I grew up in the Montclair District of Oakland, CA. I attended Thornhill Elementary School, Montera Junior High, Skyline High School, and spent some time at Merritt College.
I lived in Montclair until I was a young adult, and since then, I have lived by Lake Merritt, in the Fruitvale District, on Piedmont Ave, the King Estates Area, and now the Laurel District.
Since going on an Oakland Heritage Alliance Tour of the Fernwood Neighborhood in the Montclair District of Oakland in about 1984, I have been an Oakland history buff ever since. On that tour, I learned a train (Sacramento Northern) ran through Montclair in the early 1900s and that people lived the area as early as the 1860s — been hooked ever since. Since then, I have spent a lot of time looking into Montclair’s history, and I have learned a lot. I feel this will be the best way to get it out of my head and onto paper.
In 2018 I started this blog because I collected so much information on Oakland’s history and 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.
With my dear friend Phil, I got started, and I was off and running. It 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 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.
I hope you will enjoy history as much as I do!
Down The Hole, I Go
But I have strayed 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 see 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. When looking up the house, I am curious as to who the house was 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 “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 are 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.
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 I started to get the history bug. I found out that the church had celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1980. I was amazed the church had been there so long.
In about 1985, I went on the Fernwood Walking Tour by the Oakland Heritage Alliance, and from that point on, I was on a mission to find out more about the history of Montclair and Oakland.
The Acorn or Acorn Projects are a series of housing projects in the Acorn Redevelopment Project Area of West Oakland.
They were original three housing units, Acorn 1, Acorn 2, and Acorn 3.
The project started in 1962. The first housing unit contained 479 units and cost $9 million; it was completed in 1969. A second 98-unit called Acorn II was completed in 1971 at the cost of $3.7 million.
Slum Clearance Project
“Oakland’s first slum clearance undertaking will be called The Acorn Project.”
Oakland Tribune March 9, 1959
The Oakland Redevelopment Agency selected the name Acorn for the project area (about 45 Blocks) flanking the Nimitz Freeway between Union and Brush Streets.
Agency member Carl O. Olsen said the“Acorn is symbolical for the future and growth.”
Acorn’s Amazing Progress
It was reported that Project Acorn was shaping up as one of the most successful blight clearance projects in the nations’ history in 1964.
In 20 months, they had accomplished the following:
Purchased 90% of parcels
Relocated 83% of families
Demolished 75% of structures
Sold four lots for new plants
Property Owners Sue
Thirteen West Oakland property owners sued to block the Acorn Project. They sued the Federal Redevelopment Agency and the City of Oakland, claiming that the Acorn Project “would deprive Negroes of their properties.”
They said the slum elimination project would, in effect, deprive them of homeownership because they have limited access to other residential areas. They told the court they have no objection to urban improvement, but object to being evicted from their homes without a place to go,
The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled against them in May of 1963.
Acorn: Acres of Vacancy
In the land cleared for the project, there were rats, ants, and sparrows lived. But no people.
The Oakland Redevelopment Agency had spent $ 13 million by 1967. But still no housing.
It was described as a slum clearance project, and it was a success. Some 4,300 people lost their homes as wrecking crews smashed aging buildings.
It took from April 1962 to May 1965 to reduce all but 610 old structures to splinters. In their place was acre upon acre of empty fields in the area between 10th and First and Brush and Union Streets.
Thirty-two were set aside for industrial redevelopment, thirty-four acres for new, moderate-priced housing.
Since 1962 when the Acorns were approved, 12,000 rental units were built in other parts of Oakland.
Acorn Project Aims to Attract Whites
The Acorns, a middle-income development featuring sophisticated townhouses and apartments, was one of the nations’ first attempts at “reverse integration.”
To attract whites to the project, the Building Trades Council tried to put the finest housing it can afford into the project and charge the lowest rents possible.
Rents ranged from studios at $67 up to four-bedroom two-story townhouses at $145. (The upper limit on income was $11,225)
Remember Acorn? It’s Dedicated
After sitting empty for ten years, the Acorn Project was finally dedicated in 1967.
Construction did not begin in Acorn until five years after demolition was completed, leaving a giant barren area in the middle of West Oakland, about 50 blocks, including parts of the historic heart of black Oakland, 7th Street. By the mid 60s, the demolition policies of the Oakland Redevelopment Agency (ORA) would create deep scars in the black neighborhoods close to downtown.
Ready for the Public
The first units of Oakland’s $8 million modern apartment complex opened for inspection in September 1968.
Studio – $67.00 a month
4-bedrooms – $145.00 a month
By December of 1968, 106 families lived in the Acorns.
Award for Acorn
Architects Edmund Burger and Patricia Coplans won the 1970 Holiday Award for the design of the Acorn Projects.
The Acorns Today
The property underwent extensive redevelopment in the 1990s due to four years of collaboration among HUD, The City of Oakland, BRIDGE, the Acorn Residents Council, and the West Oakland community.
Like many other projects, Acorn was known as a dangerous place for residents and nearby neighbors. The new Acorn will have several safety features. Density was reduced by half from the 700 units that made up the old project, and a series of courtyards with locked gates to limit access.
Acorn 1 was demolished, and a small community of two-story single-family houses between Filbert and Market Streets was built in its place.
Acorn 2 and Acorn 3 were renamed “Town Center Apartments at Acorn” and “Courtyard Apartments.
Acorn Town Center and Courtyards consist of 293 affordable studio, one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom apartments.
The Linden Branch Y.W.C.A. and the Filbert Street Y.M.C.A. developed programs during the 1930s that helped the Black community survive the Depression years. They emerged at a time when the national Y’s both encouraged separate branches for Black members.
Linden Center got its name from its location at 828 Linden Street in West Oakland. It achieved the “branch” status in 1924 due to increase membership. It was then known as the Linden Branch Y.W.C.A or the Linden Y.
The Linden Y functioned as a job placement center and welfare agency during the Depression years.
The branch operated as a community center, offering members religious training, recreational activities, counseling, vocational training, and music and art programs.
By 1938 the Linden St. Y had a membership of over 750.
For almost 25 years, the Linden Branch existed as a segregated facility. Following a national policy change, the board of the Oakland Y.W.C.A. integrated the Linden Street Y.
“to make its program available to all women and girls irrespective of race, creed or color”
The name was changed to West Oakland CenterYWCA.
Linden Street was described as ” a two-story framed building with four club rooms, a reception hall, office for the business and industrial sections, and two rooms rented to accommodate working girls.”
The facility and the entire surrounding neighborhood were razed in the early 1960s to make room for the Acorn Projects.
Oakland’s Black Y.M.C.A.
Organized by Rev. L.A. Brown of the First A.M.E. Church, opened on June 6, 1926. It was initially located at 3431 Market Street in West Oakland, and William E. Watkins, an attorney, was the first director. In 1927 the organization had a membership of 160, 134 seniors, and 26 boys.
In 1929 they moved to 804 Filbert Street and became known as the Filbert Street Branch, Y.M.C.A. In 1935 they moved to 805 Linden Street and became the Eight and Linden Branch, Y.M.C.A.
The Filbert Street Y promoted a competitive sports program. Its annual track meet annual athletic contest attracted competitors from all over the Bay Area.
They sponsored a variety of classes and activities. Members could attend classes in Bible and woodworking. A boys’ orchestra, organized by C. E. Brown, preformed for the public. Some of the boys were invited to summer camp.
In 1936 Mr. Watkins resigned as the director and was replaced by R.T. Smith. The directory lists the BLACK YMCA at 836-36th Street. After the move to 36th Street it became known as the North Oakland Branch. It probably integrated about the same time as the Linden Branch.
804 Linden Street burned in 1960 and then was razed for the Acorn Projects.
Oakland Heritage Alliance Newsletter – The Black Y’s of Oakland – Winter 1987-88
The glass palace was once a part of the estate of A.K.P. Harmon in Oakland.
Albion Keith Paris Harmon settled in Oakland in 1872 after making a fortune in the Comstock mines. He settled on 6.2 acres of land on the shores of Lake Merritt next to Sacred Heart College.
He soon after he built his house, conservatory, and magisterial carriage house.
In an 1882 biographical sketch on Mr. Harmon, the writer alluded that
“…greenhouse, which contains one of the most extensive collections of rare plants on the Pacific Coast.”
Mr. Harmon died in 1896, and his estate was subdivided and sold.
Mr. Edson F. Adams, son of one of the city founders, purchased the conservatory and had it moved to a two-acre park he had created at the head of Lake Merritt, known as Edson Plaza. The new park was called Edson Plaza and Conservatory or Adams Park.
The Adams heirs spent a large sum of money creating the park. The site was once a foul and unsightly marsh. It took about 18 months to complete the project.
The conservatory had to be moved intact, as it was constructed in a way it could not be disassembled. It was reported to have cost several thousand dollars to build in the 1880s. Walter J. Mathews, an architect, supervised the move.
The entire plaza was perfectly kept lawn with maple, poplar, birch, willow, and eucalyptus trees along the border. In the center was the conservatory in the shape of a cross 72 by 60 feet in size containing several thousand potted plants. John McLaren (Golden Gate Park) prepared plans for the conservatory and park’s upkeep and care.
The Oakland Hearld proudly announced, “Conservatory and Park Are Gift to Oakland’s People.”
In 1903 the Edson Heirs Donated the park to the city of Oakland.
“…gift is that the city shall forever maintain the plaza as a public park and keep up the handsome conservatory which stands in it.”
Oakland Tribune July 11, 1903
Relic of the Past
“So, another landmark is destroyed.”
In September 1918, an official notice came from the park commissioners to sell the conservatory and its contents. It has was too costly for the city to keep up.
“Now its life is ended. There no further use for it.”
Auction Sale – September 10, 1918
The “Forever Park” is Gone
In 1926, Oakland’s city council opted to lease land that Edson Plaza (then called Adams Park) to the country for a new Veterans’ Memorial Building. Which meant the conservatory would have to be razed.
Gee, did the city forget they agreed to keep it a park with the conservatory FOREVER?
Deed Doesn’t Restrict
“The deed to the property, which became known as Adams Park in 1902 after Edson Adams had erected a conservatory on the site, places no restrictions on the use and its only dedication as a park is through the city’s naming it.”
In 1962 a pair of lions statues were removed from their perch guarding the Alameda County Hall of Records since about 1875. The county board of supervisors agreed the statutes should be entrusted to Knowland State Park, where they were placed at the zoo entrance.
Thought to be Stone
“Most everyone believed they were stone or concrete underneath the paint,” Razeto said. “But tap them, and they ring…like a bell.”
Oakland Tribune May 11, 1963
Old photographs indicate the lions were an integral part of the original Victorian design, including two front lion wall plaques (removed before 1930)and a dozen bearded gargoyles at the eaves.
Old Hall of Records
The Hall of Records was erected in 1875. The hall sit had been the parade ground of the Oakland Guard from 1865. Architect Henry H. Meyers designed the ornate hall complete with entrance columns, leaded glass windows, and a grand rotunda.
A south wing was added in 1900 and a north wing in 1916. It was remodeled in 1945 when the welfare and school departments moved there.
In 1957 it was determined that nothing more could be added to the building without it collapsing.
In 1964 the Old Hall of Records was demolished to make room for the new $2.5 million Probation Center.
For years the lions were greeting people as they entered the Zoo. I bet thousands of kids and adults had had a picture taken of them sitting on one the lions. I know I did. Sadly, the lions no longer greet people as they have been moved from their prominent perch to the exit area.
From the plaque:
original iron lions, which guarded the entrance to the County Hall of Records since 1880 placed here in 1963 by the Board of Supervisors of Alameda County.
In 1926 it was announced that development of the Oak Knoll Country Club and the land surrounding it would handled by Carroll L. Post, the former president of Post Food Products Company. They began building the first group of model homes in April of 1926. Ezell-Phebus were the sales-agents.
E.B. Field Co. took developing the project in 1927.
5, 000 people standing on a hillside AGREED! That: Oak Knoll is Oakland’s finest Homeland!“
Oakland Tribune Oct 02, 1927
Spanish Style Home
This six room Spanish style bungalow was built in 1927 and was designed by R.E. Neikirk of Oakland. You enter the home from a terraced entry to a large living room with chapel style ceiling. There are three sunny bedrooms, a kitchen and a dining room.
..Beautiful Oak Knoll – The Heart of Oakland’s Country Club Districts”
E.B. Field Co.
Casa De La Vista
I haven’t been able to find the location of this home.
The attractive Spanish type residence opened in March of 1928. The architect was Harris Allen and the home was furnished by Whithone & Swan.
The Windsor House
Located on a spacious corner lot at Oak Knoll and Granada Avenues. The English style home was attractively adapted to the hillside setting. The house has five bedrooms and three bathrooms.
It was put on display to show how artistic a moderately priced can be with s comparetly small amount spent in furnishing it. Furnishing by Breuner’s of Oakland.
The Beautiful,Completely Furnished “ Windsor House”
The home has beautiful hardwood floors and high coved ceilings. An expansive deck off the kitchen leads to a private back patio. A main-floor master suite makes for convenient living, with two more bedrooms and a playroom upstairs with the second full bathroom.
Calafia Avenue Home
A Beautiful Home
Live in Oak Knoll and Play Golf at Home“
Oakland Tribune Jan 20, 1927
Overlooking the Oak Knoll Clubhouse
In 1937 a new home overlooking the Oak Knoll golf course and clubhouse was completed. The home was built for Domino Merlino at an approx. cost of $20,000.
Calandria Avenue Home
Construction of the new $13,000 home for Thomas King began in April of 1930. The outstanding feature of the home was the large living room window with a spectacular view of Oakland, San Francisco and the Bay.
Panorama of Oak Knoll Home – Dorisa Avenue
3687 Dorisa Ave – Today
New Developer at Oak Knoll
David D Bohannon well-known subdivider and developer of San Francisco property, formed a new company called Oak Knoll Land Development Company. This was the third company sell and develop the Oak Knoll area. (Please see Oak Knoll Homes)
An Oak Knoll Home
In June of 1938, the Alameda-Contra Costa County joint highway district filed a lawsuit to condemn four parcels of land in the Oak Knoll Tract.
The suit was in preparation for when work would begin on the $3,000,000 traffic artery via Mountain Blvd.
When this are was first built up in mid 1920s it was part of Oak Knoll. Now it is Considered to part of Sequoyah
“Fairway Estates is in the heart of the country club district and consists of a group of estates with building sites of generous size.” Oakland Tribune, August 18. 1929
Fairway Estates and Country Club Fairway Estates and Oak Knoll Unit C are all in the area known as Oak Knoll. Sequoyah Hills on three sides surround Oak Knoll.
The Oak Knoll Land Corporation handled the development.
In Fairway Estates
There are two large bedrooms with a sewing room and bathroom and a large dressing room with many different built-in fixtures and cabinets. On the lower are the maids’ quarters, with separate shower and billiard room. The bathrooms and kitchen are beautifully finished in colored tile.
In Fairway Estates
The Jefferson Home
The Jefferson home is a seven-room, two-story residence of Spanish design. With a large living room and a massive oak stairway leading to a balcony overlooking the Oak Knoll golf course and country club.
“Another reason is the beautiful setting of Fairway Estates – overlooking the Oak Knoll Country club and golf course and views of wooded hills, the harbor, the bay cities, and the Golden Gate.” Oakland Tribune, August 18. 1929
Oak Knoll Country Club District
The Nine room Spanish Style home.
In Fairway Estates
Model Homes in Fairway Estates
Spanish Type Model Home
Spanish in architecture.
The Fairway Estates model home opened in March of 1930. The home was designed by Watson Vernon to fit the lot-on which it stands, to utilize the view possibilities of the property to the best advantage.
Model Country Club Residence
The Spanish home takes greatest advantage of the two way view the wooded hillside on one side and the bay on the other. This six room home has a spacious master bedroom with a sunroom on the upper floor. The dining room window overlooks the golf course.
Beautiful Spanish Model Home
Fairway Estates Home
La Casa Bella
Artistic in the extreme…”
La Casa Bella opened in November of 1930. The home is of Spanish architecture showing the Moorish influence.
A master bedroom that will lull you to sleep after a gallon of coffee…”
Oakland Tribune Nov 16, 1930
A living room almost large enough for a country dance…”
Oakland Tribune Nov 16, 1930
Spanish Home at Oak Knoll
“…with the liquid silver of the moon lying in the pools of mystery the patio will coax you out of doors all hours of the day or night” – Oakland Tribune May 04, 1930
William Watts was known in Oakland for having a tract of land named for him.
The land was 158 acres running from Chestnut to the Bay, and from 28th to 38th Streets. Looks like it now considered Clawson.
William Watts was born in Chelsea, Mass, in 1808. In 1831 he married Maria Francis Rollins. They had a son William Augustus Watts born in 1833.
In 1850 Watts traveled to California, via the “Horn.” After mining in Tuolumne County, he returned to San Francisco.
On May 04, 1858, William Watts took the title of 158 acres from Francisco Sanjurjo, who had acquired the property from the daughter of Domingo Peralta. Mr. Watts paid $5000 for the land and built a large ranch home at what is now the corner of 34th and Chestnut Streets. He farmed the property until 1876.
William Watts passed away on January 16, 1878, and the ranch was passed on to his son William.
The family also owned a Tannery that was a close to their ranch.
In 1874, 60 acres were subdivided, and a map of the Watts Tract was drawn up.
Watts’ Tract Auction Sale
In December of 1876, an auction sale was held at the Watts’ station, on the Berkeley Branch Railroad. Two hundred twenty-eight lots were sold in two and one-half hours.
Streets Named For
Four streets in the “Watts Tract” are named for the daughters of George Washington Dam. A friend of the family.