Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Oakland Scenic Tour Map

In honor of Oakland's 160th Birthday, all this week I'll be running articles about Oakland history. For more about some of the events going on, check out my article on Oakland Local. See past posts about Oakland history here.

If you've spent any time in Oakland, you've probably looked up at some point and seen a sign like this one. And if you're like me, you've wondered, "Where are the others? Can I get a map of them? Where does the tour go?"

To find out, I talked to local historian and writer, Annalee Allen. First the good news: there is a map of 52 signs marking hundreds of points of interest, including historical sites, shopping districts and vistas. Now the bad news: the map has been out of print since the late 90s. And while most of the sites are still there, some notable ones are gone, like Jack London Village which was demolished in 2001.

It turns out Annalee did the historical research for the map, and her boss, Samee Roberts, was in charge of the project for the city, so she was very familiar with it. It was created by the Oakland Office of Marketing and Public Information, and the Oakland Convention and Visitors Authority, which is now the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau run by the Chamber of Commerce. The map cover features a lovely Art Deco style rendering of some of the points of interest like the Tribune Tower and the Paramount Theatre. The iconic signs were designed by Oakland artist Sharon Gayton.

The tour begins in downtown at Oakland City Hall (#1), goes all over Oakland, then returns to nearby Oakland City Center (#52). Not surprisingly, the majority of the map points are near downtown and Lake Merritt, but there are points as far west as West Oakland District (#48), as far north as Claremont Resort (#26), as far east as Dunsmuir House and Gardens (#38), and as far south as Oakland International Airport (#39). The last may seem an odd thing to include on a scenic tour, but it becomes clearer when you read the subpoints included, namely the Martin Luther King, Jr. Shoreline and the Western Aerospace Museum at the historic North Field. And remember that the map was produced with the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau, and that the signs were paid for by various corporate and other sponsors, which also helps explain why the map includes the Oakland Convention Center (#3) and various businesses are listed in the subpoints.


The map I got is copyright 1995, and wasn't the first version of the scenic route map. I went to the Oakland History Room at the main library to see if I could find the earlier ones. While I didn't find any earlier versions of this map, I did find other Oakland scenic tour maps, and discovered that this wasn't even the first tour of Oakland with signs. An editorial from the Tribune from July 24, 1967 describes "Oakland's Tourist Drive":
Within the next week or so, signs bearing a colorful oak leaf emblem will begin sprouting in Oakland. The markers will designate a 45-mile "Scenic Tour" through and by the city's oldest and newest attractions."
It then goes on to talk about the importance of promotional efforts at attracting visitors and getting them to spend money in Oakland.

I found even earlier Oakland tour maps, though no indication they had accompanying signs. There were no copyright dates on them, but based on the listed population and various geographic clues, I believe this one is from the late 1940s:

If I were creating such a map, I'd include more listed subpoints in West Oakland, like 16th Street Station; and various neighborhoods like Jingletown. And ignoring the problem of sponsorship, not include the Oakland Airport (or move it to North Field) or the APL Building as listed points. What points would you include on a scenic tour of Oakland?

note: I'd love to see the 1967 map and signs. Anybody have a picture of one or one of the maps?

A Google map showing the approximate location of the 52 signs and the labels they were given on the map:

View Oakland Scenic Tour in a larger map

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