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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 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

Posted in History, Oakland

Leona Canyon Fire – Oct 1960

Oakland Tribune October 16, 1960

On Saturday October 15, 1960 a brush fire started in the area of Mountain Blvd and Burckhalter Avenue.

The fire bore a striking resemblance to the disastrous 1923 Berkeley fire which swept from the hills, destroyed 600 buildings and leaving 4000 homeless.

Oakland Tribune Oct 16, 1960

The fire started at 11am and was under control by 2:30 pm and officially out by 4pm.

Oakland Tribune Oct 16, 1960

More than 200 firemen from the Oakland and San Leandro fought the fire for over four hours with the help of the residents who lived in the area. At times the fire came within feet of homes and rained sparks on their roofs. The damage was held to the loss of two homes, brush and oak trees.

From noon until 2pm the battle was a see-saw affair

Oakland Tribune October 16, 1960

Weekend Warriors

SF Examiner Oct 16, 1960

For the residents it was a battle to the death. They stood of roofs and garages pointing hoses with little pressure behind them at the walls of flame which roared through the brush and oak trees.

In the hills above Leona Street flames roared 50 feet into the air and came within that distance of homes. At one point police advised people advised the residents on Leona Street, Mountain Blvd and Mountain View Avenue to evacuate.

Cause Unknown

Oakland Tribune Oct 16, 1960

The cause of the fire was unknown. It ranged over an estimated 1200 acres after it’s start near Mountain Blvd and Burckhalter Avenue. It’s course along Mountain Blvd north westerly to Bermuda Avenue and up the hill towards Skyline Blvd.

There were unconfirmed reports of two boys playing with matches in the quarry area just before the fire started.

Oakland Tribune Oct 16, 1960

At time the winds gusted 45 mile-per-hour which spread the fire across Mountain Blvd. but quick work by firemen and homeowners stopped the fire from spreading in that direction.

More than 100 homes were endangered during the day. Most were in the $30,000 brackett.

The Homes

  • 6384 Mountain Blvd – destroyed
  • 6434 Mountain Blvd – destroyed

The home at 6434 Mountain Blvd belonged to William Crecque and 6384 Mountain Blvd belonged to Charles Suggs.

More

The End

Posted in Black History, History, People, Then and Now, West Oakland

Royal E. Towns – Engine Company No. 22

Royal Edward Towns (February 10, 1899–July 23, 1990) was one of the first African American firefighters in Oakland and was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department.

Royal E Towns

Royal Towns joined the OFD in 1927 and was assigned to Engine Company No. 22, a segregated firehouse in West Oakland. The station was located at 3320 Magnolia Street.

Exterior of Oakland Fire Department Engine no. 22
3320 Magnolia Street

Three firefighters sitting in Oakland fire truck parked in driveway of fire Engine no. 22

Royal Towns was the 11th black Oakland fireman in 1927. The 12th wasn’t hired for another 15 years. In 1971 there were only 35 black firemen. Towns became the first to be promoted in the OFD. He became a chief’s operator in 1941 and retired as a lieutenant in 1962.

Royal E. Towns (center) and his colleagues with Engine Company No. 22
of the racially segregated Oakland Fire Department. (1943)

Towns was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department. He helped train many other black applicants to pass the fire department test

Royal Towns on the left with Oakland firefighters standing in front of fire engine no. 22 – Circa 1943

Personal Life

Royal Towns was born in Oakland on February 10, 1899, to William Towns and Elizabeth Towns.

Towns married Lucille Dennis May 26, 1920. Together they had three children. The family lived in various locations within Oakland

Royal E. Towns died July 23, 1990 and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery

More Photos

The photos are courtesy of the Royal E. Towns papers, MS 26, African American Museum and Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California. Photos at Calisphere

3320 Magnolia Street Oakland – Then and Now
It is no longer a Fire Station
Rolling Hoses in front of Engine No 22
Two firemen attaching hoses to fire hydrant, firefighters practicing with fire hoses in park in the background – on Peralta Street
Peralta Street – Then and Now
Firemen holding fire hose in street next to
Gleason and Company building – Circa 1950s
at the corner of Magnolia and 34th Street

34th and Magnolia – Then and Now
Firemen holding fire hose in street next to Gleason and Company building
Circa 1950s – 34th and Magnolia
Across from the Gleason Company today
Firemen holding fire hose in street next to Gleason and Company building
Circa 1950s – 34th and Magnolia
Looking down Magnolia towards 34th St.
Circa 1950s
Looking down Magnolia towards 34th St.
Then and Now
Dog climbing ladder to get apple in front of Oakland Fire Department Fire Engine No. 22 – circa 1950s
Fireman jumping off ladder in front of Oakland Fire Department fire Engine no. 22

More on Royal E. Towns

Posted in East Oakland, History, Oakland, West Oakland

Backyard Fence War

In June of 1965 the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) began what was called a “Beautification Program”.

Under the housing authority’s plan, fenced in yards were to be removed and replaced with turfed areas in the following projects:

According to the tenants of the Peralta Villa housing projects in West Oakland, they first heard about the program when the a group of boys from the Alameda County Central Labor Council (funded by a grant from the War on Poverty) started demolishing the backyard fences and flower gardens.

The fences were removed, Housing Authority officials say, as the first step in a program of “beautification”

The tenants were really angry because some had paid the OHA for the fences and planted their gardens. No advance notice was given – the workers just started tearing everything up.

They Organize

The War on Poverty ran into a major obstacle this week – the War on Poverty

Oakland Tribune June 30, 1965

As a part of the War on Poverty‘s a work-study program was funded to provide the salaries of University of California students to work with the tenants .

The students worked with the residents of Lockwood Gardens to help them develop a sense of community identity and to learn how to help themselves.

It was these students that encouraged the tenants to form the Lockwood Improvement League .

The program funded by the War on Poverty the same people funding the “Beautification Program” and removing their fences.

The tenants of Peralta Villas met at Cole school and formed the Peralta Improvement League. Thirty tenants volunteered to form their own “human fence” they wrote up a list of demands and began their fight to save their gardens.

  1. Stop tearing down the remaining fences
  2. Rebuild the fences already taken down
  3. Reimburse the tenants whose private property was destroyed
  4. Consult the tenants first before doing any further work
Oakland Tribune July 1965

The labor for the “Beautification Program” was provided by the Alameda County Labor Council through a grant from the War of Poverty.

Lockwood Gardens

The OHA decided to on June 25, 1965 to “beautify” the projects. They started with Lockwood Gardens.

The people of Lockwood Gardens newfound sense of community identity was outraged.

Each of the thirty- plus dwelling units in Lockwood Gardens had its own yard and most had fences. Some had lawns and some had shrubs and flowers.

The enclosed yards gave the tenants a sense of individuality, security, and pride.

All backyard fences would come out, the lawns, shrubs and flowers would be dug out. A common turf area without fences would replace individual yards.

Oakland Tribune June 30, 1965

They had been using my yard as adverstiment for years.

Jim Sorenson 1137 65th Ave – Oakland Tribune
Oakland Tribune June 30, 1965

They were also upset by the lack of advance warning. They got 200 signature in favor of keeping the fences.

The Lockwood Gardens tenants were all for beautification but not at the expense of their backyards. One tenant was upset because he had just rebuilt his fence. Not all the tenants of the tenants took care of yards or kept their fences in repair. But they felt the OHA could work it out with those tenants.

The Protests

The tenants of both Peralta Villa and Lockwood Gardens protested and managed to halt or limited the amount of work that could be done at either of the projects.

Oakland Tribune July 13, 1965

The OHA laid out a new backyard fence policy Residents must keep their backyards neat and in repair; no new fences could be installed; no satisfactory fence will be torn down now, but eventual elimination of all fenced areas can be expected”

In August of 1965 the OHA board voted to poll each family of Campbell Village, Lockwood Gardens and Peralta Villa if they want a fence. Everyone was to be asked even the people who lived in the 2nd floor. There was a total of 916 total units in the three projects.

The tenants were given 2 choices in the questions asked :

Oakland Tribune Sep 01, 1965

It appears to be a lower-the-cost- maintenance program

The Pro-Fence group leader

In July 1966 all the fences had been removed and the place looked like a dump reported one tenant. The lawn was dead in most places as it wasn’t being watered.

More on the Beautification Program

The End

Posted in Buildings, Oakland, People

First Framed House in Oakland

Oakland in the Days When Oaks Were Here and the Peralta’s Owned all the Land

Oakland Tribune Feb 1891

The house was located at N. E. corner east Eighth Street and Fourth Avenue, East Oakland. The address was first 202 East Ninth Street. East Ninth Street was later renamed East Eight Street and house was renumbered from 202 to 404. The final address was 404 East Eight Street.

From the 1884 directory
From the 1912 Directory
Oakland Tribune May 01, 1932
Okland Tribune Nov 13, 1949

In Search of Gold

The lure of the gold drew Moses Chase and his son George to California in 1849. They sailed from Boston on aboard the Capitol on a 176-day voyage. He hoped to make his fortune panning for gold, then return home to marry Mary Ellen Clinton. They had no luck at finding gold and soon they found themselves back on the coast.

Chase then became the first white man to settle in Oakland and he first camped at the foot of what is now Broadway, in 1849.

He then leased land from the Peralta Family just east of what is now Lake Merritt. the land later became part of Township of Clinton which later became a part of Oakland.

The Cabin

It was on this land he built a small cabin of 14 feet wide and 24 feet, from ship timbers, driftwood and rough boards.  He intended to bring his new bride back to California from Boston and live in the cabin. But she died before he arrived back home to marry her. The Township of Clinton was named in her honor.

Showing the original home

In 1856 the front part was added.  This would become the main section of the house. Over the years other alternations and additions expanded the cabin into a two-story building of 17 rooms during its 86-year occupancy by Chase, his son and his grandson. The original section, after standing intact until 1936 when it was cut in half and became the laundry room.

Bancroft Library – Jesse Brown Cooke Scrapbook
http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf7k40107n 
BANC PIC 1996.003:Volume 27:089–fALB 
I0051808a.tif 

As you see in the photograph, the house is in first class condition today, October 5, 1928. Photo taken by Jesse B. Cook and Joseph A. Murray. 

Bancroft Library – Jesse Brown Cooke Scrapbook
http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf3f59p0hs 
BANC PIC 1996.003:Volume 27:090–fALB 
I0051809a.tif 

See: While Oakland was Finding its Place on the Map of the World – Oakland Tribune May 01, 1932

First Settler Laid to Rest

The Oldest Inhabitant has Gone to Rest

 Chase spent the later years of his life a near recluse on Bay Farm Island, but he died in the family home February 17, 1891 at the age of 84. He was laid to rest at the Mountain View Cemetery.

A Wedding Takes Place

Another view of the home

In May of 1925 Albert B. Chase was married in the same room he was born in 45 years before. Albert was the son of George Chase (1841-1919) the only child of Moses Chase.

At the time of his wedding Albert was the only surviving member of the Chase family. His older brother had died in 1924 and his sister in 1925.

Oakland 80th Birthday

In honor of Oakland’s 80th Birthday in May of 1932 the Clinton Improvement Association erected a sign on the home noting its historical significance. Oakland Tribune Apr 07, 1932

Razing the Old Home

Oakland Tribune July 02, 1946
Oakland Tribune 1948

In 1946 workman from the Symon Brothers Wrecking Company started razing the “old Chase home”  a small rear portion of which was the original cabin to which Chase built in 1849.

Through three generations the old home continued at the family residence, until in 1936 Albert died. Albert’s widow sold the home to Guido Pacini, a trucking contractor.   Pacini graded the adjoining lot for his trucking business.  The old home was completing renovated and was use as a residence, most recently the home of Picini’s daughter and her husband.

Cook Brothers Equipment Distributors began a 10 year lease of old homestead after it was cleared.   Oakland Tribune July 02, 1946

Oakland Tribune 1948
Showing the 404 East 8th Street in 1951 – Sanborn Map

More on Moses Chase

The End

Posted in Business, Early Montclair, Montclair, Real Estate

Montclair Realty – Pioneers of the Hills

In 1924 brothers Paul and Herman Pause formed Montclair Realty Co. Before that Paul worked for the Realty Syndicate.

The business district of Montclair looked like this when Montclair Realty was formed. Cos. Williams a builder was the only other business at that time.

Sales offices of real estate broker and home builder Cos Williams
in the undeveloped Montclair circa 1925
Photo by Cheney Photo Advertising
Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room.
Oakland Tribune 1929

In 1932 they moved into their new offices at 6466 Moraga Avenue. The building was occupied by B. Brooks another real estate agent. The building is still standing in 2019.

Oakland Tribune 1932
Montclair Realty Office in 1940

6466 Moraga Avenue – 2019

Montclair Highlands

Montclair Highlands “All the World No View Like his”

In 1928 Montclair Realty was the developer and selling agents for a new tract behind the business district of Montclair. One of the first homes was the “Model View Home” built in 1928. Please see my page on this – The Highest Home in Oakland

In Montclair Highlands 1928

10th Anniversary

In the 1934 Montclair Realty celebrated their 10th anniversary. During this time they specialized in the development of the Montclair area. Oakland Tribune 1934

They worked on the following tracts:

They opened Piedmont Uplands a new tract along Moraga Avenue at Maxwelton Road. The land was owned by the Henry Maxwell family who ran a dairy called Maxwelton Farm. Before that is was the picnic grounds of Blair Park.

Montclair in 1937

Below is an aerial of Montclair’s business district in 1937. – Oakland Tribune Jul 18, 1937

Oakland Tribune 1937

In 1936 Paul Pause was the President of the Montclair Improvement Club for 1937. – Oakland Tribune Dec 12,1936

13th Anniversary

Oakland Tribune July 1937

In 1937 Paul Pause announced that Montclair Realty Company had a new home. The new two-story building was designed by Harvey Slocombe in true Spanish style, complete with patio and tile roof. Howard Gilkey designed the garden.

Dramatically different the Pent House Model home brings to you “Ideas of 1938” in colorful interior finishes and modern furnishings. – Oakland Tribune 1937

Montclair Realty Staff and Pent House Living Room 1936 vd
New Montclair Realty Office – Oakland Tribune 1937

The building was demolished in 1961 to make room for the expansion the Standard Station next door.

Montclarion April 16,1961

Silver Anniversary – 1949

Paul Pause was a founding member of the Montclair Improvement Club. He was a member of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce residential committee and its highway and transportation committee. He was also a member of the Commonwealth Club.

Oakland Tribune 1949

Death and New Owners

Paul Pause died in 1950. He was an important figure in the development of Montclair since the beginning.

Oakland Tribune 1950

Lucille Chasnoff purchased the company some time after Pause died in 1950. John Mallett purchased the company from her.

Oakland Tribune 1960

New Office in 1954-56

In 1954 a new office building was built at 2084 Mountain Blvd. Montclair Realty offices were on the ground floor. It was the only office building that had its own off-street parking. The offices featured gold walls with charcoal woodwork with built in desks and partitions. In 2019 a brand new building replaces the old and outdated Montclair Realty Office Building.

Oakland Tribune April 1956
Montclarion 1956
Montclarion 1956
2084 Mountain Blvd – Google Maps 2011

Different Logos –

Free Map

The End

Posted in Montclair, Uncategorized

Rock Concerts – Montclair Park

Montclair Recreation Center 6300 Moraga Avenue Oakland, CA

The bands were not obscure, but rather the sort of bands that headlined local clubs or played third on the bill at the Fillmore West.

In the early 1970s the Montclair Recreation Center held bi-weekly rock concerts. The shows were co-sponsored by the Center and the Montclair Junior Women’s Club.

Admission was a $1.00 to $1.50

Not sure why the concerts stopped but they did in the middle of 1972.

From the Forgotten Montclair Group Facebook

I found the advertisements for the concerts in the “Wednesday “Teen Age” and the “What’s doing…where…” sections of the Oakland Tribune.

The Concerts lasted until the fall of 1972.

Sample section from the Oakland Tribune

I commend the leaders of the recreation center for doing this. I can imagine a lot people in Montclair did not like the idea at.

I was alive and living in Montclair during this timeframe . But, I have no memory of them. I know I would have enjoyed going to them.

Speaking of memories there lots of locals who remember bigger named bands playing there, I don’t doubt them just can’t locate any info on them.

The Concerts

This is not all of them but most of them. A couple concerts were held at Montera Jr High.

  • September 06, 1968 – Two Teen Rock Groups
  • June 13, 1970 – Artichoke Jones – Summer Festival
  • June 26, 1970 – Fox Glove & Leviticus – Montera Jr High
  • July ??, 1970 – Backwater Rising – Montera Jr High
  • August 15, 1970 – Loveship *
  • August 22, 1970 – Cookin Mama and Rags *
  • August 30, 1970 – Loveship * back again
  • September 5, 1970 – Crystal Garden *
  • September 19, 1970 – The Tyde *
  • October 3, 1970 – Frontier Constabulary
  • October 10, 1970 – The Fog *
  • October 24, 1970 – AB Skhy *
  • October 31,1970 – Loading Zone featuring Linda Tillery *
  • November 7, 1970 – Loading Zone featuring Linda Tillery *
  • November 14, 1970 – Loveship *
  • November 21, 1970 – Beggar’s Opera *
  • November 28, 1970 – Joy of Cooking
  • December 5, 1970 – Little John featuring John Hart*
  • New Year’s Eve – Little John featuring John Hart*
  • January ??, 1971 – Barry Melton and the Fish
  • January 9, 1971 – Loading Zone
  • January 23, 1971 – Commander Cody *
  • January 23, 1971 – Boz Scaggs
  • January 30, 1971 – Joy of Cooking *
  • February 6, 1971 – Tyde *
  • February 11, 1971 – Loading Zone featuring Linda Tillery – Skyline High
  • February 13, 1971 – Little John featuring John Hart *
  • February 20, 1971 – John Hooker Group *
  • February 27, 1971 – Cat Mother *
  • March 13, 1971 – Full Moon (formerly The Womb)
  • March 20, 1971 – Loading Zone featuring Linda Tillery
  • March 27, 1971 – Pipe *
  • April 17, 1971 – Little John featuring John Hart *
  • April 24, 1971 – Western Addition with John Celona
  • May 1, 1971 – Ice Band *
  • May 8, 1971 – Barry Melton and The Fish *
  • May 15, 1971 – Cat Mother*
  • May 22, 1971 – Loading Zone with Linda Tillery *
  • May 29, 1971 – Gold *
  • June 05, 1971 – John Lee Hooker
  • June 12, 1971 – Malo – with Jorge Santana brother of Carlos*
  • June 23, 1971 – Liquid Heart
  • June 26, 1971 – Fox Glove & Leviticus – Montera Jr High
  • July 3, 1971 – Sopwith Camel
  • July 10, 1971 – Clover *
  • July 17, 1971 – Little John featuring John Hart “Montclair Favorite
  • July 24, 1971 – Gold
  • September ??, 1971 – Crystal Garden *
  • September 19, 1971 – Loading Zone
  • October 2, 1971 – Barry Melton and The Fish
  • October 16, 1971 – Full Moon *
  • October 23, 1971 – Jabo Stokes
  • November 6, 1971 – Cat Mother
  • November 13, 1971 – Grootna
  • November 20, 1971 – Loading Zone – featuring Linda Tillery
  • December 03, 1971 – Malo – with Jorge Santana brother of Carlos*
  • January 19, 1972 – Gold
  • February 19, 1972 – Little Sister, Gunn, and Thunderclap
  • March 04, 1972 – Little John featuring John Hart
  • April 08, 1972 – Loading Zone –
  • September 30, 1972 – Anglo Saxon – with John Hart formerly of Little John
  • November ?? 1972 – Gold

*Green Death did the light show

From the Forgotten Montclair Group – Their light shows were essentially two shallow glass bowls, placed on an overhead projector. The bottom bowl held oil and food coloring and the top bowl fitted inside it, allowing them to squish the colors around in kaleidoscopic patterns. They set up their equipment and chairs on top of a table in the back of the room where the band played. Despite the low-tech process, their light shows were very cool and added a lot to the atmosphere of the rock concerts.

Oakland Tribune Feb 1971

The End