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The Rabbit Hole

I started this blog because I have collected so much information on the history of Oakland that I couldn’t wait to share.  Posting in Facebook groups isn’t the best outlet for me.  I love sharing what I know and reading what others share.  But things get lost on Facebook.

So with the help of my dear friend Phil (setup and how to), I got started and I was off running, well sort of.  This should be easy I say to myself because, in my mind, I had already laid out actual pages and everything I wanted to say.

But it wasn’t.

I tend to get bogged down in the details.  I worry about not getting my facts correct.  It is hard for me to find a happy medium between too much and too little.  So, this is a work in progress, so bear with me.

Down The Hole, I Go

But I have digressed from the topic of this post.  Often when researching one thing you find something else that has nothing to do with what you are looking for, but it piques your interest.  That happens to me a lot.

You might know this as the “Internet rabbit hole”  you know when you try to research one thing, and then accidentally go to Wikipedia, and then you are trying to find out what happened to Jimmy Hoffa?   That is it in a nutshell.

One rabbit hole I get sucked into often is I will see a picture like this one and want to know more about it.

Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Apr_2__1911_ (1)
Oakland Tribune Apr. 02, 1911
  1. Location
  2. Is it still there?

Those two things can be very hard as sometimes the location is very vague and wrong.  Sometimes the location is correct in the form of an address right below the picture.  When looking up the location I am also curious as to who the house was being built for, were they famous or rich, maybe both?

I have compiled a lot of these pictures of newly built houses. I decided to create a map using Google Maps.  The map I have created is called  “What was there or still is… Oakland California”.  I have already added lots of the homes that I have found while down in the rabbit hole.

What was there or still is… Oakland California

Description of the Map

Some from long ago and long gone, but some still there.  Based on clippings, newspapers, and photos.  May not be accurate as address numbers have changed and locations were often vague.

Maroon – Still there
Black – Gone
Yellow – Landmark
Green – Berkeley
Purple – Piedmont
Red – Questions – researching

Here is a link to the map.  Click on it to see.  Please feel free to share it.

I still have lots of pages in the works just have to get myself out of this hole.

This might help explain Rabbit Hole.

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The History Bug Strikes

I grew up in the Montclair District in Oakland.  I moved there in early 1972 after my Mom remarried.  We moved into a four-story home that my step-father had built pretty much by himself.

494 Capricorn
Our house in Montclair

In 1983 my ex-husband and I were hired by the Montclair Presbyterian Church (where I went as a young child) as custodians.  We moved into the house the church owned next to the Sanctuary. 

It was at church that I started to get the history bug.  I found out that the church had celebrated its 50th Aniversary in 1980.   I was amazed that the church had been there so long, the same as the house we lived in which was built in about 1927.

In about 1985 or so I went on a walking tour of the Fernwood neighborhood put on by the Oakland Heritage Alliance.  From then on it was my mission to find out more about the history of Montclair and Oakland.

First blog post

Posted in Buildings, East Oakland, Schools

Then & Now – Oakland Schools Part 2

This is the second part of a series of post I intend to do showing past and present pictures of Oakland Public Schools. Some of the pictures are in the form of drawings, postcards or from pages in historical books. Not all schools will be included in this series. Sometimes I might just post the before.

Campbell School

The school was built in 1869 as the Grove Street School. The name was changed in 1906 to Campbell School when it was named after Fred Campbell superintendent of Oakland schools from 1870-1870 and 1886-1890. He was state superintendent of schools 1880-1883.

Oakland Tribune Jun 09, 1926

Campbell’s daughter Mary was the principal of the school from 1898-1926.

In 1907 a new school was built . The Mission Style school was designed by Architect F.E. Voorhees. It contained seven classroom and office for the principal. It cost about $38,000 to build.

Oakland Tribune Mar 1907

In 1954 due the the school not being earthquake safe it was closed and the students were sent to Tompkins School. The school was sold and demolished in 1954. A commercial building was in built on the site.

The school was located at 416 Grove Street.

Cleveland School

The first drawing – Oakland Tribune Jul 09, 1912

In 1912 the first drawing for a new Peralta Heights school was submitted to the school board. John J. Donovan was the architect. Donovan designed many schools for the district.

Peralta Heights is a small neighborhood in what is now known as Cleveland Heights.

Bids to build the school were submitted in 1912, based on the below photo. They held a formal opening of the school in Jan of 1914.

Sometime during the late 50s or early 60s the old school was removed and a new replaced it.

Cleveland School Today – Google Maps

Cleveland Elementary School is located at 745 Cleveland Street.

Cole Grammar School

Cole Grammar School was opened in 1885 in West Oakland on 10th Street between Union and Poplar Streets.

Oakland and Surroundings 1885
Oakland Local wiki

 It was named for Rector E. Cole an early Oakland dentist and member of the city council, and member and then president of the Oakland Board of Education.

Jack London attended Cole starting in 1887. He graduated 8th grade in 1891

Cole School was located at 1011 Union Street.

As of 2013 Cole School is the headquarters of the Chief of Police.

Cole School Today – Google Maps

Piedmont Avenue School

The Piedmont Avenue School as seen below was built in 1891. It was located on Piedmont Avenue at John Street and across the street from where the school is now located.

Oakland Tribune Feb 13, 1892

Prior to that there was a two room schoolhouse up closer to the Mountain View Cemetery. Classes we held for a time at the home of G.W. Hume who lived in large estate where the school is located now.

The school at that time was used by both children from Piedmont and Oakland. The building was designed by William Kirk and cost about $10,000 to build. The school had bell tower with a 350 pound bell. There was a large assembly room, a library, a hothouse for plants, classrooms on both floors and a large lighted basement where the children could play during wet weather.

Oakland Tribune Feb 20, 1892

The school was dedicated on Washington’s Birthday in 1892.

Engraving of the Piedmont District School at Webster Avenue in Oakland, Alameda County, California, from the book “Illustrated album of Alameda County, California” by Jos, 1893. Alex Colquhoun. Courtesy Internet Archive. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

In July of 1938 while the students were on summer break the school was destroyed by fire that was considered arson. Ten fireman were injured four of them seriously.

Oakland Tribune July 25, 1938
Oakland Tribune July 25, 1938
Oakland Tribune July 25, 1938

The new school was dedicated in March of 1941.

Piedmont Avenue School – Google Maps

Prescott School

Prescott School started in 1866 as a one room primary school. It was located at Ninth and Campbell Streets which was dirt roads surrounded by woods. In 1869 a new two-story building with four classrooms on each floor opened the largest and it was the most up to date school in Oakland.

Exterior Prescott Grammar School
Oakland History Room
Prescott School with damage from 1906 earthquake
UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library
Permalink: https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/13030/hb1m3nb284/
Prescott School, 9th & Campbell 1906
Owning Institution: UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library
Permalink: https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/13030/hb6d5nb5w4/

Ida Louise Jackson, Oakland’s first African-American teacher, taught there starting in 1925 — 13 years before any other school hired a black teacher.

Exterior of Prescott School circa 1918
Towns (Royal E.) Papers
Oakland Public Library, African American Museum

In 1954 Prescott Junior High (somewhere in time it was changed?) was condemned for being unsafe and a hazard to the students. At that time there was no money in the budget to replaced it.

Prescott is located at 920 Campbell St.

Prescott School Today – Google Maps

The school has been operating under the name PLACE @ Prescott (Preparatory Literary Academy of Cultural Excellence @ Prescott) since 2006, serving Kindergarten through 5th grade children

  • 150 Years of Prescott OUSD
  • Prescott website- OUSD
  • Place@Prescott website – OUSD

Swett Grammar School

Swett School was located at 12th Avenue and East 19th Street.

Views of Oakland 1893
Swett School – 1906 earthquake damage
Owning Institution: UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library
Permalink: https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/13030/hb9199p3sm/

Woodrow Wilson Junior High

Woodrow Wilson Junior High started out as Mosswood Junior High in August of 1923. It was located at the corner of 48th and Webster Streets. In 1924 the schools name was changed.

In 1926 they laid the cornerstone for a new school.

Oakland Tribune October 26, 1926
Oakland Tribune Oakland Tribune Nov 14, 1926
Woodrow Wilson Junior circa 1970s

In the early 1970s Woodrow Wilson Junior High School was demolished and a new school was built. Sometime in the mid 1970s the school was renamed the Verdese Carter Middle School.

Demolition of Woodrow Wilson School in the 1970s
from Adrienne Broach
Demolition of Woodrow Wilson School in the 1970s
from Adrienne Broach
The School Today – Google Maps

In 2007 the Oakland Unified school district opened its first school that enrolls only immigrant students. Called the Oakland International High School, it is modeled after international high schools in New York City for newcomers to the United States. The school is still open in 2019.

The school is located at 4521 Webster St.

  • Oakland International High School – OUSD
  • West Coast District Uses East Coast Model – August 2007

The End

Posted in Black History, Buildings, Business, West Oakland

Wrecker Uses Sherman Tank To…

Project Gateway – West Oakland

The world’s largest and fully mechanized mail handling facility designed to serve central California and the Pacific ocean area

Postmaster General – Aug 1959

It was announce the facility would be built on a 12-block site in West Oakland bounded by Peralta, 7th and Wood Streets and the Southern Pacific railroad yards.

Oakland Tribune Aug 26, 1959

The postmaster general officially named the Oakland project “Project Gateway”

Oakland Tribune Aug 26, 19

Major Problems –

City officials were excited that construction will begin in about one year. They expected an Oakland payroll of some 750 workers and the clearing of some 20 acres of sub-standard homes for a major redevelopment project.

Oakland Mayor Clifford E Rishell noted that the post office project presents some major problems – chiefly the relocation of some 300 families (about 1000 people) in the project area.

The Oakland Redevelopment Agency was in charge of the relocation. A survey at the time determined that half of the 300 families had moderate incomes that will permit them to rent or purchase home in other sections of the city. The other half will probably require public housing.

The job we face isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible

Arthur Hoff – Oakland Redevelopment Agency

One of West Oakland’s most revered landmarks was lost with the razing of the New Century Recreation Center and adjoining school property at Atlantic, Pacific and Peralta Avenues.

Also lost in the project would be a junkyard ,few businesses and McFeely School which opened in 1949.

Evictions

In a March 1960 special meeting of city officials and postal officials were told that 34 families had already received eviction notices. The families lived in homes already sold the government by Southern Pacific. 21 families had already found new homes.

August 1 1960 was when the were to begin clearing the site,

Oakland Tribune Jul 19 1960

A squadron of bulldozers was set to plow into the 12-block site of buildings. All put 12 parcels of the 187 total had been acquired in negotiation. Commendation orders were entered for the holdouts.

Sherman Tank

The postal officials were perplexed when building wrecker Aldo S. Allen submitted a low bid of $64,000 to clear the 20-acre site for Project Gateway. He was $10,000 lower than the next lowest bid and $50,000 lower than the highest bid.

I got an idea” Allen a one time midget car racer explained.

Aldo S. Allen – 81st Ave Oakland CA

His idea consisted for $2,000 purchasing a surplus Sherman Tank of World War II vintage, a 73,000- pound dreadnaught powered by a 500 horsepower engine. The tank would be much more powerful, faster and safer.

He was Right!

Aldo climbed into the tank which was in front of a row of six houses. He first practiced on a tree,

SNAP! Down went the tree.

Without pausing he went towards the first house and bore a tunnel through the house. The second story remained intact. Again he aimed for house, there was a roar and the second story came down burying the tank for a moment.

10 Minutes Flat! The time to clear the first house

Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960

It took 90 minutes to flatten and clear all 6 houses

Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
The Daily Texan Aug 16, 1960
More on Project Gateway in west Oakland

The End

Posted in Buildings, East Oakland, Laurel District, Schools, Then and Now, West Oakland

Then & Now – Oakland Schools Part 1

My 100th post!

I thought I would share then and now pictures of the schools in Oakland as I find them . Some of the pictures are in the form of drawings, postcards or from pages in historical books. Not all schools will be included in this series. Sometimes I might just post the before.

Castlemont High School

Castlemont High School is in Oakland, California, United States, originally known as East Oakland High School. The Castlemont name was selected by a vote of the students. Castlemont High School was founded in 1929 in a medieval-style building. The school is located at 8601 MacArthur Boulevard.

Castlemont High circa 1920s

 Castlemont High was designed by Chester Miller and Carl Warneke, Oakland architects. Oakland Local WIki – Castlemont High

Castlemont High circa 1930s

The building was replaced in 1961 as the old one was not earthquake safe.

Castlemont High Today

For an eight-year period, from 2004 to 2012, the large school housed three separate smaller schools called the Castlemont Community of Small Schools. The smaller schools were known by the names:

  1. Castlemont Leadership Preparatory High (10-12)
  2. Castlemont Business and Information Technology School (10-12) (CBITIS)
  3. East Oakland School of the Arts (10-12)

Dewey School

Dewey began as an Oakland elementary school at 38th avenue and East 12th Street in 1899. It was named after Admiral George Dewey who was a hero in the Spanish-American War that was being fought at that time. 

In 1963 Dewey became the first continuation high school in Oakland.

Dewey is now located at 1111 2nd Ave, Oakland, CA, 94606

Dewey High School – OUSD

Franklin School

In 1877, it was known as Franklin Grammar School. The Franklin School building as seen in the photo below was built in 1906. The school is located at 915 Foothill Blvd

Franklin Grammar School – Cheney Photo Advertising Circa 1912

Franklin School

In 1953, the brick building was declared unsafe. In 1955, it was demolished to make way for a new building. Franklin Elementary School is located at 915 Foothill Blvd

Franklin Elementary – today

Fremont High School

The John. C. Fremont High School was the successor of Fruitvale High School, and was organized in 1905 by Frank Stuart Rosseter. The old building was destroyed in an arson fire on the night of January 1, 1930. The school has been located at 4610 Foothill Boulevard since 1905.

John C Fremont High School

Cheney Photo Advertising Company circa 1910

The old building was destroyed in an arson fire on the night of January 1, 1930. The school reopened on April 19, 1932.

Fremont School Today –

Frick Junior High

Frick was built on the Boulevard between Baker and Bay View (now Foothill and 62nd) . The school takes its name from W.P. Frick who donated the lot the school is to be built on. It was then part of the Lockwood District. The school was dedicated on March 17, 1909.

W.P Frick School

circa 1913 Photographer: Cheney Photo Advertising Company

The original school was kindergarten through the seventh grade. The building had 8 rooms. With the rapid growth of the area around Frick School it was decided to make Frick school a junior high in 1923.

New School

Oakland Tribune May 30, 1926

In a 1927 a new school was built on adjoining land and was called Frick Jr. High School. The style of the new building Spanish and Moorish architecture.

Oakland Tribune Jun 05, 1927

Another New School

In 1953 it was determined that the 1927 building was a poor earthquake risk. In 1957 the was broken for a new school fronting Brann Street. The old building was razed during the summer of 1960. The present school has been in use since 1960-61.

Frick School today – Google Maps

It is now called Frick Impact Academy

Hamilton Junior High School

Alexander Hamilton Junior High was built in 1922. The school is located at 2101 35th Avenue.

Athletic Festival at Hamilton Junior High

It was named after Calvin Simmons sometime in the early to mid-1980s. The school was renamed United for Success Academy in 2006.

The school today. Google Maps

Horace Mann Grammar School

Horace Mann was built in about 1910-1912. The school is located at 5222 Ygnacio Avenue.

Horace Mann Grammar School
Ygnacio and Vicksburg Avenue

Cheney Photo Advertising Company circa 1912

Groundbreaking for the new Horace Mann school after it was determined to be not earthquake safe was in 1959. The new school was formally dedicated in 1961.

Oakland Tribune May 11, 1959

Horace Mann today – Google Maps

Sequoia Elementary School

Sequoia Elementary School is located at on Lincoln Avenue at Scenic Avenue. It was built in 1910. Ida M. Hammond was the first principal. The building below is facing Scenic Avenue. The address of the school is 3730 Lincoln Avenue.

Original Sequoia School
Lincoln Avenue and Scenic Street

Cheney Photo Advertising Company circa 1910

In 1926 a new school building was built adjoining the original. The new building will have 13 to 14 rooms and an auditorium, it will face Lincoln Avenue as seen below.

In 1960 the original 1909 building was replaced.

Sequoia School today. Google maps

University High School

University High School, which was built in 1922 and opened in 1923 and was designed by Charles W. Dickey.  The school is located at 5714 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, (the original street name was Grove Street, but became MLK, Jr. Way in 1984)

University High School circa 1920s

The school is now used by the North Oakland Senior Center. Annual events at the Center include holiday dances, birthday parties, and flea markets. There are weekly salsa, swing and line dancing classes, along with activities such as Tai Chi and blood pressure screening.

University High School – today

The End

Posted in East Oakland, Elmhurst, History, Schools

Old Lockwood School

Oakland Tribune Oct 10, 1965

In 1858 Miss Julia Aldrich was contracted to run a small private school on Isaac (Issac) Yoakum’s farm. Yoakum had built his house on the site of the present Lockwood School, he later moved that house and replaced it with small building to be used as school (see above).

The school was located at the intersection East 14th Street (County Road No. 1525 and now International Blvd) Mary Street , then 68th Avenue, and later 69th Avenue. The schoolhouse remained in use for another 42 years with a small addition in 1892.

The first year Lockwood had 12 students enrolled.

Map from 1912 – the Red line is East 14th -68th

In February of 1876 there were 28 boys and 10 girls enrolled in the school. The teacher was Alonzo Crawford.

Oakland Tribune Mar 01, 1876

In August of 1876 (typo in newspaper) there were 20 boys and 21 girls enrolled.

  • The Damon Family owned a general store at the corner of E.14th & 66th
  • The Kinsell Family lived on 94th Avenue just below E. 14th
  • The A.H. Merritt family lived on 66th Avenue
  • The Moss home was at 82nd and Foothill
  • The Silva’s owned a saloon at 84th and E. 14th

New School – 1902

The new school was built on the corner of East 14th Street and 68th Avenue in 1902. Charles H Greenman was the principal. The school was demolished (need to verify this) in 1936.

Lockwood Public School
Circa 1912
Photographer: Cheney Photo Advertising Company
Oakland Tribune 20, 1902
The Oakland Tribune Collection, the Oakland Museum of California. Gift of ANG Newspapers circa 1917

Greenman died while fighting a fire in the school playground in 1919. In the 1950s they named the athletic field after Greenman.

Oakland Tribune 1909

Across from the school was the 282 acre dairy belonging to William Machindo. The big pasture was later used as the landing field of Weldon Cooke an early Oakland aviator. In 1910 Wickham Havens subdivided the into what we now know as Havenscourt.

Old School is Sold – 1903

Oakland Tribune Feb 05, 1903

Class of 1904

Oakland Tribune May 1948

Lockwood Junior High – 1912

Lockwood School – Havenscourt Area
East 14th Street (now International Blvd) and Mary (now 68th) Avenue
Circa 1912
Photographer: Cheney Photo Advertising Company

Also known as Havenscourt Junior High

Now the Coliseum College Prep Academy – OUSD

Old Timers Reunions

For many years the former students of the school would hold an annual reunions for all graduates of the school.

Class of 1898
Oakland Tribune Feb 16, 1932
Class of 1894
Oakland Tribune May 13, 1959
CLASS of 1898
Oakland Tribune July 16, 1951

The Lockwood Quill

Lockwood School Band

Lockwood Band 1905
Oakland Tribune May 1947
Oakland Tribune November 03, 1905
Oakland Tribune Aug 05, 1909

Traffic Reserve

The first traffic reserve unit was formed at Lockwood in February, 1928.

More Info on Lockwood

The present Lockwood School building was built in 1953-54

In 2007 Futures Elementary School opened as a small school on historic Lockwood campus, which has been home to students for more than 100 years. 

  • Futures Elementary School – OUSD

The End

Posted in East Oakland, Tract or Subdivisions

Toler Heights – The Homes

Toler Heights – SF Examiner 1907

The Toler Heights subdivision changed hands so many times before the 1930, it seems they never really got around to selling the area with photos of new homes being built. The following is all I could find.

Lawlor Street

9703 Lawlor Street
Oakland Tribune Oakland Tribune Oct 27,1913
Address now is 9703 Lawlor St
9703 Lawlor St – today
Google Maps
Unknown location
SF Examiner May 1922

MacArthur Blvd

Along Foothill Blvd (now MacArthur) circa 1919
Photographer: Cheney Photo Advertising Company
Another view of photo above – circa 1919
Photographer: Cheney Photo Advertising Company
9224 and 9230 MacArthur today – Google Maps
9124 MacArthur today – Google Maps
9036 MacArthur today – Google Maps
8802 MacArthur Blvd –
Oakland Tribune Nov 18, 1923

Thermal Street

8727 Thermal Street – built 1917
Oakland Tribune Mar 09, 1923
8727 Thermal St – 2014

The End

Posted in Black History, Business, People

Stephens’ Family

The William M Stephens family was a very successful African American family from Oakland. They owned the Stephens Restaurant and Virginia their daughter, won acclaim at the age of fourteen when her name “Jewel City” was selected for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition buildings in a competition sponsored by the San Francisco Call-Post. Virginia went on to be the first African American woman to receive a law degree University of California Berkeley‘s Boalt School of Law in 1929.

Stephens Restaurant at 200 East 14th Oakland
Circa 1925 – photo by M.L. Cohen
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

The Stephens Family

William Stephens Circa 1901
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

William Stephens was born in 1870 in Accomack County, Virginia. He moved out to California while still a child and attended school in Oakland and San Francisco. After graduation, he completed coursework at Heald College before taking a job with the Southern Pacific Railway in 1886. Beginning as a Sleeping Car Porter, he worked his way up to a clerkship under H.E. Huntington, assistant to the company’s President.

In 1894 he lived at 1132 Linden Street in West Oakland.

In 1898, Stephens resigned from Southern Pacific and took a position with the Crocker family, traveling with them throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Through these travels, Stephens learned about the hotel and restaurant business.

Pauline Stephens circa 1898
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

In 1901, he married Pauline Logan (1874-1929) of Tehama California.

Pauline gave birth to one daughter, Annie Virginia (who went by Virginia), on April 7, 1903. Due to his daughter’s health problems as a young girl, Stephens resigned from his post with the Crockers and began working at an Oakland social club. He moved on from this position in 1915 to manage the Clubhouse at the Hotel Del Monte Golf and Country Club in Monterey County.

Pauline died in May of 1929

Oakland Tribune May 24, 1929

William died November 21, 1932

Oakland Tribune Nov 22, 1931

Stephens Restaurant

Group of men standing in front of Stephens’ Restaurant & Lunch Room at 110 East 14th circa 1920s
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

Eventually Stephens opened his own restaurant in Oakland. Known as Stephens’ Restaurant, it grew from small quarters into a large establishment seating over 200 people, occupying three locations near Lake Merritt.

William Stephens (right) and employee inside Stephens’ Restaurant circa 1920s
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the restaurant enjoyed great success and was usually filled to capacity. Stephens took great delight in employing African American high school and college students so they could earn money for their education.

The final location of the restaurant was 200 East 14th (now International Blvd) at 2nd Ave. I am not sure when it closed as it was still in business after Stephens died in 1932

Stephens Restaurant – 1925
Photo By ML Cohen
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.
Oakland Tribune 1930

Virginia Stephens

Stephen’s daughter, Virginia, won acclaim at the age of fourteen when her name “Jewel City” was selected for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition buildings in a competition sponsored by the San Francisco Call-Post.

Virginia Stephens on the left -The Jewel City, San Francisco, 1915:
PIPE – 100 Years
Oakland Tribune May 01 1952

Virginia attended the University of California at Berkeley and received a bachelor’s degree in science in 1924.

Graduation Portrait of Virginia Stephens – 1929
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

Encouraged by her father to attend law school, she enrolled in Boalt School of Law at UC Berkeley and earned a degree in 1929. At that time she was only the second woman to receive a law degree from the school and the first African American woman to complete the program.  Virginia passed the California Bar in the same year, the first African American female attorney in California.

1929 Bar Card
MS005_B01_F01_004
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

While at Berkeley, Virginia and Ida L. Jackson were charter members Rho Chapter in 1921 and Alpha Nu Omega, a graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. These were among the first Greek sororities for African American women west of the Mississippi.

Members of Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, University of California, Berkeley (left-right): Virginia Stephens, Oreatheal Richardson, Myrtle Price (in back), Ida Jackson (sorority president), Talma Brooks, and Ruby Jefferson (1921), 
 African American Museum and Library at Oakland. 

Virginia married attorney George Coker (1906-1970). The Cokers helped tutor African American students for the State bar exams. They moved to Virginia and maintained a private law practice there for almost a decade.

In 1939 after working in private practice for ten years they moved back to California settling in Sacramento. Virginia received an appointment as Attorney in the State Office of the Legislature Council in Sacramento in May, 1939. In this capacity, she helped with drafting and amending legislative bills, and worked under four different legislative councils:

Virginia Stephens Cokerundated
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

Upon her retirement in 1966, Virginia had attained the position of Deputy of the Indexing Section. Virginia died in Sacramento at the age of 83 on February 11, 1986.

More of the Stephens Family

The End

Posted in History, Montclair, Oakland, Uncategorized

Fire in the Hills – 1943

In December, 1943, there were winds up to 75 MPH and many fires in the hills and the East Bay. There were at least 10 brush and grass fires reported all over Northern California.

The smell of burning eucalyptus hung over the city for hours

Oakland Tribune Dec 09, 19443

The largest fire in the Oakland hills started near Broadway Terrace and Skyline, in the area above the Broadway Tunnel (Caldecott Tunnel). There was a fire on Snake Road.

Oakland Tribune Dec 09, 1943

The fire started just after midnight and burned for about 3 hours. The fire was most likely started by down wires knocked down by gale force winds. There were over 30 fires reported all over Oakland

Oakland Tribune Dec 09, 1943
Oakland Tribune Dec 09, 1943
Oakland Tribune Dec 09, 1943
Oakland Tribune Dec 09, 1943
Oakland Tribune Dec 09, 1943
Oakland Tribune Dec 09, 1943

Wind and Fires Wreck Havoc

Oakland Tribune Dec 09, 1943
Oakland Tribune Dec 09, 1943
Oakland Tribune Dec 09, 1943
  • Fire destroyed the garbage facility at the end of Davis Street
  • Fire on Mt. Diablo
  • 50 Boats smashed in Monterey
  • Tilden Park Fire
  • 1800 Acres burned in Concord
  • Napa County Swept by Fire

More