Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Oakland Urban Paths: Lakeshore to Piedmont Ave.

Saturday was our monthly Oakland Urban Paths walk, this time going from Lakeshore to Piedmont Avenue and back again. It's a walk we've done before, but there were a few changes. About 35 people and 5 dogs joined us some perfect weather to explore Oakland.

From our start in Mandana Plaza, we climbed over the hill behind the Grand Lake Theatre, and around past the former Lakeview Elementary School. From the unusual pedestrian bridge over I-580, it's easy to see what an impact the freeway (completed in 1966) had on the school (built in 1913). The school is now closed, and OUSD uses the space for offices. Over the bridge took us into Adams Point, named for Edson Adams, one of the 'founding scoundrels' of Oakland. For those that were wondering, Jayne Avenue is named for his wife, Hannah Jayne, who was Oakland's first school teacher.

Several sets of stairs took us through the Harrison-Oakland / Harri-Oak neighborhood, down to Glen Echo Creek. The creek is also known as Cemetery Creek where it begins up in Mountain View Cemetery. It winds its way (sometimes in a culvert) all the way down to Lake Merritt, where it feeds in near the Veterans' Memorial Building.

We walked over to Piedmont Avenue, and planned to meet up in Key Route Plaza after a short break. There we were disappointed to find that the wonderful Key Route Plaza mural by Rocky Rische-Baird had been destroyed. A new tennant, KronnerBurger, is moving into the space that used to be J's Mexican American Diner. They said later on Twitter that the wall wasn't properly supported (true, but fixable) and covered with black mold (possibly true, but also fixable). However, they made no effort to preserve the mural, and the artist and neighborhood residents are understandably upset.

We walked back towards our start along a different route, visiting some different sections of Glen Echo Creek. We eventually came to the Morcom Rose Garden, named for former mayor Fred Morcom. Up the hill on Jean Street took us to the top of some nice stairs, which led us down to Grand Avenue. From there, the Davidson Way steps took us back up the hill, then it was a short walk back to our starting point on Lakeshore.

Another great walk. Thanks to everyone who came out. The January walk is still being planned, but may be a walk around the former town of Brooklyn just east of Lake Merritt. Hope to see you then!

Lots more pictures from the walk:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

more about the Key Route Plaza mural

So, not only did people in the neighborhood around the Key Route Plaza mural not know the mural was going to be destroyed, the artist who spent more than 6 months painting the mural wasn't told. Below is a statement from Erica Rische-Baird on behalf of herself and Rocky, and they are understandably upset. The news that the zoning commission had already told them to protect the mural from the outdoor seating changes things—that means they knew the mural was valued by the community.

Ethan Fletcher of Inside Scoop on has a good article about it. It doesn't make me any happier about what Kronnerburger did, though. (Kronnerburger and Oakland neighborhood association at odds over mural). Ironically, borax kills black mold, so with a bit of time and a little work, the mural including "Borax" Smith could have been saved by borax.

Rocky and I found out yesterday that his incredible Key Route Mural off of Piedmont Avenue in Oakland (that had won the award for Best of the Bay for art and best mural by the SF Bay Guardian, and had been featured in Sunset Magazine as a must-see thing on Piedmont Avenue – something not to be missed when visiting Oakland, and that had been featured in many other publications beyond being beloved by the community) has been destroyed and demolished by developers converting the historic Key Route building, which the mural had been painted upon, into a high-end hamburger restaurant. We knew nothing of any of this happening until after the fact – after it had already been destroyed - when a concerned citizen wrote to ask if we knew the Key Route mural had been torn down. Rocky and I had not known.
Rocky had only found out last week that they were renovating the building at all when he was asked (not by the developers or building owner who never contacted him but by a member of the Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Association), the best way to preserve some cracks in the mural. We thought it was going to be a matter of sealing those, and perhaps better reinforcing an area behind the mural wall that was weakening by replacing it with a proper support. Worst case scenario, we thought last week, was that a relatively small square of the mural where an old vent used to be and was patched up before the mural existed - would have to be taken out, which Rocky could have then re-plastered and repainted again to preserve the whole after it was reinforced from behind.
We were told last week by another concerned citizen that the burger place was highly in debt and highly behind schedule for their opening and that they were pissed that citizens had expressed concern about the restaurants’ outdoor seating plans, which they felt could mar the mural with the tables and chairs scratching it. They had told the planning commission about those concerns and the planning commission sided with the citizens and told the restaurant they had to redesign their outdoor seating plan to protect the mural. Last we heard, a tarp had gone up to supposedly protect the mural from the big rainstorm, but really, they used the time with that tarp under cover, to completely demolish the mural, sight unseen, without any community outreach or without contacting the artist. They gave no one any choice in any of this. They did not let the community give their feedback or give the artist a chance to address it or work to save it or fix it. The community had self-funded the mural and many had donated their own money to help have it created.
What took over six MONTHS of Rocky painting every day – all day – over eight hours a day - they destroyed just like that. Something that was beautiful and amazing and so incredibly full of details and history, beyond being so incredibly painted. Something that cannot be replaced. Something TRULY irreplaceable. Something special. Their claim is that there was mold in the wall behind the plaster, but the reality is that if they wanted to save the mural, mold or no mold – and there is no proof there was mold – it is just the burger places’s word and a very easy out) they could have. They simply did not want to deal - they would have simply had to take their time in the problem area - carefully from the inside, to reinforce the mural and preserve it. It would have taken a bit of time, but it could have been done. But they never wanted the mural. They wanted a window in the wall where the mural is, so that their customers, paying top dollar for over-priced, fancy-pants burgers with sides like rabbit sausage, could have better light to take selfies of themselves with their edible yuppster status symbols in this new world of foodie culture/cult consumption. And they wanted their outdoor seating plan the way they had it before being told they had to modify it to protect the mural.
I feel so sad and angry about all of this. It simply is not fair. They stole the mural from the community that loved it and had paid for it, and they stole it from the artist and all those who loved it, such as myself. And they are using the mold as an easy out to do whatever they wanted and make it seem like they had no other choice, when that is not true – there WAS a choice. And they made the choice, without letting the community or artist have a say. A choice to save it would have taken a bit of effort and time, which the mural was WORTH. Where was the protection of this piece of art? How can something that incredible and wonderful and amazing just be destroyed without any conversation or contact or community feedback or artist feedback? There was absolutely no effort to protect or preserve this mural. The action feels a definite reflection of the values of these times. And I feel so very angry and sad and grieving. I really like something that Rocky said: “It seems like this mural about communal loss because of blind consumptive greed has fallen to the same enemy. Interesting.”

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Key Route Plaza mural is gone

One of my favorite murals was on the back of building adjacent to the Key Route Plaza just off Piedmont Avenue. J's Mexican American closed some time back, and the building has been sitting empty. The good news is that the building is being worked on, and a new tenant will be moving in. The bad news is that the lovely mural on the back is now gone. We discovered it during the Oakland Urban Paths walk on Saturday, while a construction crew was working on the building. Several neighborhood residents were visibly upset when they learned the mural was gone.

The mural was painted in 2005, and showed a Key System train, and Francis Marion "Borax" Smith, who created the Key System by buying up and merging smaller streetcar lines. Various figures and symbols from history were represented. The train shown is #159, which last left the station at 6:45 pm on April 20th, 1958. Artist Rocky Rische-Baird raised additional funds for the creation of the mural by depicting the donors as passengers on the Key System train.

According to Kronner Burger, the new tenant, the wall was full of black mold, and the middle had been a window and wasn't properly supported. They're looking for a space for a new mural. Regardless, it's sad to see the mural go

The Kingfish gets ready to move

The historic Kingfish bar is getting ready to move. I stopped in there Saturday after helping with the Oakland Urban Paths walk, and had a chance to talk with managing owner of the bar, Emil Peinert. Peinert was behind bringing the Kingfish back after it was closed for 18 months, and the quirky bar on Claremont is clearly something he's passionate about. When offered space in the new building that will be constructed on the location, he passed. When told by a contractor that it would be cheaper and easier to just tear the building down and build a new building, he found a new contractor.

The current schedule is to close on January 2. The move will occur on January 10. And if all goes well, they hope to be up and running in the new location about 2 months after that. The new location will have the old building and its decor, but it will also have space for a beer garden, and a second bar at the back.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

new mural going up in Montclair Village

There's a new mural being painted in Montclair Village on the outside of the local Yogofina frozen yogurt shop. There are a few murals in the village and possible plans for another, but this is only the second spray paint art piece in the village, and by far the most visible. It's being painted by Lisa Pisa and Nite Owl. Read more about it on the new entry on the Oakland Wiki. Way cool.

It's true. I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, even though it may seem like it. Between a nasty cold, lots of (needed) rain, and work, I haven't been out and about in Oakland much, and I've been blogging even less.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Oakland Urban Paths: Lakeshore to Park Blvd.

Saturday we had perfect weather as about 40 people and 3 dogs joined Oakland Urban Paths for a walk exploring the pathways and stairways between Lakeshore and Park Blvd. It's a walk we've done before, but there's always more to see. And Paul changed things up a little from the last time, in part because a stairway was closed because the city is doing some repairs and upgrades on it.

Part of the area originally belonged to Peder Sather, who Sather Tower (the Campanile) and Sather Gate at UC Berkeley are named for. Jane Sather allowed some of it to be used as a park, and that was the main destination of people riding trains over the railroad trestle that gave Trestle Glen its name.

We heard from Gerry Montemorency, former head of the Lakeshore Homes Association, the second oldest homeowners association west of the Mississippi. Among other things, the LHA created and maintains Oak Grove park, a privately-owned public space. We also talked about landslides in the area, including the 1926 Lerida slide which led to the destructuion of several homes, and Lerida Avenue being renamed Balfour.

We wandered up stairways and pathways to Park Blvd. where we stopped for a coffee break near the former Glenview Library. We went back via a different route along different stairways. One of the houses we passed was designed by Julia Morgan, but everyone agreed it was not her best work. There's also a house in the area (1041 Ashmount) designed by her mentor, Bernard Maybeck.

Another great walk, and the first half of a larger walk. We'll do the second part in December, when we go from Lakeshore to Piedmont Avenue.

Lots more pictures from the walk:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

signs: Uptown Nightclub

I've posted a picture of the Uptown Nightclub before (wait...5+ years ago? How did that happen?) but that photo was during the day. It popped into the news with the announcement that they're closing next week. "Our lease is up and we've chosen not to renew." Bummer. In their honor, here's a night time picture of their great sign, plus a bonus of the smaller one in the window.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

photo of the week: clearing storm

Unfortunately we didn't get much rain from Monday's storm, but we did get a glorious sunset.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chapel of the Chimes

If you know how I've spent some of my days off and how much time I've spent learning about Oakland history in local cemeteries, you can probably guess my reaction when I was asked if I wanted a tour of Chapel of the Chimes. I knew a little about it: legendary Oakland architect Julia Morgan worked on it (but what parts?), some notable Oaklanders are interred there (but who?) and it had the first electric crematorium in the world (wait, what?). So I jumped at a chance to learn more.

It turns out Julia Morgan did a lot of work on the Chapel, even incorporating some items that had been at Hearst Castle. It's difficult to see what she worked on from outside, but if you're familiar with her style, you can quickly spot it while wandering the inside. Her work includes retractable skylights in several areas, though not all of them still function. (Note that the Julia Morgan Chapel within Chapel of the Chimes was not designed by her, but was renamed in her memory in 1995.)

I also learned more about some of the notable Oaklanders who are interred at Chapel of the Chimes:

What struck me this time through Chapel of the Chimes is how beautiful and peaceful it is. It's not so peaceful during some of their events like Jazz at the Chimes, but it's quite remarkable. And various spaces within Chapel of the Chimes are available for events other than funerals, too. Weddings have been held in the main chapel (which has a Wurlitzer organ), and of course you're free to wander around Chapel of the Chimes any time it's open.

All of this information will be more useful some time next year, as I'm planning a "Dead Tour" for Oakland Urban Paths. I'm still figuring out the details, but we'll probably start at the Chapel of Memories (which is owned and operated by Chapel of the Chimes), into part of St. Mary's Cemetery, down through Chapel of the Chimes, through the Home of Eternity, and around part of Mountain View Cemetery. And of course there are several historic and some still extant related businesses.

Lots more pictures from Chapel of the Chimes:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Oakland Urban Paths: Butters Canyon

We had a good turnout and perfect weather for Saturday's walk in Butters Canyon with local historian Dennis Evanosky. We started our walk in front of fire station 25 on Butters Drive shortly after the morning fog burned off.

As we wound around the hills, Dennis told us some about the history and geology of the area. Of particular interest is the California state rock, serpentine, which is common in this area of the hills. Soil formed from serpentine tends to be poor in calcium and rich in things toxic to plants, so plants and trees grow sparsely. When poet Joaquin Miller first came to the area, the hillsides of what are now Joaquin Miller Park were largely bare. Miller planted thousands of trees, including oaks, redwoods, and the less popular eucalyptus and acacia. A number of streets in the area are named for Oaklanders who died in WWI, including Butters, Brunell, and Burdeck.

We stopped by the Naturfreunde, an Oakland German-American group. It started back in the 1920s as a strictly German speaking club, but now is open to all who support nature and Austrian-German-Swiss culture. Nearby we got our first glorious view, looking over Oakland from above Holy Dames University.

Further up Butters, we heard from Dolores, who is both a frequent OUP walk participant and a member of the Butters Canyon Conservancy that has been working since 2001 to preserve Butters Canyon and the local Peralta Creek watershed. With the exception of a couple of "pumpkin teeth" still sticking out, most of the canyon has now been preserved either through acquisition or conservation easements. The group is now working to remove invasive plants and help mitigate fire danger.

Then it was up the hill and across Joaquin Miller Rd. into Joaquin Miller Park. After Joaquin Miller died, part of the land became a city park, The Heights (Miller had called his 75-acre estate 'The Hights'), and part became Sequoia Park, which was home to the Oakland Zoo for a few years. We saw some of the monuments that Miller erected, got another spectacular view, and finished the walk at The Abbey, Miller's former home across from the end of Butters Drive.

Our walk took us briefly near the Woodminster Cascade. Usually the water isn't running in it but it was Saturday, so after the walk I went back and took some pictures. I found out from some OPR workers that there was a wedding scheduled for later that afternoon.

Lots more pictures from the walk and of the Woodminster Cascade:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

photo of the week: rust

I'm not sure why this picture from today's Oakland Urban Paths walk grabs me the way it does, but, well, it does. Why are things in various states of decay so interesting?

Friday, October 10, 2014

upcoming #Oakland events

Summer may be over, but there's no let up in the fun things to do in Oakland.

Friday - tonight

Bites off Broadway - the season finale of my favorite food truck gathering

Deep East #Oakland Mayoral Summit - ask some of the mayoral candidates about their plans for Oakland

Art Walk Reception at Gray Loft Gallery - 2nd Friday Art Walk in Jingletown

East Bay Bike Party - a fun party on two wheels. This month's theme: zombies!


Oakland Urban Paths - Butters Canyon - join Oakland Urban Paths and local historian Dennis Evanosky in exploring Butters Canyon near Joaquin Miller Park

Life is Living Festival - a celebration of urban life

Urban Cycling 101 - a FREE bicycling safety class from Bike East Bay

F*R*E*E - A Documentary - a documentary following 5 of the youth dancers at the Destinary Arts Center in north Oakland. It will be premiering at the Mill Valley Film Festival

Flourish Oakland - art party and auction, the annual fundraiser for the Oakland Art Murmur, at Classic Cars West


Rockridge Out and About - the annual fun-filled street festival in Rockridge

Further Ahead

Paws on the Square - fun for four-legged friends and their people in Jack London Square, including some specials from dog-friendly restaurants (Wednesdays in October)

Harvest at the Hacienda - special reception for teachers, principals and administrators to learn about the educational opportunities at historic Peralta Hacienda (October 16)

Third Fridays at Blackball Universe - celebrating emerging artists

Autumn Lights at the Gardens at Lake Merritt - a festival of lights, fire, fun and food in the beautiful Gardens at Lake Merritt (October 17 and 18)

Ghost Investigation at Pardee Home Museum - Just in time for Halloween! (October 18)

Hella-Ween Fun Run - 5K fun run and costume contest in Old Oakland (October 25)

Farley's-to-Farley's Bike Parade and Custom Contest! - bike parade and costume contest starting at Farley's East and ending at Farley's on 65th (October 26)

'Class' fashion show - Fashion show from Underground Runway, at Transmission Gallery (November 1)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Saturday was the annual Oaktoberfest celebration in the Dimond. I don't make it every year, but I made a point of going this year because one of the music performers was the legendary Pete Escovedo. The weather was hot, but tons of people came out to drink beer, eat food, listen to music, and generally have a good time.

A video of the Bavarian dancing:

A video of some young people playing with Pete Escovedo's band:

Lots more pictures from Oaktoberfest:

Friday, October 3, 2014

fall color

We're in the midst of our usual fall heat wave, where offshore winds drive away @KarlTheFog, raise temperatures and fire danger, and make some Bay Area folks think "earthquake weather". Although our fall is nothing like back east, we do get some fall color.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Broads Run Broadway

From the painted ladies featured yesterday, we go to The Pink Ladies. Saturday evening was an Oakland running event, Broads Run Broadway, put on by the same group that does the Oakland Marathon. I was there with Oakland Firefighters Random Acts to help with the inflatable screen, projector and sound system. After the race, there was a costume contest, then we showed the sing-along version of Grease.

More pictures:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

photo of the week: painted ladies

Ispotted these colorfully painted Victorians along Foothill on my way between events on Saturday.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pawfest 2014

Saturday was a fun event in Dimond Park celebrating the change that allow dogs in most Oakland city parks. There were many happy dogs and happy dog lovers.
More pictures:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

walking tour: Old Oakland

Wednesday I played hooky from work. I started with a walking tour of Old Oakland, one of 8 free walking tours the city sponsors. I've been on the tour multiple times before, but I wanted to hear my friend John Tuttle and I still learn stuff even when I go on the same tour multiple times. One nice addition to the tour that John made was a brief trip into Pacific Coast Brewing to see their historic bar and learn a bit about how beer is brewed. I added in a bit about the history of beer in Oakland. At the time the buildings in Old Oakland were built, beer was a big deal, with multiple breweries (like the Brooklyn Brewery) and countless saloons.

We finished the tour in front of what was the 7th Street train station. One person on the walk was visiting from Canada and expressed interesting in learning more about Oakland in his limited time, so I walked with him past some murals (including the amazing new one on Alice Street), the Tribune Tower, and a few other notable locations. I left him happily checking out the pictures and displays at the Oakland History Room, and returned to Pacific Coast Brewing for some lunch.

The city walking tours are free, at 10AM on Wednesdays and Saturdays through October. They're a great way to learn about Oakland, so check 'em out.

More pictures from the walk and afterwards:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

waterfall at Temescal restored

The EBRPD park at Lake Temescal recently got an old feature back. Most people probably didn't know it even existed because even when it was running, it was usually just a trickle. Now the Works Progress Administration project from the 1930s is back to its former glory. Read more: Lake Temescal waterfall restored, flowing again.

Next time you're near Lake Temescal and looking for a peaceful spot, walk up the stairs and check it out. Although there are two freeways nearby, the sounds of the water make it a surprisingly serene location.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Oakland Schools, Students, and the Planet Win With #MeatlessMonday

Meatless Monday is a concept that goes back to WWI, as a resource-saving measure during the war. It came back during WWII and through the post-war years to help feed a war-torn Europe. The modern movement in the U.S. began in 2003 when the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health re-launched the effort, with the message of "one day a week, cut out meat" as a way for individuals to do something good for themselves and for the planet.

It's a pretty simple idea. Raising meat takes a lot of resources (including one near and dear to the hearts of Californians, namely water), a lot more than the equivalent nutrition from plants. Eating too much meat can lead to health problems. So eat less meat, use fewer resources, be healthier—a win all around. While a lot of people aren't willing to give up meat or all animal products full-time, if they all ate less meat, we would all benefit. If the world consumed 15% less meat, it would be like taking 240,000 cars off the road each year.

The Baltimore public schools became the first major public school system to do Meatless Mondays in 2009; the Oakland Unified School District started in 2010. Overall the reception from the students has been positive. After tasting one dish, a 4th grader told his cafeteria manager, "I want to eat this forever!". The staff love Meatless Monday, too, and are working on expanding the vegetarian options which are available during the rest of the week as well.

The OUSD Department of Nutrition Services isn't stopping there. They've also recently started a "California Thursdays" program, as part of a USDA Farm to School program. it's all California-produced goods, many from the Bay Area. And of course, it includes some meatless options, too.

So are OUSD's meatless recipes the real deal? The Humane Society of the United States thinks so. They held a national Meatless Monday recipe contest, and while OUSD's "Yakisoba Noodles with Stir Fried Tofu and Bok Choy" recipe didn't win, it was one of the finalists and is what the 4th grader loves so much. The recipes of all the finalists can be found here (PDF), so try one out and give #MeatlessMonday a try. It's good for you and for the planet.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

upcoming #Oakland events

Fun things going on this weekend in Oakland. Unfortunately for the drought, the rain will have stopped by then, so get out and enjoy Oakland!

Thursday - tonight

Oak Barrel Bash - the annual fund-raiser for Rebuilding Together Oakland, with wine, beer, food, auction, and more.


Park(ing) Day - enjoy some temporary (and a couple permanent) public spaces, where parking has been turned into space for people instead of cars.

Eat Real Festival - food, drinks, and fun all weekend at Jack London Square.

Portraits of a Modern World opening reception @ Blackball Universe


Creek to Bay Day - help clean up Oakland's creeks and parks, from the hills to the Bay. There are dozens of sites to volunteer at all over Oakland.

Eat Real Festival - food, drinks, and fun all weekend at Jack London Square.

The After Life opening reception @ Compound Gallery

Youth Public Safety Day - free event put on the the Oakland Black Officers Association, with food, fun, music, safety vehicles for touring, and more.


OMCA Bike Tours - tour downtown Oakland (or Alameda) by bike with the Oakland Museum.

NorCal Climate Rally - show your support for the world's leaders to act on climate change

Art in Nature - The Nature of Art - outdoor art festival at Redwood Regional Park.

Fired In Oakland: The History & Future Of California Ceramic Sculpture - Friends of the Oakland Art Murmur host a discussion, showing, and sale of ceramic sculpture. Food from Duende and wine from Cerruti Cellars.

Eat Real Festival - food, drinks, and fun all weekend at Jack London Square.

Further Ahead

Oakland Music Festival - Saturday, September 27.

Paws on the Square - Wednesday, October 1. A new dog-centric event at Jack London Square.

Chasing History: Observations / Explorations opening reception @ Transmission Gallery - Friday, October 3

Oaktoberfest in the Dimond - Saturday, October 4. Annual festival with beer, food, and family fun. This year's music includes legendary Oakland percussionist Pete Escovedo.

Bike Parade - Sunday, October 26. A bike parade and costume contest from Farley's East to Farley's on 65th, in partnership with WOBO.

Ongoing Art Shows

Amen @ Betti Ono Gallery - Betti Ono is celebrating four years with work from Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski, and writer, Carrie Y. T. Kholi (khoLi.)

Inhabiting Space @ Gray Loft Gallery

Monday, September 15, 2014

Oakland Urban Paths: Julia Morgan

Saturday was a different kind of Oakland Urban Paths walk. Instead of focusing on a single area, we focused on a single person, noted architect Julia Morgan. She's best known for designing Hearst Castle, but she designed over 700 buildings in California, including some noted examples here in Oakland. OUP co-founder Dan Schulman had his work cut out for him in planning the walk, as Morgan's works are spread all over Oakland. About 50 people and quite a few dogs joined us for a longer than normal walk.

We started at the corner of Harrison and Bay Place in Adams Point. Although the building that now houses Whole Foods wasn't designed by Julia Morgan, it has an interesting history, too. It was built as a powerhouse and car barn for the short-lived Consolidated Piedmont Cable Co.'s cable car line (yep, Oakland had cable cars for a time.) Next door the Piedmont Baths used the excess heat from the boilers to heat water for their pools. The building was later redesigned into a car dealership. Dan told us about Julia Morgan's education at Oakland High School, UC Berkeley, and the prestigious École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where Morgan became the first woman to receive a certificate in architecture.

Our route took us past a number of Julia Morgan-designed houses, including several with ties to Oakland history. The McElroy House belonged to city attorney John McElroy, who is remembered with a fountain in Lakeside Park. The Joe & Rose Shoong House belonged to National Dollar Store founder Joe Shoong. Shoong and his son were generous with their fortune, and donated to a variety of causes including support for several attractions at Children's Fairyland.

Some people elected to take a shorter route back to our start, while the rest of us headed towards Piedmont Avenue. There we saw a rare example of Julia Morgan's commercial building designs, the Fred C. Turner Shopping Center. From there it was a short walk to the King's Daughters Home. It was designed as a home for incurables, which in those days included people with the infirmities of old age or strokes, as well as those with diseases like tuberculosis that they had no cure for. Julia Morgan donated her work for the design, and after her brother Sam died, Morgan's mother Eliza Morgan donated money for the special front gateway on Broadway.

The official end of our walk was in front of Chapel of the Chimes which Morgan did some design work on, and Mountain View Cemetery, where Julia Morgan and the rest of her family are buried below a modest marker. But a few diehards wanted to see the Morgan grave, so we continued on into the cemetery. We passed by the Ayer and Hockenbeamer graves, which Morgan is said to have designed the markers for, and I pointed out some other notable graves along the way, as well as told people about the Mountain View Cemetery tours given by docents.

Thanks to Dan for leading the walk and doing the needed research, and thanks everyone and everywoof who came on the walk, whether you turned back early or went all the way to the Morgan grave. Next month's walk will be in Butters Canyon, led by local historian and author Dennis Evanosky. More details as they become available.

Some notable Julia Morgan designed buildings in Oakland that we didn't visit (or we'd probably still be walking) include:

Lots more pictures from the walk:

Google map of our route.

Friday, September 12, 2014

bookstores in downtown

Ithought the big bookstore news was that after 13 years, the Laurel Bookstore is moving downtown. For a variety of reasons (less foot traffic since the Food Co. formerly Lucky's closed, desire for a bigger space for events, etc.) it makes sense, though it is a loss for the Laurel neighborhood in general, and a big boost for downtown.

But I discovered while I was riding around downtown on Thursday that the Bookmark Bookstore (run by Friends of the Oakland Public Library) isn't the only bookstore downtown (with no offense to De Lauer's News Stand, which also sells some books). There are in fact two bookstores already downtown, albeit very small ones.

First I ran across Wolfman Books on 13th, whose sign advertises "a wild vortex of books flying right at you". Their selection is small, but as suggested by their sign is eclectic and interesting. Their website says "E. M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore", but I'm not sure I'd fully agree with any of that besides 'interest', 'small' and 'bookstore'. When I dropped in there was a lively discussion about the nature of God and a host of other things. There was also some art on display, but I was too distracted by the books and the discussion to fully appreciate it. They've been open less than a year.

I was pretty excited to learn about one new bookstore, but they told me about another new bookstore downtown, Bergeron's Books. They're also a small bookstore, but with a narrower focus on used books, mostly fantasy and science fiction. But they have art on display that's for sale, and hold a variety of events, only some of which are related to books.

So next time you're downtown and looking for books, check out De Lauer's, Bookmark Bookstore, or one of the new kids on the block, Bergeron's or Wolfman's.