Friday, January 31, 2014

food: Bacheesos

Last weekend K and I planned to get some breakfast, take a walk part way around the lake, and then check out Latham Memorial Fountain Unveiled: a Conversation About Art and History. Our first two choices were packed, with long waits for a table. So we continued along Grand Ave. and decided to try Bacheesos, which features Mediterranean food, with a brunch buffet available in the morning.

Shortly after we arrived, a musician set up and began playing the accordion. He was very talented, and had a bunch of self-recorded CDs for sale, with everything from French and Italian music to classical to pop music. My favorite he performed was an excellent cover of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. Given the beautiful, (unfortunately) non-rainy weather, we sat on the patio and listened to the music for a while after we finished.

The food was very good, if not all clearly labeled at the buffet. And for the $10.95 price, you get to go fill your plate twice. If you don't leave somewhere between full and pleasantly stuffed, it's your own fault.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

King Tides walk along the estuary

Today the Friends of Sausal Creek and Waterfront Action hosted a walk along the estuary to look at the effects of the King Tide. The walk was led by local historian Dennis Evanosky, and despite being on a Thursday, there was a large turn out, with 50 people and 4 dogs.

We started the Fruitvale Bridge Park, which is where Sausal Creek flows into the estuary. If you weren't familiar with the area, it probably didn't look much different, but it's clear in the above photos how much higher the water was for the King Tide. Particularly notice the gravel bank to the left that's completely gone when the water is high. Normally there's a small drop from Sausal Creek into the estuary; instead the water was high enough to flow back into the culvert a ways.

As we walked along, Dennis told us about the history of the area, from the days of the Ohlones to the Spanish and the Peraltas to more recent times. The history isn't just cultural, it's also geographical. Sausal Creek used to flow freely into the estuary instead of being culverted much of the way, and the shore around the estuary was very different then. Most notably, Alameda was then a peninsula, and the areas near the shore where much marshier.

A nice easy walk, with lots of birds to see. If you want to see near the other end of Sausal Creek (actually, Palo Seco Creek which feeds into Sausal Creek), come on the Oakland Urban Paths walk on Saturday, February 8. That will be more of a hike on dirt trails, with lots of elevation to climb.

More pictures from the walk:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

photo of the week: Wilder Ranch State Park

Kand I needed a break from things and wanted some fresh air, so inspired by a tweet from @ProfCritic, we spent the day at Wilder Ranch State Park outside of Santa Cruz. Still super-hazy down there, but the air felt cleaner, and we saw amazing scenery, harbor seals, dolphins, a whale, and tons of birds.

The dolphins and whale were quite a ways from the shore and the sightings were brief, but we spent quite a while watching the waves, birds, and seals. I think the seals spent a lot of time watching people in return. We had dinner in Moss Beach on the way home, watched some of the Warriors game on TV, and spotted an Oaklandish shirt.

More pictures from the coast:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Oakland Urban Paths: Cleveland Heights and "Borax" Smith

Saturday about 65-70 people and 3 dogs joined Oakland Urban Paths for a walk around Cleveland Heights and the former "Borax" Smith estate near Park Blvd. It was a good crowd, considering the overcast skies and the threat hope of rain.

We started the walk at the bottom of the Cleveland Cascade, what was once a beautiful fountain. A neighborhood group that cleaned up the stairs and fountain in 2004 has added new railings and lights, and is working to raise funds to restore the fountain, too. Even with no water, the stairs are a popular place for Oaklanders to exercise.

At the top of the stairs, we saw where the right of way for Cleveland Street continues. We walked around the block (keeping an eye out for gnomes, sidewalk stamps, and other interesting things) and met up with Barbara Newcombe at the end of Cleveland Street. She was one of the original neighbors that re-discovered and cleaned up the cascade. One of her current projects is working with other neighbors to make a path through the right of way, so people can go directly from Cleveland Street to the top of the cascade and then to Lake Merritt, instead of going around the block like we did.

We walked up and down the hills, past beautiful houses, to Park Blvd. As we walked, people spotted the distinctive row of palm trees across the way. These trees mark the edge of Arbor Villa, the once palatial estate of "Borax" Smith. The trees are one of the last signs of the estate that featured numerous gardens, a deer paddock, a 5-story observation tower, a cattery, and the amazing Oak Hall. Oak Hall had at least 42 rooms including 15 bedrooms, a ballroom, a bowling alley, an attached conservatory, a huge pipe organ, and more.

In Oakland, "Borax" Smith is best remembered for creating the Key System and the Realty Syndicate, which created destinations like the Claremont Hotel and streetcar lines to get people out to see and purchase their real estate. Unfortunately the Key System is gone, just as Arbor Villa is.

Something that still survives in part are the cottages of the Mary Smith Home for Friendless Girls. Smith's first wife, Mary "Mollie" Smith started an orphanage for girls. On land north of Park Blvd., the trust built a number of cottages. Each was lead by a house mother, and had between 8 and 12 girls of varying ages. A number of the cottages are still there, including Evelyn Cottage, which was designed by noted architect Julia Morgan. Also still standing is "The Lodge", which served as the office for the orphanage. The house is privately owned, but still contains the built-in desk and other features left from its days as an office.

We meandered back towards the Cleveland Cascade, through the Haddon Hill neighborhood. There we saw a stairway that has been fenced in and overgrown, and a nearby home once owned by Henry J. Kaiser. Nearby, a beautiful flight of stairs took us to the street behind Our Lady of Lourdes church, and then a short walk took us back to our starting point.

Thanks to everyone and everywoof that came out for the walk. Hope to see you on the next OUP walk, on Saturday, February 8th!

More pictures:

Special thanks to Robert Perricone for the use of some of his photos from the walk.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Temescal Community Thrift Store moves into Hooper's Chocolates

If you've ever been on Telegraph in Temescal, you've doubtless noticed the unusual pink Cape Cod-style building with a sign for Hooper's Chocolates. After Hooper's closed in 2010, the building has mostly sat empty except for a brief stint as a skateboard shop. Now it's home to the Temescal Community Thrift Store's annex, which raises funds for the Temescal Community Foundation.

I heard about the re-use of Hooper's from Annalee Allen, who wrote a column about it in December. I was in the area the other day and stopped by to take a look, and get a peek at the former Hooper's interior. Besides cleaning and moving in lots of furniture and other thrift store items, they haven't changed anything. You can see the old candy display counters, now used to showcase jewelry and other small items. You can even see some bits of the old pink paint poking through.

Stop by and check it out, whether you've got some thrift store shopping to do or not, and see a bit of Oakland history.

More pictures:

Monday, January 13, 2014

photo of the week: stained glass

OK, technically this is a photo of last week. I was over to Mountain View Cemetery to investigate some Oakland history, and spent some time in the main mausoleum to do some genealogy research to thank others who have done research that I've benefited from. I haven't spent much time in the main mausoleum (seemed boring compared with interesting grave markers), so it was a good excuse to spend some time there. I followed some very detailed directions through the labyrinthine mausoleum and found the info I was looking for. Remembering the adage of the late Galen Rowell, I turned around and saw this lovely view.