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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The school was dedicated on Washington’s Birthday in 1892.
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.
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.
Ida Louise Jackson, Oakland’s first African-American teacher, taught there starting in 1925 — 13 years before any other school hired a black teacher.
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.
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
Swett Schoolwas located at 12th Avenue and East 19th Street.
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.
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.
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 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.
The postmaster general officially named the Oakland project “Project Gateway”
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.
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,
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.
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
It took 90 minutes to flatten and clear all 6 houses
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.
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. –
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.
Group of photos of the School after the fire – OMCA
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In February of 1876 there were 28 boys and 10 girls enrolled in the school. The teacher was Alonzo Crawford.
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.
Greenman died while fighting a fire in the school playground in 1919. In the 1950s they named the athletic field after Greenman.
Across from the school was the 282 acre dairy belonging to William Machindo. The big pasture was later used as the landing field ofWeldon Cookean early Oakland aviator. In 1910 Wickham Havens subdivided the into what we now know as Havenscourt.
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.
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.
The Stephens Family
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 Collegebefore taking a job with the Southern Pacific Railwayin 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.
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
William died November 21, 1932
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.
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.
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 attended the University of California at Berkeley and received a bachelor’s degree in science in 1924.
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.
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.
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:
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.