Monday, October 1, 2012

Five Houses Bike Tour a success!

There was a good turnout for the first-ever Five Historic Houses Bike Tour. Thirty cyclists, including two children as passengers, and one skateboarder met at the Peralta Hacienda Historic Park to begin the tour. Annalee Allen of the Oakland Tribune and the downtown Oakland walking tours was our history leader, and Russ Nelson of the Pardee Home helped me lead the cycling part. With a warm, sunny day, we couldn't have asked for better weather.

As people arrived, some people took advantage of short tours inside the house museum before the ride started, while others explored the park grounds. Then we heard a bit about the history of Peralta Hacienda from executive director Holly Alonzo. While the Peralta House dates back to 1870, the family history in the area goes back much further. Seventeen year-old Luis Maria Peralta and his parents were members of Juan Bautista de Anza's 1775 expedition from New Spain to colonize Alta California. For "services rendered to the Crown of Spain" while serving in the military, Luis was given a land grant of almost 45,000 acres in 1820, stretching from present-day San Leandro to Albany, from the bay to the crest of the hills. Today the house offers regular tours, concerts, and special events, and is home to a community garden.

at Cohen Bray House

From there, we made the short ride down to Cohen Bray House. It involved a difficult left turn off of Foothill onto Fruitvale, but we eventually all made it. Annalee Allen told us about the Cohens and the Brays, and read from Oakland Landmarks, the book that she and artist Heidi Wyckoff created. The house dates back to 1882, and was built by Julia Moses and Watson A. Bray, for their daughter, Emma, upon her marriage to Alfred H. Cohen, attorney, on February 28, 1884. It stayed in the hands of the family until 1993, when surviving members formed a non-profit to oversee the future of the house. Today the house offers tours by appointment, and is maintained by the non-profit's volunteers.

Our next ride was the longest of the tour, along East 16th Street and Foothill, around Lake Merritt, to Camron-Stanford House. There we were greeted by house director Ann Swift, who had cookies and cold drinks waiting for us on the veranda. While we admired the amazing view of Lake Merritt and

at Camron-Stanford

enjoyed our refreshments, we heard about the house and the families who lived there. The house may have been built on spec by Samuel Merritt, whose own estate was nearby. The first family to live there were the Camrons, and later residents included Josiah Stanford, brother of Leland Stanford of university and "The Big Four" fame. More recently, the house was the city museum for Oakland until 1967. It was in danger of being torn down, but a dedicated group of citizens worked to preserve the house. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and opened to the public in 1978. Today the house holds regular tours, concerts and other events, and is available for rental for events like weddings.

A ride along 14th Street took us to the African American Museum and Library of Oakland, and nearby Preservation Park. Unfortunately they were set up for a wedding, and wouldn't let us go through the park, but Annalee told us about Preservation Park, which you can learn more about on one of the city walking tours.

at Pardee Home

Instead of going through the park, we walked around the corner to the Pardee Home. Kay, a volunteer with the Pardee Home, greeted us with cookies and cold drinks. The home was built in the 1860s by Enoch Pardee, gold rush immigrant, and later mayor of Oakland. More famous was his son, George Pardee, who was governor of California in 1906 when San Francisco was ravaged by an earthquake. Later he helped wrest the Oakland waterfront from the Southern Pacific Railroad and founded the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). Today, the home is open for regular tours, concerts, and other special events. Kay told us about high teas, which are available for groups of 4 to 12 people. My co-leader Russ told us about some of the special events, including ghost investigations and concerts.

at de Fremery House

The final leg of our tour took us into West Oakland, to the de Fremery House. The James De Fremery family home was part of the Rancho San Antonio land grant. James De Fremery continuously landscaped the estate until his death in 1899. After De Fremery’s death, members of the family continued to live in the house until its sale to the City in 1910 when voters passed a bond issue to purchase the property. It is now the recreation center for one of the city's oldest parks. Sports legends Frank Robinson, Bill Russell and Curt Flood spent time there, as did modern dance legend Ruth Beckford, and many others. The Black Panther Party also used the park for community outreach programs, and rallies for jobs and against police brutality. The park was crowed when we were there, because a McClymonds High School reunion was going on. The park is frequently used for events; coming up next week is the annual Black Cowboy Parade which is a great event.

From there, people could either head over to the 16th Street Train Station for the Centennial Celebration, down to Linden Street Brewery, or head home. A couple of us headed to Linden Street a few headed for home, but most people went to the 16th Street Station for a chance to tour the remarkable interior of the station.

More pictures from the ride:

Thanks to all the folks from the houses who met us with drinks, snacks and history, and helped Annalee, Russ and I organize the tour. And thanks to the East Bay Bicycle Coalition for sponsoring the ride, and special thanks to Robert who brought up the back of the tour to help make sure no one got lost.

The Houses:
Peralta Hacienda Historic Park
Cohen Bray House
Camron-Stanford House
Pardee Home
DeFremery House

Other Links:
Preservation Park
Downtown Walking Tours
East Bay Bike Coalition
Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
Oakland 12th Street Project
Linden Street Brewery
16th Street Station Celebration (via Oakland North)
deFremery Family (Lives of the Dead)
Oakland Heritage Alliance
Oakland Urban Paths
African American Museum and Library of Oakland

Related Posts on Our Oakland:
10 (or so) Ways to Learn About Oakland History
A Brief History of Beer (OHA lecture at Linden Street)
Jazz Concert at Camron-Stanford House
Creek to Bay Day 2012 (at Peralta Hacienda)
Oakland Urban Paths: Jane's Walk
Preservation Park Walking Tour
The Lake That Isn't
Black Cowboy Parade
walking tour: West Oakland

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