Monday, December 26, 2016

Oakland Trails: Dimond to Chabot

Yesterday, K and I joined Stan Dodson and a small, hearty group to hike from Dimond to Chabot Space and Science Center. Stan is the manager of La Farine Bakery on Fruitvale where we began the hike. But he's also the founder of and the producer of the documentary Trailhead: Discovering Oakland's Gateway to the Redwoods. We were joined on the hike by local historian (and Legendary Local) Dennis Evanosky, who is also part of the documentary.

It didn't take long from our start before we were in Dimond Park. There we got our first look at Sausal Creek. A restoration project that was completed earlier this year included daylighting a 180 foot section of the creek that had been culverted for decades. It's made a huge difference in the park, adding both the to visual beauty but also the support for local wildlife. We continued up the Sausal Creek watershed into Dimond Canyon, and saw some of the projects that the volunteers have been involved in. Stan's fundraiser for the Trailhead documentary was so successful that he had some money left to have trail markers made for the route, too. Which is a good thing, as the route takes a few non-obvious turns.

We stopped at various points to catch our breath, hear some info from Stan or some history from Dennis, or just admire the views. Even with the stops, we finished the 5.5 mile, 1,500+ foot climb in about 2.5 hours. At Chabot, we hopped on an AC Transit bus for a 10-minute ride back to our start on Fruitvale Ave. It's amazing to have such a beautiful, natural area within the bounds of Oakland, and that can be reached on foot, by transit or by car. From the trails near Chabot, you can connect to hundreds of miles of trails, including the 550-mile Bay Ridge Trail.

Stan leads the hikes not just for the general public, but for school groups, after-school programs and others. And does trail maintenance, patrols the parks to help users and looks for fallen trees and other hazards, and works to improve the trails. To donate or volunteer, check out to learn more. You can watch the Trailhead documentary there, too. You don't need to wait for one of Stan's guided hikes, though. Maps are available online, trail markers are there, so get out and explore some of the natural beauty here in Oakland!

See the photos full-size here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Oakland Urban Paths: Buffers and Boundaries

The other Saturday urban planner Ruth Miller led about 50 people (and one dog!) on an Oakland Urban Paths walk exploring some buffers and boundaries in Oakland. We started the walk at MacArthur BART with option return by AC Transit bus, making it easily the most transit-friendly walk we've done.

At MacArthur BART we looked at the transit village that's in progress; the BART parking and housing on BART property is completed. From there we meandered above and along 40th Street, talking about transit past (Sacramento Northern Railway, Key System) and present (AC Transit, bike super-sharrow).

Some of the other points of interest and people we saw and talked about:

It was a great walk. Thanks to Ruth for leading us, Charlie for doing his best to keep us safe, and special shout-out for everyone who climbed the hill on Jean Street just so we could go down the stairs on Bonham Way.
The December walk will be a Rockridge ramble, with lots of stairs. Hope to see you on the paths!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Birding at MLK Shoreline

The other weekend K and I went birding at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Shoreline. The walk was advertised as accessible and for beginning birders, and was led by Clay Anderson and others from the California Center for Natural History. We saw a Cooper's hawk, great blue heron, lesser egrets, pelicans, and more. But the thing that got the more experienced birders excited was seeing a Ridgway's rail (formerly known as a clapper rail), a bird which is a near-threatened species. It's also less common to see because of its nature—it spends most of its time in long marsh grass. So you'll hear them more than you'll see them, at least once you recognize the call.

Check out more birding walks with the California Center for Natural History and with the Rotary Nature Center at Lake Merritt.

More photos from our birding walk.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Oakland Urban Paths: Exploring the Hayward Fault

On Saturday, local historian and author Dennis Evanosky led Oakland Urban Paths on a walk exploring the Hayward Fault, as well as some other interesting bits of geology between the Redwood Heights Recreation Center and the Mormon Temple. We're in the early stages of using a registration system to get a better handle on the size of the walks, so instead of 125 people like we had a couple years ago when Dennis last led this walk for us, we were closed to a much more manageable 60 people (and 2 dogs).

We started at the rec center, then went past the nearby Redwood Heights Elementary School. Unfortunately, after the school was built, a trace of the fault was found to be very close by. To comply with a state law that wasn't yet in effect regarding the minimum distance between fault lines and schools, they tore down the multi-purpose building and removed part of the main building that was too close.

We also looked at a sag pond which is now an EBMUD reservoir, learned about 35th Avenue's role as a way to transport redwoods from the hills down to the harbor, and talked about the Gold Star Streets which were named for locals who died in WWI.

Along Rettig, we walked a peaceful stretch of road beside a stretch of Peralta Creek. It's peaceful because a landslide shut off access to the road, and it was decided to keep it closed after the cleanup.

After some climbing, we came to the site of the London Road Slide. This slow-moving slide in 1970 destroyed a section of London Road, along with 14 houses, but it could have been a lot more spectuclar because of the jet fuel pipeline that used to run through the area.

More climbing took us to the Mormon Temple, where we saw groups from several quincea├▒eras (a Latina celebration of a girl's 15th birthday) getting their pictures taken, and the beautiful gardens and fountain on the temple grounds.

Thanks to Dennis for leading the walk, and to everyone who came out for it. And thank you for your patience as we figure out the registration system. November's walk will be "Buffers and Boundaries," led by Ruth Miller. See the walk calendar for more information, and hope to see you on the paths!


See the pictures individually here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

photo of the week: The Necklace of Lights

The other night while waiting for K, I walked down by Lake Merritt. It was a balmy evening, and very pleasant to just sit and people watch and enjoy the lights.

This is the second permanent necklace of lights; the first was installed in 1925, then shut off during WWII because of blackout restrictions. But the original necklace wasn't lit every night, only for special occasions. The current necklace dates from 1985, and we have The Lake Merritt Breakfast Club and numerous donors to thank for it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2016 Delilah Beasley Tea

Sunday I took pictures at the 5th annual Delilah Beasley Tea. About 100 years ago, Delilah Beasley was the first black woman to published regularly in a major U.S. newspaper, and was the author of a ground-breaking book on the contributions of blacks in the early settling of California. Each year, P.O.W.E.R. (Progressive Oakland Women Empowering Reform) honors a remarkable woman while remembering the accomplishments of those in the past. This year's honoree was Kimberly Ellis (on the left), the executive director of Emerge California.

Lots more pictures of the 2016 Delilah Beasley Tea.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

photos: view from above

Last week Annalee Allen and I did a presentation about Oakland history at the Lake Park Retirement Community, focused on some of the landmarks in Oakland and the people behind them. It went well, though I didn't sell any copies of Legendary Locals of Oakland, but what I was really excited about was a chance to check out the view from the roof. The building is on Alice Street near Snow Park, and has views of Lake Merritt, downtown, and beyond. Maybe someday I'll be able to afford a drone camera, but for now, tall buildings will have to do.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

We're here! We're here!

It's been a busy month. But (mostly) busy in a good way:

That's only the highlights, and there's almost 1/4 of the month to go! Which is all to say, I may not get around to posting about all these events anytime soon... Especially since I have regular, paying work to do, too.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Oakland Urban Paths: Montclair and the Sacramento Northern Railway

On Saturday, there was a nice turnout for the Oakland Urban Paths walk exploring Montclair and the history of the Sacramento Northern Railway. About 50 people and 3 dogs joined us for a hilly walk with several sets of stairs.

Links to the websites I mentioned:

We started in Montclair Park near the duck pond, which dates back to the days of the J. H. Medau Dairy. A short distance away was our first stop, the 1927 storybook Montclair Firehouse. It was not designed by noted architect Julia Morgan, but Eldred E. Edwards of the Oakland Public Works Department. Because of seismic issues (the Hayward Fault is nearby), accessibility, and other problems, it has stood empty since 1989.

At the corner of Thornhill and Moraga, we talked about the Sacramento Northern Railway. It started as two railroads, the Oakland, Antioch and Eastern which ran from Oakland to Sacramento, and the Northern Electric Railway that ran from Sacramento to Chico. The railroad connected with the Key System and used their tracks beyond 40th and Shafter, and for a time, even crossed the Bay Bridge.

Around the block onto Fernwood, we came to the former location of the Fernwood estate. It was first the country estate of Legendary Local of Oakland, Jack Coffee Hays. The area was referred to as Hays Canyon or Jack Hays Canyon for many years. After he died, his wife sold the property to William Dingee, of Oakland Water Company fame. Dingee built an opulent 19-room Queen-Anne style mansion, and had additional landscaping done with gardens, terraces and waterfalls. He also added such features as a deer park and an elk paddock. Unfortunately the home (and lots of artwork inside it) were destroyed in an 1899 fire. The land was then sold to the Realty Syndicate.

After a quick stop at the Montclair Women's Club and the storybook Montclair Library (also not designed by Julia Morgan), we headed up our first set of stairs to Cabot Dr. Down Cabot and up Mountain Blvd. took us to another set of stairs up to Magellan Drive. The stairs continue up to Gaspar Drive near Snake Road, but we headed down to the Montclair Railroad Trail.

There we talked more about the Sacramento Northern, and about Highway 77, a highway that was planned but fortunately not built. It would have gone up Shepherd Canyon and through to Moraga; on the other side of Highway 13, it would have followed Park Blvd. and 14th Avenue over to I-880 (then Highway 17). People fought against the freeway plan, and with work by California assembly member Ken Meade, the plans were changed.

A walk through the parking garage(!) to see some murals, then past more murals on the drugstore and the yogurt store we came back to Moraga Avenue. Given the warm day, some people opted to head back to the start, but some intrepid souls joined me for one last hill and stairway. Across Highway 13 and then down Bruns Court took us to a pedestrian bridge which crosses both the highway and Moraga Avenue, to return us to our starting point.

Thanks to everyone who came out for the walk, thanks to our volunteer speaker carrier, and special thanks to Charlie for once again bringing up the rear to make sure we didn't lose anyone. Hope to see you on the paths!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

photo of the week: Reflected Sky

We had interesting clouds in the sky on Wednesday, and they made for even more interesting reflections off the building.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Oakland Book Fesitval

Today was the second annual Oakland Book Festival. I couldn't make last year's, but this year's was great—lots of people turned out to learn about and talk about books and their impact on society, but mostly to celebrate books.

I was particularly interested in the session on Jack London, "The 100 Year Call of the Wild". 2016 marks 100 years since Jack London's death (and only 140 years since his birth; he died at 40). The panelists included Tarnel Abbott, great-granddaughter of Jack London, and a political activist in her own right; Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, college professor, and author of an upcoming biography on Jack's second wife, Charmian Kittredge London; Steven Lavoie, historian, poet, and librarian, currently in charge of the Temescal branch; Jay Williams, founding publisher and editor of the Jack London Journal, and author. The moderator was Jack Boulware, co-founder of Litquake.

Kudos to the moderator, Jack Boulware. You could do a whole conference on Jack London and his writing, so to keep things moving in the hour and 15 minutes available was quite a feat. Given the constraints, I'm sure everyone who attended wishes some aspect could have gotten more time, but there was one clear takeaway, even for those relatively new to Jack London: Jack was a complex and imperfect person; his writing and his beliefs were complicated, and evolved over time. To try to answer any question about him with a simple answer is to disregard the facts.

I'm guessing any of the other sessions were at least as interesting; I know for myself, I wish I'd had the time and energy to check out pretty much everything at the festival. But shoutouts to Nia King, Luan Stauss, and Brad Johnson for representing Oakland!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Oakland Urban Paths: Sibley Regional Volcanic Preserve

On Saturday, local historian and author Dennis Evanosky led Oakland Urban Paths on a hike through Sibley Regional Volcanic Preserve. It was quite a bit less urban than our regular walks; there were no stairs, no streets to cross, and instead of worrying about traffic, our biggest concerns were poison oak and cow pies.

Dennis told us some about the geology of the area. The peak, Round Top, is an ancient volcano. It sits between two faults, the Hayward Fault to the west, and the Calaveras Fault to the east. Over time, the volcano was tipped on its side. Much of this wouldn't be visible, except Kaiser Sand and Gravel quarried in the area for basalt, and resulting digs exposed more of the underlying geology.

At the bottom of several former quarries, labyrinths have been constructed. Unlike mazes, which have any number of false routes and dead ends, a labyrinth has a single path from the outside to the center. The size is usually measured by the number of turns, i.e., how many times the path doubles back. Walking a labyrinth can be an act of meditation; I would guess constructing one could be, too.

Along with geology, there were lots of wildflowers to look at, and a variety of birds, including crows, a red-tailed hawk, and in the distance, a turkey.

Our final stop gave us a view of another ancient volcano, Vollmer Peak (formerly known as Bald Peak) in Berkeley, the Caldecott Tunnel, and the site of the eastern end of the former Kennedy Tunnel. A great hike—many thanks to Dennis for leading it, and to the 45 or so folks who came out to participate.

The next regular OUP walk will be Saturday, June 11th, but we haven't decided which walk we'll do. On Saturday, June 4th, there will be a special walk in the Golden Gate neighborhood as part of Love Our Neighborhood Day. Note the different start time.

More photos from the hike:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Happy Birthday, Oakland!

Today marks the 164th anniversary of Oakland being incorporated as a town. This was something of a surprise to the residents of what had been the village of Contra Costa, but that was never the kind of thing to slow down Horace Carpentier. He went on to become Oakland's first mayor, winning by more votes than there were voters.

In honor of Oakland's birthday, I'm releasing a new feature here on Our Oakland, "Today in Oakland history...". It appears in the upper right, and will show you a list of events of significance from that day in Oakland history.

In most cases the entries are links to the Oakland Wiki, where you can find out more about the event or person in question. I haven't found events for every day yet, but it's a good start.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

signs: Altenheim

Not the usual metal or neon signs of Oakland I post, a sign for the Altenheim. It was originally built in 1896 as a retirement home for people of German descent. That building burned down in 1908, and the current building completed in 1909. Read more about the Altenheim on the Oakland Wiki.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

photo of the week: The Living and the The Dead

Lots of dead people, and thanks to the rain last week and sun this week, lots of living flowers and grass in St. Mary's Cemetery.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

signs: Farmer Joe's

No, not that Farmer Joe's. About 1973, Farmer Joe's opened on Lakeshore. It's not related to the two Farmer Joe's on MacArthur and on Fruitvale. Apparently it was run by Joe Sasso, who also had a stand at College and Claremont. Sometime in the 1980s it changed to Lakeshore Produce. The sign was revealed recently when Peet's decided to expand, and Lakeshore Produce had to move up the street, where they are now at 3312 Lakeshore.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Oakland Urban Paths walk: Cleveland Heights and Borax Smith

On Saturday we had an overwhelming turnout for the Oakland Urban Paths walk focused on the Cleveland Heights neighborhood and the nearby former home of "Borax" Smith. A record 132 people enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather to learn about this part of Oakland.

We started at the Cleveland Cascade, a water feature on the shores of Lake Merritt, built in 1923. It fell into disrepair, but a group of neighbors has cleaned it up and is raising money to restore it. Keeping our eyes out for gnomes, we wound our way around to the middle of the Haddon Hill neighborhood. It started as an exclusive development in 1912 by Wickham Havens, son of Frank C. Havens.

We had a longer stop at 552 Montclair Avenue. This c.1897 Victorian was built for Judge Edward C. Robinson and his family, including son Bestor Robinson who was law partners with Earl Warren and led the Sierra Club for many years. The house has lots its "witches hat" and been divided into apartments, and the tankhouse has lost its tank and windmill, but it's still a spectacular property.

Our path took us past the Park Community Garden (the artwork I mentioned, "Her Resilience", has been moved indoors for the rainy season) and a couple of murals, including one by Peter Lee. After walking past several beautiful apartment buildings that date back to the 1920s and 1930s, we stopped to talk about "Borax" Smith.

Francis Marion Smith, known as Frank to his friends, and to his consternation, "Borax" Smith to the rest of the world, was a legendary local of Oakland. After making a fortune in borax (used as a cleanser), he invested in Oakland. He was the force behind the creation of the Key System street cars; the Realty Syndicate (where he partnered with Frank C. Havens) developed areas of Oakland and built the Claremont Hotel. His estate was called Arbor Villa; the row of tall palm trees on 9th Avenue marked one edge of the estate. While the grounds and the magnificent Oak Hall were being constructed, Frank and his wife Mary moved into the "old red house" (currently painted green) nearby. The Smiths entertained and hosted fundraising events in a grand style: "The most brilliant affair of the week of course was the reception which Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Smith gave on Wednesday evening at their charming home, Arbor Villa, in East Oakland, to which over 1300 guests from both sides of the bay were bidden." (April 23, 1899 San Francisco Call).

Mary R. Smith was inspired by reading Benjamin Farjeon's Blade O' Grass about orphans in London, and the Smiths took in a number of young girls. Frank gave her some land nearby, and they set up a trust. The Mary Smith Home for Friendless Girls became home to numerous orphaned girls. The girls lived in cottages, each run by a house mother; the older girls helped take of the younger girls. Many of the cottages, including one designed by Julia Morgan, still stand.

Our final big stop was across from the Haddon Hill home of industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. We also looked at some former steps that used to go from the end of Haddon Rd. down to MacArthur Blvd. Those are closed off, and the statue that graced the plinth is long gone.

Thanks to everyone who came out for the walk! The regular second Saturday walk for March 12th hasn't been set yet, but there will be a special walk on Saturday, March 19th, focused on women's history. Check the website calendar for more info, and hope to see you on the paths!

More photos from the walk here.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

photo of the week: colors

Yesterday, K and I toured some of the galleries taking part in the Saturday Art Stroll, the quieter alternative to First Fridays. We talked with artist John W. Wood for a while (we've seen his artwork before, at Gray Loft Gallery in Jingletown), and he showed us a few of the tools he uses to create his art.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jack London History Walk

Last Saturday, Oakland Urban Paths and Annalee Allen of the Oakland Walking Tours program collaborated on a special walking tour exploring the Oakland of author Jack London. While Oakland has changed a lot since Jack London's time, there are still a lot of connections to the Oakland he would have known. 71 people (and 2 dogs) braved the chance of rain to join us.

The logical place to start on a Jack London tour is Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon in Jack London Square. Jack studied there as a child, and based some of the characters in his writing on the sailors and others he saw there. And later, Johnny Heinold loaned Jack the money to attend the University of California (though Jack decided after a year that university wasn't for him.) On the back of Heinold's is a large mural called "Hello Jack" that features things from Jack's life: Jennie Prentiss, the woman born into slavery who did much of the raising of Jack; his cabin in the Yukon; the Snark, his boat that he sailed the South Seas on; Wolf House, the mansion he and Charmian had built in Glen Ellen; and more. The cabin from the Yukon is just beyond the deck of Heinold's. Well, part of it, anyway. Part is in Dawson, part is in Oakland, and pieces have been replaced as needed.

From Jack London Square, we went up to the Oakland Grill, where Jack is featured in another mural, along with other figures from Oakland's history. Then it was up to Lincoln Square in Chinatown, where we talked about Jack and Charmian's South Seas voyages, Jack's photography, his time as a war correspondent, and his portrayal of other races in his writing. Jack was raised by a black woman, but wrote about a "great white hope" to defeat black boxer Jack Johnson; he wrote about the "yellow peril" of Asian immigrants, but also wrote full, rich characterizations of non-whites in some of his novels; etc.

We walked past the Hotel Oakland. When it was completed in 1912, Jack and Charmian had moved to Beauty Ranch in Glen Ellen, but it would have been a notable new presence during his return visits to Oakland. A short distance away is the original site of the University of California. By the time Jack attended in 1897, the university had moved to its newly-built campus in Berkeley. But one of the buildings of the original campus became the Dietz Opera House, the first theater in Oakland. Jack later spoke to audiences there, and the local Socialist party had their headquarters in the building.

On the way to the Jack London Oak in Frank Ogawa Plaza, we passed by the Athenian-Nile Club building. Built in 1901, Jack would have known it, because it was home to the "power elite" of Oakland and was just down from city hall and the Oakland Free Library. The oak tree wasn't planted until one year after Jack's death. Further down 14th Street, we stopped between the African American Museum and Library of Oakland (AAMLO) and the First Unitarian Church of Oakland. We talked more about Jenny Prentiss, who took Jack to church at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church (First AME), and about Jack's first wife, Elizabeth "Bessie" Maddern, who attended the Unitarian church.

Around the corner in Preservation Park, we looked at the Remillard House, where a young Jack London may have been tutored by Lillian Remillard (Dandini) in French. We talked about Preservation Park (one of the Oakland Walking Tours focuses on it), the Latham-Ducel Fountain, and the nearby Pardee Home Museum. These homes and ones like them would have been familiar to Jack. A quick walk took us through Old Oakland, where we looked at other buildings Jack would have known and talked briefly about Mayor John Davie (whose autobiography was titled His Honor, The Buckaroo.)

Heading back towards Jack London Square, we stopped to talk about the Hickmott Canning Company and Cole Grammar School in West Oakland. The Hickmott cannery was at 1st and Filbert, and was where Jack had one of his first jobs—stuffing pickles into jars, for 10¢ an hour, working 12-18 hour days. The noisy, dangerous conditions doubtless helped shaped some his views on workers' rights. Jack attended school at Cole, where J.P. Garlick was principal, and Jack's love of books was apparent: according to classmate Frank Atherton, Jack was "occupied with books. Not only did he apply himself diligently to his studies during class, but also during recess and the noon hour, he would sit on one of the benches in the school yard, reading some strange tale of romance and adventure, while other boys and girls were at play. ...he read many books some seeming far beyond the comprehension of a ten year old boy. And it was remarkable how well he remembered the details of so many stories." And Jack was no stranger in principal Garlick's office. Author James L. Haley in The Lives of Jack London wrote: The leader of the Cole School toughs was a budding young thug named Mike Pinella, who called Johnny a sissy, threw a book he was reading across the schoolyard, and was surprised to learn the "sissy" could hold his own. Both boys ended up in Mr. Garlick's office, who ruled that they would not be punished if they would embrace and make up. Mike Pinella was willing, but Johnny, his keen and growing sense of injustice offended, refused. "I'll take the licking, Mr. Garlick," he said. "I know I was in the right, and I'll do it again if I have to."

A brief rain shower sent a lot of people to their cars or other destinations, but others stuck with us to the end of the walk at the statue of Jack London at the base of Broadway. Thanks to everyone who came out for the walk. We hope to do the walk again later this year, though no date has been set.

Pictures from the walk

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Oakland Urban Paths walk: Brooklyn

On Saturday, about 70 people and 5 dogs joined Oakland Urban Paths for a walk exploring the former town of Brooklyn, east of Lake Merritt. There were overcast skies, but we managed to get a break in the (much-needed) rain. Last year local historian Robert Perricone led this walk for OUP, but we changed things up a little this year.

The town of Brooklyn was formed in 1856 by the merger of two smaller settlements, Clinton and San Antonio, and later annexed the town of Lynn just to the north. It was named for the ship Brooklyn which brought Mormon settlers to California in 1846. County supervisor Thomas Eagar suggested the name; he'd been a passenger on the Brooklyn. The town didn't last too long; in 1872, voters approved annexation by Oakland. But it's worth noting that most all of what is now Oakland that wasn't already part of Oakland or the town of Brooklyn was called Brooklyn Township, so an older location name might refer to either.

Next to Clinton Square Park where we met had been the home of Hiram Tubbs, who made his fortune in making rope, and was one of the founders of Mountain View Cemetery. A house built for one of his daughters and son-in-law, the Tubbs-Henshaw House, still stands across International Blvd. Locally, Tubbs was best known for building the palatial Tubbs Hotel, which filled the next block over. Gertrude Stein lived there with her family when they first moved to Oakland. Writer Robert Louis Stevenson stayed there. "Borax" Smith met his first wife Mary at a dance at the Tubbs Hotel (February's walk will be about Cleveland Heights and the former Borax Smith estate.) Unfortunately, the building burned in 1893. The fire department didn't have enough water to fight the huge fire, so all they could do was join the crowd of onlookers and watch the spectacle.

Stein left Oakland in 1891 after her parents died, and didn't return until 1935. During that time, the Tubbs Hotel burned down, the family house was torn down, Oakland's population increased from 35,000 to nearly 300,000, and the bucolic neighborhood where the family had lived was now full of apartment buildings and nearby Highland Hospital. The Oakland of her childhood was gone, and you can't go home again—that's what she meant by "there's no there there".

We stopped and talked about lots of places, some dating back to when it was the town of Brooklyn, and some more recent. One place where we all learned something new as the Vue du Lac Apartments at the corner of Foothill and 3rd Avenue. The building was constructed in 1906 by Charles MacGregor, known as "the builder of Albany" where he constructed about 1,500 homes over the years. He was also called "One-Nail MacGregor", either in a jab at his being overly thrifty, or (more likely) a compliment at the quality of his buildings.

At the Ellen Kenna House, a spectacular Victorian that Ellen Kenna had built in 1888, there were questions about the front door, or more to the point, what appeared to be the lack of one. According to the current owner, "Ellen Kenna owned the block from 12th to 13th Ave. The Valentine Mansion across the street was also situated with its front facing 13th. After Ellen died and it became a hospital, several small homes were built for the staff on the 13th Avenue side (the front). These, too, were eventually subdivided and the stairs coming from the front were awkwardly redirected towards East 21st Street." Alas, he has to sell the home, so while tons of restoration work have restored much of the former glory of the home, he won't have time for the rest of the changes.

Thanks to volunteer Charlie Lenk for helping with the walk, and thank you to him, John Rengstoff and Ed Matney for the use of some of their photos:

Some of the other points of interest and people we talked about include:
Hiram Tubbs
Tubbs Hotel
Tubbs-Henshaw House
Mountain View Cemetery
Intertribal Friendship House
First Swedish Baptist Church
Vue du Lac Apartments
Asa White House
Our Savior Danish Lutheran Church
1819 - 7th Avenue
Tower House
James Presho House
Harbor House Ministries
Clinton Shrine
Quan Am Tu Shrine
Ellen Kenna House
Mother's Cookies
Sunset Telephone Company
St. James Episcopal Church
Brooklyn Presbyterian Church
Brooklyn Firehouse
Fowler Block
Random Parts mural
Olander's Saloon
Brooklyn Basin project
East Oakland Brewing Company
Brooklyn Brewery
Palm Trees
Oakland Gnomes
(And something we don't have an Oakland Wiki page on, the TARDIS, which was seen on a nearby roof.)

There's even more in the area, which we didn't have time to cover, or which only got a brief mention:
Elizabeth Flood
Brooklyn Colored School
Williams Block
John A. Wilds
En El Libro Tu Libertad Mural
Malaquias Montoya
Plaza Theater Teatro
Central Block
Dr. William Bamford House
David Carrick House
Asa Howard House
Palm Terrace
Captain Henry E. Nichols House

Get out and explore on your own! You can also join us on Saturday, January 23rd, for a special walk about author Jack London. Our regular walk on February, 13th, will focus on Cleveland Heights and the former "Borax" Smith estate in Ivy Hill.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

signs: Marcus Books

It's been a while since I did a post about a cool Oakland sign. OK, it's been a while since I did any post. I dropped K off at MacArthur BART today, and the weather was glorious. We were in a rush to make sure she got her scheduled train, but that didn't stop me from noticing how amazing Marcus Books and the murals on the outside looked in the break in the weather. So after I dropped her off, I swung around and took some pictures of the sign, building and murals.