentally the building is across the street from a liquor store that has a sign I'd been meaning to photograph. The area near the liquor store used to be a magnet for drug trouble in the neighborhood before World Impact came in.

where OPD officer was shot

The first spot we went to was where OPD officer John Frey was shot. Frey had stopped Black Panther Party (BPP) co-founder Huey Newton during one of the BPP defense patrols in the pre-dawn hours. After fellow officer Herbert Heanes arrived for backup, shots were fired, all three were wounded, and Frey died. Newton claimed that Frey shot him first, which made him lose consciousness. He awoke in Kaiser Hospital handcuffed to his bed, and was convicted in 1968 of voluntary manslaughter. He served two years before the California Appellate Court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. After two mistrials, the California Supreme Court dropped the case.

We walked along admiring the Victorians and other houses. Luke pointed out an "almost polite house" where he had lived when he first came to Oakland. An "almost polite house" was one that had multiple families living in it, and was subdivided each night by curtains to provide more privacy for sleeping. Some were designed with that in mind, resulting in houses with an odd assortment of half walls.

West Oakland was the home of a happening soul, R&B and jazz scene during the 40s, 50s, and 60s until construction of BART and the main post office brought it to an end. One place that survived longer was the Continental Club, which still opens for occasionally for private events. A lot of the music had Louisiana and New Orleans influences, because many of the workers recruited during WWII came from there. Read more in my post about Esther's Orbit Room.

16th Street Station

No discussion of Oakland history is complete without talking about the influence of the railroads, and that's especially true for West Oakland. The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, and had its western terminus in Oakland. The first trains ran to Alameda, and the original terminus station was on 7th Street in Old Oakland, but eventually the 16th Street Station became the hub. We talked about the Pullman porters and the rise of the black middle class, and the importance of unions like the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in the civil rights movement -- recall that MLK was in Memphis to support the sanitation workers union when he was shot.


While better in many ways, life in West Oakland wasn't a complete bed of roses. Jack London (who lived at 807 Pine) described a cannery as a "hell hole" where he worked 12-18 hour days as a 15-year-old. It was not uncommon to see children around West Oakland who were missing fingers or limbs, lost working in the factories north of 13th Street. Pullman porters, while better paid than some, were not fairly paid compared with whites. The 1949 construction of the Cypress Structure split West Oakland in half for decades. Industry has left contaminated soil.

But despite some modern problems like gentrification, drugs, and cleaning up past pollution, West Oakland is a lively, beautiful part of Oakland full of interesting people (who all seem to know Luke). It has great weather, easy access to Uptown, Downtown, and the Bay Bridge, and a burgeoning art and maker scene. If you're interested in taking the West Oakland history tour, contact Luke via email at lprince14 at He told me a ton more than I've written about here, and it makes for an interesting tour.

More reading:
Putting the "There" There: Historical Archaeologies of West Oakland
Black Panthers history
Pullman porter museum
Oakland Local : Right beneath our feet: Brownfields in West Oakland

More pictures:
West Oakland walking tour

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Friday night fun

Make Westing

Friday night K and I went to see Dr. Strangelove at the Paramount movie classics. A whole lot of other people did, too.

We planned to start with dinner at Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe next to the Fox. Unfortunately it was already crowded, so there was a 20 minute wait for a table. Fortunately, Make Westing across the street is now open, so we went over there to check it out while we waited. It still smells new, but the bar was crowded and both bocce courts were in use. They've got a good selection of beers on tap, and an interesting-looking cocktail list.

We headed back over to Rudy's for dinner, and although it was crowded and we were in a corner table we loved it. K had a portobello mushroom sandwich and I had a Asian crunchy tofu salad, and both were very tasty.

crunchy tofu salad at Rudy's

Each table is decorated with a unique collage of items. Ours had toy cars and other car-related items embedded in the plastic; the next one over had a variety of bottle caps. Rudy's isn't too fancy, and is very reasonably priced.

I thought I saw George of All About George and the Contra Costa Times on the other side of the restaurant (there aren't many hairdos like his), but it was crowded and I couldn't tell for sure. By the time we left, he was already gone so I still wasn't sure. But as we waited for the signal in front of the Fox, I saw Amy Gahran of and CNN, and found out later they'd been out celebrating Amy's birthday. Happy Birthday, Amy!

the mighty Wurlitzer

We walked over to the Paramount, and joined hordes of other people filing in to see Dr. Strangelove. I knew Jonathan of TheDTO was planning to be there, as was @kenyaw, but given the crowd the odds of finding them seemed small. The main level was already filling up, so we headed up to the balcony. The view from up there is different, but still very good because the rows are very steep. And most of the Dec-o-Win winners were up there, too. Alas, we didn't win anything -- especially nice-sounding was the gift certificate for Plum. Part of the whole Paramount movie classics experience is what leads up to the movie itself: hearing the mighty Wurlitzer, hoping for a winning ticket during the Dec-o-Win game, watching the newsreel and the cartoon, and of course checking out the beautiful interior of the Paramount itself.

The movie itself is a lot of fun (now that the Cold War is safely over), and even more so with a big theater full of people who have all seen it before, too. People cheered when various names were listed in the opening credits, laughed during the many funny parts, and made the whole experience that much more fun.

Afterwards as we were leaving, I saw not only Jonathan from The DTO, but VSmoothe of A Better Oakland and @das88.

All in all, a hecka fun evening. The $5 for the Paramount movie classics is a great deal for all you get, and is definitely worth checking out if there's a movie playing you'd enjoy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

bits and pieces 5

Lots of restaurant openings and closings in this round of bits and pieces. And there's a new feature here at Our Oakland -- an events calendar. It's still a work in progress, but has the basic event info for upcoming events. There's a permanent link at the right.

The Oakland Tribune will be merged with other local papers like the Alameda Times-Star and rebranded as the Tribune. Zennie on Oakland Focus chimes in with his thoughts.

A new bike-friendly cafe called Arbor will be opening in the Temescal, according to the East Bay Express. If it's anything like Actual Cafe, I'll be loving it.

Faz Oakland will be taking over the former Caffe Verbena spot, according to InsideScoop SF.

I never made it there, and I guess a lot of people didn't. The Temescal restaurant SR24 is no more.

GrubStreet has the scoop on new bar Make Westing. They're almost done with the build out of the space.

Piedmont Ave. has a new restaurant, Local Cafe, focusing on local food.

A nice article in the Oakland Tribune about Rebuilding Together Oakland.

I love this pic from Dancing Under the Stars over at Oakland Daily Photo. Tonight (Friday) is the final dance of the 2011 season.

Feel some Oakland love over on the newly-remodeled 38th Notes blog.

If you haven't been that way recently, the street changes by the 12th Street Dam have started.

The National Brotherhood of Cyclists was in town the other week, and received a special blessing at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Nice write up on new patio at The Trappist.

Oakland Local has a nice article on the new shuttle service to and from Alameda. If you've ever tried to walk or bike through the tubes, you know why this is a great thing.

Finally, Montreal-style bagels are available in the East Bay from Oakland-based Beauty's Bagel Shop.

more pictures:
bits and pieces 5

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oakland Zoo

Another guest post by my lovely and talented wife, K. Her website for her spiritual direction practice can be found at Sleep on the Hearth. She also blogs on spiritual matters.

During the summer, members of the Oakland Zoo can enter the park at 9:30, half an hour before the kids and strollers and cell-phone talkers storm the place. This morning I took advantage of the early-entry perq of zoo membership and headed straight for the bat cage, which is similar to the Bat Cave, but...different. I didn't take any photos of the bats, because my view was blocked by the mesh of their enclosure, but I will simply say: wow. One of them ate a slice of watermelon while I watched, then stuffed the rind into his mouth, making a giant pooch in his cheek that he shifted from right to left as he munched. To get an idea of how cool these animals are, try a Google image search for island flying foxes.

I understand that people have qualms about keeping exotic animals in zoos, but many of the animals in this zoo were rescued out of much worse situations. Ting Ting, this Malaysian Sun Bear, was kept in a cage for the first ten years of her life until she was sent to the San Diego Zoo. Even after spending time in bear-friendly circumstances in San Diego and then in Oakland, she exhibited stress behaviors like pacing and circling. But the docent who spoke with me said that Ting Ting almost never paces or circles anymore. The three Oakland Sun Bears have the biggest Sun Bear enclosure in the country, and to my untrained eye, Ting looked pretty darn relaxed. (I hardly saw the other two, who are sisters. They were busy investigating a giant pile of logs and branches that their keepers added to the enclosure to keep them entertained.)

The two tigers at the Oakland Zoo "worked" in a circus until 1999. They were housed in 3' x 6' containers when they were not performing or training. Given the alternatives for some of these animals, I'll support the zoo any day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

upcoming Oakland events

There's just way too much stuff I want to do this week, and not enough hours in the day.

Paramount Movie Classics - Friday, 7pm. This week's film at the Paramount is the Cold War classic Dr. Strangelove. ($5)

Dancing Under the Stars - Friday, 8:30pm-10pm at Jack London Square. This is the final Dancing Under the Stars for 2011, featuring Salsa! Folks doing the Salsa at Art & Soul looked like they were having a blast. (free)

Chinatown StreetFest - Saturday and Sunday, August 27-28. The 24th annual Chinatown StreetFest. The festival will have a variety of food, fun, and entertainment (U.S. Shaolin Kung Fu!) (free)

Oakland Women's History Walk - Saturday, August 27, 1pm-3:30pm. A special Oakland Heritage Alliance walking tour, led by Annalee Allen and Kathleen DiGiovanni, looks back at the 100 years since women got the right to vote in California. ($10-$15)

The Dimond Shines! walking tour - Sunday, August 28, 10am. The final OHA tour of the season, this one is focused on the Dimond, and is led by noted Oakland historian and author Dennis Evanosky. ($10-$15)

Plus the usual events:
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Bites off Broadway (Fridays)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Downtown walking tours (Wednesdays and Saturdays)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)

For more, check the Visit Oakland event calendar.

Looking further ahead:
Oakland Pride Day - Sunday, September 4.
unveiling of Remember Them - Tuesday, September 6, 1pm. Unveiling of a statue of champions for humanity, including Dr. Maya Angelou who will be present for the ceremony.
Gatsby Summer Afternoon - September 11. an afternoon with the Art Deco Society of California
Park(ing) day - Friday, September 16.
Taste of Temescal - Tuesday, September 20.
Blog Action Day - Saturday, September 24.
Parlor and Politics - Saturday, October 1. A celebration of women's suffrage in California.
Suffrage Parade - Sunday, October 2. Continuing the celebration of women's suffrage, a parade starting Lakeside Park at Lake Merritt.
PedalFest - October 22nd. Bikes, beer, food, fun at Jack London Square.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Art & Soul Festival

This past weekend was the 2011 Art & Soul Festival. It seemed like crowds were a little smaller on Saturday while I was bike parking with WOBO and EBBC, but there were a ton of people out Sunday when K and I strolled around. People of all ages, colors, shapes and sizes were out having fun. One of my favorite things was watching a variety of couples salsa dance to the music of Edgardo & Candela at the City Center stage. They were having a blast, and it was impossible to watch them and not feel good, too.

Lots more pictures:

Art & Soul 2011

More coverage:
Oakland Local 1
Oakland Local 2
Oakland North
Oakland Tribune

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chinatown oral history project

On Saturday's walking tour of Chinatown, we heard from Roy Chan, the director of the Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project that the next piece was premiering later that day. So after the walking tour was done, I ran some errands, got some lunch, then rode back to Chinatown for the showing of the film.

The Chinatown Oral History Project has been a work in progress for several years. Earlier parts recorded people's memories of Chinatown, and talked with people displaced when Lake Merritt BART was built -- 75 homes, an orphanage for girls, and the Chinese True Sunshine Episcopal Church were destroyed. The most recent piece talked with people who currently use Madison Square. It's the place for Tai Chi, and some people have been using the area for decades.

The project is also cool in that it's stimulating inter-generational dialogue. The people who know the history are naturally older, and the people doing the interviews, filming and editing them are students. The current piece was done by Chinatown students attending various universities around the country, and by Mills College students.

More changes are planned for the area to make a transit-oriented community. Given the past treatment of area residents and various Chinese settlements before that, it's understandable that people are taking a lot of interest in the process. Fortunately the city and BART are being open about the process, and getting lots of community input along the way. BART boardmember Robert Raburn was there to view the film and talk with area residents.

Check out the Chinatown Oral History website for more info, and if you're in Chinatown check out the exhibit itself while it's open. The Oakland Asian Cultural Center is at 388 9th Street in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza building.

More about the planning process:
Urban Habitat
Oakland Local
East Bay Bike Coalition

More pictures:
Chinatown oral history

walking tour: Chinatown

Pacific Renaissance Plaza

Saturday was another great Oakland walking tour. This time it was Chinatown, an area of Oakland I don't know that much about. We met at the fountain in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza, which is a fitting spot as it's where the Asian library branch is, as well as the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. Annalee Allen was filling in for the regular guide, but we were fortunate to also have along a very knowledgeable Chinatown resident, Mr. Wong. And in a bit of good timing, Roy Chan, the director of the Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project was there to tell us about the premiere of the latest installment in that. (More on that here.) Note that it's the Asian library branch and Asian Cultural Center, not Chinese, because Chinatown is really more of a pan-Asian area. The library has collections in 8 different languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, Tagalog and Laotian) but residents represent even more backgrounds than that.

Oakland's Chinatown has a personal connection for mayor Jean Quan, and so a special version of the walk was done to celebrate her inauguration back in January. Like thousands of others, her great-grandfather and his family came to Oakland following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Her father attended Lincoln Elementary School. While the school is still largely Asian American, back then it was because of segregation.

vegis at Chinatown market

As we walked along Webster and a variety of markets, bakeries and other stores, the vibrancy of Chinatown became quickly apparent. There's a lot of people living, working and shopping there, and a ton of energy. We passed the well-known Silver Dragon restaurant, which was designed by past Oakland city councilmember Henry Chang.

The current center of Oakland's Chinatown is at 8th Street and Webster, but it hasn't always been there. Chinese first came to Oakland in the 1850s and settled in shrimp camps along the estuary. Many of them came to work on the transcontinental railroad, dams, and other infrastructure projects. Between moves, fires and forced relocation because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinatown moved 7 more times by 1880. Because of immigration restrictions, early Chinatown was largely a bachelor society.

Chinese Methodist Church

A source of help to fight discrimination and language barriers were various churches in the area. Although the current building is more recent, the Chinese Community United Methodist Church dates back to 1887, and has been at its current location since 1905.

We walked past the remarkable Asian Resource Center building (formerly Lyons storage) over to Harrison Square, one of the original 7 town square parks in Oakland. While I was growing up, it had historical railroad equipment because the transcontinental railroad ran along what is now 7th Street. Now it features Pioneer Hall and a community center.

From there we walked up to another of the original town square parks, Lincoln Square. It was originally called Oakland Square, but renamed to honor president Lincoln. The park at Lincoln Square is a bustling place, with a community center, basketball courts, and the distinctive Chinese junk ship play structure.

junk ship play structure

It was originally a project of the Wa Sung Community Service Club, built back in 1969. That structure was "loved to death", and replaced with a more modern structure in 2003.

The park also serves as the playground for nearby Lincoln Elementary School. Not only did Jean Quan's father attend Lincoln, our guest guide Mr. Wong had attended it as a child, in an earlier building on the same location.

The tour didn't go as far as Madison Square, which is the place for Tai Chi in the mornings. People do lots of other activities there, like badminton, fan dancing, sword dancing, and even line dancing.

There's a ton more to learn about Oakland's Chinatown. You can explore on your own (as I did a while back with yourwaitress), or go on the city-sponsored walking tour (which is free!). An upcoming chance to explore the area and have some fun is the Chinatown StreetFest 2011, August 27-28. Check out any of the 10,000 Steps markers you come across for a bit more history.

Lots more pictures:
Oakland Chinatown walking tour

More resources:

P.S. For those of you who were still with us to the end and wondered about the brass fire hydrant near EBMUD headquarters, Oakland Magazine did a short piece about it. (Follow that link and scroll down until you see the picture of the fire hydrant.) It's a little bit of history, too.

P.P.S. For whoever was wondering about Alice Street among Franklin, Jefferson, Clay, etc., it was named for the sister of one of Oakland's founders, Horace Carpentier. He was also the first mayor of Oakland.

Friday, August 19, 2011

signs: Pizza


This run-down sign is on High Street at Virginia. The pizza parlor appears to have been gone for a long time. I've probably seen it before, but I noticed it today when I was stopped to tweet about the nearby street closures. It was an unfortunately fitting end to a day that started with riding by the spot where 3-year old Carlos Fernando Nava was shot on International.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

walking tour: Churches and Temples

Wednesday I had a chance to go on another Oakland walking tour, this time the Churches and Temples tour. As with the other tours, we had an extremely knowledgeable guide, Don Tyler, a former Oakland High history teacher who's been leading history tours since the 1970s. We were fortunate to get access inside many of the buildings, too.

First Presbyterian

Say what you will about churches building huge, fancy edifices, many of them are beautiful, interesting buildings. They're frequently one of the first things people built when they settled an area, so they tend to be some of the oldest structures around, assuming they survived fires, earthquakes, and urban renewal.

We started in front of First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, which you've doubtless seen at 27th and Broadway. I've been in the complex frequently, because that's where Habitat for Humanity East Bay has its offices, but I'd only been in the sanctuary briefly. It's a large English Gothic structure designed by William C. Hays. Its huge organ has over 4,000 pipes, the largest of which are 32 feet tall. First Presbyterian started small, meeting in a tent near the waterfront in 1853 (Oakland was incorporated in 1852), and moved a number of times before constructing the building at 27th and Broadway which was completed in 1916. The history is shown in a series of smaller stained glass windows in the church.

Temple Sinai

Then it was a short walk over to Temple Sinai. That began in 1875 when 18 businessmen formed the First Hebrew Congregation of Oakland. As with First Presbyterian, it moved several times before settling in the current location in 1913. Over the years, the congregation has included such notable Oaklanders as the Capwells (H.C. Capwell department store, later part of Emporium-Capwell), the Kahns (Kahn's department store, noted on the City Center walking tour), the Grodins (Grodin's Menswear store) and Gertrude Stein. Temple Sinai recently expanded their campus, but the 1913 structure still serves as the sanctuary.

St. Augustine's

Another short walk over the south end of Pill Hill took us to Saint Augustine's Episcopal, a smaller but distinctive church on Telegraph at 29th. Originally a black Episcopal church meeting at 27th and West, it merged with Trinity Church at 29th and the combined church kept the name St. Augustine's. The original St. Augustine's is notable because it became a "political and spiritual haven" for the Black Panthers, so it was big news when it merged with the predominately white Trinity Church. The building is a vivid rust red color (you've seen it if you've ever been to the Commonwealth Cafe and Pub across the street) and is built of wood. Inside is stained and varnished, with fine details and a warm color. Additional decorations around the wainscoting are done with lincrusta, a molded linoleum and wood product made to mimic more expensive carved wood. The building was designed by architect William Hamilton. In an amazing bit of timing, earthquake retrofit work was completed on the building just months before the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake struck, and the building came through fine. Read more about St. Augustine's in Annalee Allen's Tribune article.

Walking down Telegraph to 21st we came to First Baptist Church. The building was completed shortly before the 1906 earthquake, and was badly damaged in the quake. Julia Morgan (the Morgan family lived nearby) had been hired to finish the sanctuary, and was instead hired to repair the church and finish the sanctuary. Many Baptist churches are relatively plain in design; First Baptist is not, with fine wood carving, an open redwood ceiling, and lovely stained glass windows around. The building itself is based on the cathedral in Aachen, Germany, designed for Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne. A large pipe organ (the sister instrument to the well-known organ in the Stanford Chapel) sits at the front. The sanctuary was featured in the movie "What Dreams May Come". While the First Baptist congregation merged with Lakeshore Baptist in 2010, the building is still in use by the Burmese Mission Baptist Church.

Christ the Light

We then headed towards Lake Merritt to see Christ the Light Cathedral, which was completed in 2008. Unfortunately we arrived just as mass was beginning, so we couldn't go in the sanctuary, but we did take a brief tour of the mausoleum below. In what's a common theme, this building was built to replace the original cathedral that was damaged beyond repair in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

From there we headed over to the all-brick St. Paul's Episcopal. That was likewise unavailable because of a service, but we stood outside and talked about the retrofit work that has been done to the building -- un-reinforced masonry doesn't do well in earthquakes, though St. Paul's survived Loma Prieta with only minor damage. The Gothic Revival style building was constructed in 1912, and designed by Benjamin Geer McDougall.

First Congregational

After noting the former site of the Piedmont Baths next to Whole Foods, we headed over to First Congregational Church. At this point we were behind schedule, so we didn't get to spend too long there, but it's an interesting building. And F.M. "Borax" Smith was a noted member. The Italian renaissance building with its distinctive tower was designed by John Galen Howard, and opened in 1925. I would have happily kept walking around learning about the churches, temples and people behind them (with a break for lunch, of course), but we were past our scheduled time so we headed back to Broadway where we began the tour.

Lots more pictures:

This is hardly all the notable places of worship in downtown, never mind all of Oakland: the Julia Morgan-designed College Avenue Presbyterian in Rockridge, the First Church of Christ Science on Franklin and 17th, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and the Mormon Temple in the hills come immediately to mind. There are lots of other interesting, historical churches and temples around the rest of Oakland, waiting for you to explore.

Additional coverage:
Oakland North

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

upcoming Oakland events

The big event this weekend is the Art & Soul Festival, but as usual, there's lots of other stuff going on if that's not your thing.

Waterfront Flicks - Thursday, August 18, sundown at Jack London Square. This week's movie is Dinner for Schmucks. There will be food from Miss Pearl's Jam House, beer from New Belgium via East Bay Bike Coalition, and cooking demos. (free)

Faith Fancher breast cancer walk - Saturday, August 20. Those of you have been in Oakland for a while may remember Faith Fancher, a KTVU reporter. She fought breast cancer for 6 1/2 years, but succumbed in 2003. A fund-raising walk for local, under-served and under-insured breast cancer victims is held each year in her memory. See the Friends of Faith website for more info.

Art & Soul - Saturday and Sunday, noon to 6pm. The 11th annual Art & Soul Festival. K and I had a great time when we went in 2009. There's music, art, food and fun for all ages ($10/$15).

Uptown Bike Tour - Sunday, August 21, 10am-noon. Take a bike tour around uptown and beyond with the Oakland Museum.

Urban Paths walk - Sunday, August 21, 10am-noon. Join Oakland Urban Paths for a walk in Montclair, on some of Oakland's steepest and woodsiest urban stairways.

Plus the usual events:
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Bites off Broadway (Fridays)
Dancing under the Stars (Fridays)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Downtown walking tours (Wednesdays and Saturdays)
OHA walking tours (Saturdays and Sundays)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)

For more, check the Visit Oakland event calendar.

Looking further ahead:
Park(ing) day - Friday, September 16.
Taste of Temescal - Tuesday, September 20.
Parlor and Politics - Saturday, October, 1. A celebration of women's suffrage in California.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

signs: the Print Shop

Print Shop

Along San Pablo Ave. is this dated-looking sign for the Print Shop. I can't find any business listing at the location of the sign, but it's not connected with PSPrint on Mandela Parkway. (Thanks for the info, Jennifer! See her comment for more info.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Throw Down for the Town

Saturday was a city-wide event organized by the Ella Baker Center. People of all ages and from all walks of life came out to help make Oakland a better place. There were a variety of service projects all over Oakland, including cleaning up parks, wetlands restoration, working on community gardens, building homes with Habitat, creating a dog park, and working with seniors.

I chose wetlands restoration, which was an event with Save the Bay at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline. I selected it in part because I wanted to try something different, and it was an excuse to ride along more of the SF Bay Trail. When I got the confirmation email with directions, I found out it was also the 50th Anniversary for Save the Bay, and it was going to a shortened work day plus a celebration. I considered signing up for a different event, but in the end I'm glad I went to this one. While they had a full contingent of volunteers, it turned out I was the only one who was there as part of Throw Down for the Town.

at MLK Shoreline

We started with a brief introduction to Save the Bay, how it was started, and the work they do now. On hand were dozens of volunteers, including a group from NBC Bay Area as part of their Bay Area Proud program. We then split up into different groups, to water new plantings, weed invasive species, pick up trash, and prepare for the celebration later. I joined the group weeding; one of the Save the Bay habitat specialists showed us what we were looking for, and off we went. Although the area has been under restoration for some time and is in general doing very well, there was a large amount of English plantain in one stretch, so we didn't have far to go to get to work.

at Mosswood Park

After a couple of hours of work, we wrapped up and got down to celebrating Save the Bay's 50th anniversary. There were games, a raffle, photos with the Save the Bay shark, various things for lunch, and mimosas or wine from Barefoot Wine & Bubbly. NBC Bay Area interviewed various people for sound bites, and we did a group shot with everyone shouting "happy 50th anniversary, Save the Bay!".

When I went to head off to Mosswood Park for the Throw Down for the Town party, I discovered I had a flat tire. Fortunately I was able to get a ride (thanks, Dylan!), and after a brief stop at Manifesto Bikes to fix the flat, headed over to the party at Mosswood Park.

What did you do for Throw Down for the Town?

more photos:
Save the Bay
Throw Down for the Town

more coverage:
Ella Baker Center blog
Oakland Local
Oakland North

Thursday, August 11, 2011

walking tour: City Center

city hall

Wednesday I went on the City Center downtown walking tour. I was pleasantly surprised to see Annalee Allen herself ready to lead the tour. Also on the tour was C.M. Wilson of OakSnap. (We didn't recognize each other at first, but it's been several years since we last met in person.) There were about 16 of us altogether. Special shout-out to new Oakland resident [C,K]atherine! She and her fiancé moved to Oakland 2 months ago, and she was exploring Oakland via the walking tour.

The City Center tour was more focused on architecture than some of the other tours, and in particular on city hall. It's not surprising, because it is an amazing building and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Construction began in 1911 and finished in 1914, and at the time it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi and the first high-rise government building in the U.S. It's in the Beaux-Arts style, and is an impressive, lovely part of the Oakland skyline. It was part of the wider City Beautiful movement, under the tenure of then mayor Frank Mott. If you've never been there for a council meeting or the like, the wider base contains the mayor and city council offices, as well as various meeting chambers. The upper tower contains offices, and a jail on the 12th floor that's been unused since the 1960's.

But that almost went away in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Although the building was constructed after its predecessor was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, it didn't fare well in 1989. The building was red-tagged, and was in danger of being destroyed. With some help from FEMA and a lot of work, the building was retrofitted to be earthquake-resistant. Steel beams were added to reinforce the structure, and the entire building was placed on base isolators. As a result, the entire building can move up to 20 inches in an earthquake to protect the inhabitants.

rotunda dome

We also went into the Rotunda building, which formerly housed Kahn's department store. If you haven't been inside, you really, really need to go. It features an amazing glass dome, of the sort they "just don't make anymore".

We also checked out the Lionel J. Wilson building, modeled after the flatiron building in New York, the Tribune tower, the Clorox building and others before ending up at City Center. We got a bit of history on the rise and fall and re-rise of shopping in Oakland, brought on by a variety of things including the rise of the automobile, the building of the Bay Bridge, the construction of BART, and other factors. We finished the tour in the City Center plaza, where they were setting up for the weekly free Wednesday concert. Definitely worth taking the tour to get the scoop on some of the downtown architecture and history behind it.

more pictures:
Oakland City Center walking tour