Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Oakland Wiki Jane's Walk

Sunday a group met near the Lake Merritt BART station for a Jane's Walk. Jane Jacobs was an urbanist, activist and author. She's probably best known for The Death and Life of Great American Cities which argued that urban renewal did not respect the needs of most city dwellers. Each year since her death in 2007, people around the world gather for walks in her memory.

This walk was led by Himy, an Oakland Wiki contributor and neighbor of Jane Jacobs from Toronto. Although he lives in Toronto, he's been visiting family in the Bay Area and organized this Jane's Walk. He's been exploring Oakland and sharing his experiences from working on the Toronto Wiki. It was interesting to hear the viewpoint of a relative newcomer, albeit one who is an unabashed fan of Oakland in general.

It was fitting that we started our walk at Madison Square Park near Lake Merritt BART. The current location of the park between Jackson and Madison was not the original location. The park was originally between Madison and Oak, but was a victim of urban renewal. The park was moved and BART headquarters was built in 1971, and numerous residents were displaced by that and other urban renewal projects in the area.

From there we walked to Harrison Square, to view the site of the former Harrison Railroad Park. The park was dedicated in 1967, and came about in large part because a city council member, Howard Rilea, was a former railroad engineer, and championed the idea of a railroad history park. The central display was a huge Southern Pacific steam locomotive, and other displays were planned. At some point the railroad park was closed, probably because of liability concerns, and the locomotive removed. Now the park holds a Chinese senior center and garden.

We walked through Chinatown to the headquarters of the Oakland Police Department. Then we wandered through part of Chinatown and back to Broadway to DeLauer's Newstand, which has been a fixture in Oakland since 1907.

Further up Broadway we checked out The Realty Syndicate building which now houses Oaklandish, amongst other things. Across the street we checked out the Latham Square Fountain. It was erected in 1913 as a memorial for James R. Latham and Henrietta Marshall Latham by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Continuing along Broadway, we walked past the former location of Sweet's Ballroom, the gorgeous Paramount Theatre, and the Water Writes mural. On Grand, we checked out the Great Wall of Oakland, the parklet outside Farley's East, and continued to the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

We walked along the lake to the end of our tour at the Lake Merritt Hotel. Much of the group was headed back towards Lake Merritt BART, so we walked together past the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California. The building has an unusual architecture, not because of its current use, but because it was originally a Masonic Lodge.

All in all, a great walk—thanks to Himy for organizing it. We need to make sure Jane's Walks happen every year in Oakland!

Lots more pictures from Sunday's walk:

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