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The Rabbit Hole

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.

494 Capricorn _00005
My childhood home in Montclair

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.

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.  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.

This might help explain Rabbit Hole.

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The History Bug Strikes

Our house in Montclair on Thornhill

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 rest is history.

First blog post

Posted in Buildings, East Oakland, Fruitvale, Homes, Lake Merritt

More Mansions

More on the mansions that once graced the streets of Oakland

Koa Hall – Bailey Mansion

W. H. Bailey, who owned plantations in Hawaii, hired W.J. Mathews to designed his home and cost $70,000 to build circa 1889.

Bailey Mansion on Jackson Street – 1898 Oliver Family Photograph Collections Bancroft Library http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt0n39q1p1

The woodwork of the main hall was the beautiful koa from the Hawaiian Islands. By the main staircase, there were carvings of koa. The woodwork in the reception-room on one side of the hall was bird’s- eye maple. Antique oak was used in the library and the dining room.

Oakland Tribune May 31, 1891
Oakland Tribune May 31, 1891

It was converted into a rooming or boarding house’

Oakland Tribune March 11, 1916

Sometime in the late 1920s the old mansion was razed and the Hotel Lakehurst was built.

Oakland Tribune Feb 02, 1930

It is now called Lakehurst Hall.

Location: 1369 Jackson St now 1569 Jackson Street at the corner of 17th Street.

More Info:

The Old Brown Home

The three-story, five-bedroom home was built in 1872 by Dr. Samuel Merritt.

In 1874 Roland Geir Brown purchased the home.

Mr. Brown sold sewing machines for Grover and Baker. The Oakland Tribune reports that Brown was one of the wealthiest men in 19th Century Oakland.

 Roland G. Brown, with two other adults, in carriage. – Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library – http://www.oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt409nc89b/?order=1

The Brown home was less than a block from Lake Merritt. This was before the lake shore was filled in.

Brown House

When President William McKinley was in the Bay Area for a week in May 1901, he visited the Brown home.

Oakland Tribune July 25, 1956

The old Brown home at 1889 Jackson Street was demolished in 1956 to make room for a parking lot.

Location: 1889 Jackson – between 17th and 19th Streets

More Info:

The Other Brown Mansion

Albert Brown came to Oakland in 1887 from New Jersey. He was an undertaker and a prominent lodge man.

Albert Brown Home on Alice Street

Boarding Home

Sometime after Brown’s’ death, the mansion was converted into a boarding house. The Alice-Lake Apartments are now located in the spot.

Location: 1387 Alice Street

More Info:

Alexander Mansion

“Aloha, nui,” or “Love be unto you.”  Is carved above one of the entrances

Samuel T. Alexander came to Oakland from Hawaii in the early 1880s. He was one of the founders of Alexander & Baldwin, an American company that cultivated sugar cane. 

Oakland Tribune

In 1882 Alexander purchased a lot on the northwest corner of Sixteenth and Filbert for $6,000.

Artistic Homes of California
Artistic Homes of California

The three-story Queen Anne style home was designed by Clinton Day was completed in 1883 at the cost of $20.000

Move to Piedmont 

The family lived there until 1912 when Mrs. Alexander moved to Piedmont to be closer to her son, Wallace Alexander. 

Rooming House

Sometime after 1912, the mansion was converted to a rooming house renting out rooms until the mid -1960s.

Oakland Tribune 1919
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Oakland, Alameda County, CaliforniaVol 1 1903

New Life for Old Mansion

In 1967 the once venerable mansion stood deserted and in despair, its windows boarded or broken was scheduled to be demolished.

Members of the Oak Center Neighborhood Association decided the old mansion could receive a face lift and become a community “Neighborhood House.” The demolition was halted.

Oakland Tribune 1967

The visualized the rehabilted building comprising of office space for the Oak Center Association, a children’s library and study hall, an adult library and reading room, a large all-purpose room for meetings and socials and room for individual and group counseling.

Vandals Strike

The group succeeded in saving the old mansion from the wreckers only to have it nearly demolished anyway –by vandals. The house was broken into and ruined beyond repair and was finally demolished in 1968.

Quinn Home

To make room for Highway 980 the William H. Quinn Home at 1425 Castro Street was moved to 1004-06 16th Street.

William H. Quinn House, 1425 Castro Street, Oakland, Alameda County, CA – Library of Congress – https://www.loc.gov/item/ca0017/

Location: 1006 – 16th Street

More Info:

Hush Mansion – Etnemere

It was built in 1865, the 14-room house of rococo architecture. The barn had room for ten horses and room for 20 tons of hay.

Oakland Tribune

The house had 14 rooms made of redwood. The barn had room for 10 horses

Oakland Tribune

The mansion had a wood and coal furnace, and the radiators are believed to have been the earliest models of that kind in the country. The rooms were paneled with massives doors 9 feet high. Beautiful mirrors adorned the wall.

Oakland Tribune

It was reported that Susan B. Anthony once slept there.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Oakland, Alameda County, CaliforniaVol 2 1903

The house and barn property was purchase by Marston Campbell, Jr, as an investment. It was torn down in 1948.

The Hush Mansion Today – google maps

Location: 1401 28th Avenue on East 14th.

More Info:

Once owned by Merritt

In 1877 Dr. Samuel Merritt built a three-story home on Jackson Street. The house had bay windows, a front porch, and cone-shaped peaked.

The lot is part of the 45-acre parcel, which Merritt paid $4,000 in 1852.

Oakland Tribune 1963

The house was purchased from Dr. Merritt in 1880 for $12,050 by John A. Stanley as a wedding gift for his daughter and her husband, Thomas Coghill.

The Coghill family lived there until 1920 when they sold it to John C. Money. After Mr. Money died in 1944, it served as a rooming house.

By 1963 it was the last of the old mansions on the block and was demolished to make room for a 32-unit apartment building.

Oakland Tribune Jan 05, 1964

Location: 1514 Jackson Street

More Info:

Orange Street Mansion

Edward P. Flint, a land developer, and San Francisco businessman, moved to Oakland in 1860. He lived at 13th and Clay before moving to this house.

Oakland Tribune 1964

The site where he built the house at 447 Orange Street was a part of a larger parcel he subdivided in Adams Point.

After Flint died, Admiral Thomas S. Phelps purchased the property. Phelps was a veteran of the Spanish American War.   In 1939 the property was purchased by M.A. Marquard, and lived in the house until 1964.

The house was demolished in 1964 and replaced with a “modern 28-unit apartment building.

The new structure has 15 two-bedroom and 12 one-bedroom apartments, plus a penthouse. The building was designed by Al Colossi. and is located at 447 Orange Street.

 Mr. and Mrs. Marquard lived in the penthouse of the new apartment.

More Info:

The End

Posted in East Oakland, Homes

Rock Blown from Quarry

The heavy missile, which neighbors said had hurled through the air like a

“shell from a cannon.”

Oakland Tribune October 28, 1931

A 40-pound rock, blasted from the hills above Millsmont, was hurled half a mile and crashed through the roof and dining room ceiling at the home of Fred Bailey, 4017 Altamont Avenue.

The rock was blasted from the nearby Heafey-Moore quarry.

“There is little doubt the rock came from the quarry, where men were blasting.”

John Heafey, President of the Heafey-Moore
Oakland Tribune October 28, 1931

A “strange-urge” told Mrs. Bailey to leave their home, and she did go. She left the house at 4:30 with her daughter and went downtown.

“every time I went into the dining room, something told me I shouldn’t be there.” Mrs. Bailey said

Oakland Tribune October 28, 1931

They returned home to find it in shambles. There was an eight-foot hole in the ceiling of the dining room. The rock landed on the couch/bed that their daughter used.

4017 Altamont Avenue – Today – Google Maps
4017 Altamont Ave and the Quarry – google maps

The End

Posted in Homes, Lake Merritt, People

Reign of Terror

Bomb Explodes

On March 18, 1919, Mrs.George D. Greenwood was killed instantly when a bomb exploded in the family home garden overlooking Lake Merritt. Her husband was the Vice-President of the Savings Union Bank of San Francisco.

Killed Instantly

It is believed that Mrs. Greenwood found the bomb and picked it up, causing it to explode.

Mrs. Greenwood’s body was torn apart and hurled ten-feet across the garden by the force of the explosion. Her clothing was stripped from her body and hung from the trees or was scattered on the lawn.

All windows on two sides of the Greenwood home were shattered.

Threats Sent to Other Families

The Greenwood family wasn’t the only Eastbay family to have received letters threatening death unless specific amounts of money were handed over.

Other families included:

  • Kenneth E. Lowden – 274 19th Street
  • Mrs. E.A. Julian – Piedmont

According to the police, a letter demanding $5,000 and threatening to destroy his home with dynamite was sent to Greenwood in January of 1918. The “C.C. of C” signed the letter, which stands for the Cat’s Claw of California.

Oakland Tribune March 21, 1919

The Greenwood explosion was the third in a series attributed to a gang supposed to have dynamited Governor William D. Stephens home and one other.

An unexploded bomb was found in the yard of N. Campagna of Berkeley the week before.

Society Leader

SF Examiner June 12, 1893

Mrs. George D. Greenwood was considered “society royal” in Oakland and San Francisco, where her parents and husbands were pioneers.

Tubbs Hotel

She was one of the Tubbs girls, the daughters of the late Hiram Tubbs, early capitalist, and owner of the famous old Tubbs Hotel.   

Oakland Tribune 1891

The daughters were Mrs. Greenwood, formerly Miss May Tubbs, Mrs. William G. Henshaw, Mrs. Grace Tubbs Henshaw, and Mrs. Edward M. Hall.

No Results

Oakland Tribune March 1919

Police investigations, which continued for more than a year after the tragedy, resulted in the clearing of the mystery surrounding the bomb.

Hanford Kings County Sentinel May 08, 1919

The police arrested many suspects, none were charged.  

New Wife

Oakland Tribune Sept 1922

Mr. Greenwood married Gertrude Vincent in late 1922.

Greenwood Home

The Greenwood home was located at the corner of 19th Street and Jackson at 1399 Jackson Street (later changed to 1899 Jackson). The Greenwoods lived there from about 1896 to 1920.

The Greenwood Home at the corner of Jackson and 19th Streets. Photo by Frank Rodolph
Oakland Tribune May 12, 1936

In 1936 the house was remodeled and became the new home of the Oakland University Club.

More Info:

The End

Posted in Buildings, Early Montclair, Montclair

Members Build Clubhouse

“We are building this clubhouse beyond our immediate requirement but with an eye to the future”   

Mrs. E.T. Jepson Nov 08, 1925

A New Clubhouse

Press release

“A very handsome $10,000 structure is planned for the Montclair Clubhouse. It will be 109 by 40 feet and will contain a large auditorium, stage, dressing room, dining room, kitchen, check room, restroom, and basement space, which will be utilized as billiard room.”

Oakland Tribune

Construction Started

The groundbreaking celebration was held in March of 1925 at the junction of Thorn Road (now Thornhill Drive) and Mountain Blvd.

Members of the Montclair Improvement Club in November of 1925 and began constructing the new clubhouse. 

New Clubhouse Opens

In March of 1926, the Montclair Improvement Club held the $ 20,000 Montclair Community clubhouse formal dedication.

The structure is one-story and is of Spanish architecture. Features included an auditorium with stage and fireplace, dining and reception rooms, an electrically equipped kitchen.

Montclarion

John Perona was the builder who donated his services. Contributions of labor from club members reduced the cost of construction.

They also planned to have tennis and handball courts, a playground for children, and a golf course.

In March of 1926, the Montclair Improvement Club held their first dance at the new clubhouse.

A Bit of History

The beginnings of the Montclair Improvement Club can be traced back to as early as 1923. 

Oakland Tribune March 1923

After a few years, it became the Montclair Bussiness Assoc.

Montclarion

Membership was made up of residents of Montclair, Merriewood, and Forest Park.

Copy of Newsletter

The Women’s Auxiliary to the Montclair Improvement Club was also formed in 1923. The name was changed to Montclair Women’s Club in 1925 when it became affiliated with the California Federation of Women’s Clubs

Montclair Women’s Clubhouse

In May of 1928, the women’s club purchased the clubhouse from Montclair Improvement Club.

Oakland Tribune 1928

They held their first dance in August of 1928.

Clubhouse Damaged in Fire

In November of 1928, a fire damaged the interior of the clubhouse. 

Oakland Tribune November 10, 1928

Clubhouse is Sold

In 1996 the Montclair Women’s Club was sold. From 1996 until 2015, it was an events center called the Montclair Women’s Cultural Arts Club.

Stunning Montclair Facility For Sale – website

It is now the KSS Immersion Preschool of Oakland.

The Clubhouse today

Google Maps
Google Maps

More Info:

Location: 1650 Mountain Blvd Oakland

Posted in Buildings, East Oakland, History, North Oakland, West Oakland

A Bygone Era

A bit of history of some of the mansions that once graced the streets of Oakland. More to come at a later date.

Burnham Mansion

Burnham Mansion was at the corner of Lakeside Drive and 17th Street. The three-story mansion was built in 1902 by John Russell Burnham.

Oakland Tribune 1955

The Burnham family selected the site on Lake Merritt’s edge because of its similarity to Lake Geneva.

The distinctive features of the house were the first stall shower in the city and an automobile garage. The Burnham’s were the owners of one of the first two automobiles in Oakland.

Oakland Tribune 1955

At the beginning of WWII, the mansion was turned over to the American Red Cross for a hospitality center. Alcoholics Anonymous occupied the home until 1955.

In 1956 construction was to begin on ne 60-unit apartment building. The new structure was expected to cost $2.5 million. Each of the 60 apartment ran completely through the building with views of Lake Merritt. Other features included parking on two levels, the elimination of corridors, extensive elevator system, individual patios, and a roof top garden.

Oakland Tribune 1964

Chabot Mansion

Lake Merritt – Anthony Chabot’s Home – circa 1886 – Photo by Frank B. Rodolph – http://www.oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt9d5nd40c/?order=1

The old home of Anthony Chabot, founder of Oakland’s modern water system, was torn down in 1952. The city declared the house a fire and health hazard.

Lake Merritt – Anthony Chabot’s Home – circa 1886

The Chabot family hadn’t lived there for some time. Ellen Chabot Bothin still owned it.

The building had been used as a rooming house for years, taking in enough money to pay the taxes.

The home was a modest one considering the owner was a millionaire. The house was two-stories with an attic, its rooms with high ceilings, marble mantels, and velvet embossed walls.

The Chabot’s name is a part of our history, with the following named after them.

  • Chabot Road
  • Chabot Observatory
  • Chabot School
  • Lake Chabot

Goodall Mansion

Edwin Goodall built an elaborate mansion in 1880. The house was located at 1537 Jackson Street.

Goodall home, courtesy Bahá’ís of the United States

The home had paneled walls, and a bed carved out of mahogany, a small theater with dressing rooms.

In 1918, Dr. M.M. Enos purchased the home, operated it as the St. Anthony Hospital until 1923, when it became the Jackson Lake Hospital.

Oakland Tribune 1960

In 1960 the hospital was razed to make room for an apartment building called the Jackson Lake Apartments.

Oakland Tribune Sept 23, 1960

 King Mansion  

Charles H. King built his mansion in about 1884.

King City a rural community in the Salinas Valley was named in 1886 for Oakland’s Charles H. King.

In 1971 the old and neglected King family Mansion still stood at 1029 Sixth Avenue and East 11th Street.  The home at one time had 38 rooms. Not sure exactly when the home was razed.

Mein Mansion

Oakland Tribune 1964

The mansion of Capt. Thomas Mein was located at the corner of Jackson and 15th Street.

Oakland Tribune 1964

The three-story 16-room Victorian was built in 1899, included a winding staircase and marble fireplaces.

Oakland Tribune 1964

In 1964 home was razed to make room for a new 34-unit apartment called the Delphian.

Oakland Tribune 1965

Palm Knoll

Oakland Tribune

Palm Knoll, was the home of Governor (later Senator) George C. Perkins (1839–1923). The 24-room mansion Vernon and Perkins Street, was built in 1890.

Palm Knoll was razed in 1947 to make room for apartments.

Oakland Tribune

Playter Home

Ely Welding Playter, a successful hardware merchant in San Francisco, built a mansion in 1879 at 14th and Castro Streets. The area was the center of Oakland’s elite.

Playter was the 24th Mayor of Oakland. He served two terms, 1885 and 1886, and was a Republican. 

In 1906, the house became a refuge for “working girls” after being purchased by the YWCA. 

It was a three-story structure with long narrow windows.

The house was torn down in 1948 to make room for a service station.

The hospital was Once a Mansion.

The original home of the Solomon Ellsworth Alden family, then the John Edgar McElrath family. It officially opened as the Baby Hospital in 1914.

Please read for more info:

Solomon E. Alden – Oakland Local Wiki

Oakland Tribune May 28, 1967

More Info:

The End

Posted in Buildings, Districts/Neighborhoods, East Oakland, Public Housing, Schools, Urban Renewal

Clinton Park Urban Renewal Project

The nation’s first federally assisted rehabilitation project.

Oakland Tribune

Federal Housing Act of 1954

In 1955 a 125 block area bounded by E. 21st Street, 14th Avenue, E. 12th Street, and Lake Merritt was chosen as the “study area” for urban renewal.

Clinton Park urban renewal plan (project no. Calif. R-2), City of Oakland, California -November 1957-HathiTrust

In October of 1955, Oakland applied to the Federal Government to formally designate an 80 block area of East Oakland bordering Lake Merritt as its first urban renewal project.

First in the West

The area was Oakland’s first concentrated action against blight and substandard housing.  

Clinton Park was a conservation project, the first of this type in the Western United States. 

When the project began in July 1958, the area covered 282 acres contained approximately 1,358 structures and 4,750 dwelling units. Clinton Park Project is bounded by Lake Merritt, 14th Avenue, East 21st. and East 14th Streets

The field office for the project was located at 1626 6th Avenue. The field office, an example of urban renewal in action –was a 50-year old house that was located at 1535 10th Avenue.

Oakland Gets U.S. Grant

In December of 1955, the Federal Government earmarked $1 210,000 for Oakland’s Clinton Park Urban Renewal Program. This amount was two-thirds of the anticipated total cost.

New School – Recreation Center

“heart of the Clinton Park urban renewal area.”

The new Franklin School served as an educational and recreational facility and the nucleus of the project. The revised plans for the site called for the additional area and a recreation center to be added. The school replaced the old school building condemned as an earthquake hazard.

Oakland acquired property to double the playgrounds of Franklin School.

The new school opened in September of 1956.

Oakland Tribune September 1956
Franklin School Today – 2020 by Littledots

Due to many problems in acquiring property for the expanded facility, the Recreation Center and Playground area’s completion was delayed until the summer of l 961.

Oakland Tribune October 1960
1010 East 15th – today

Our City Oakland

In 1956 the Oakland Junior Chamber Committee of the Chamber of Commerce produced a movie on Oakland’s urban renewal program.
The movie, entitled ” Our City Oakland.”

Our City Oakland – American City 
Dedicated to Oakland Urban Renewal program for the elevation of human and property values of its neighborhoods .

The film (in color with sound)shows examples of Oakland’s slum dwellings, and census figures at the time showed Oakland more than 15,000 such structures (Wow!)

The film also tells of the work in Clinton Park.

Project Launched

In July of 1957, a wrecking crew started the demolition of eight houses near the new Franklin School. This would be the location of the new recreation center.

Oakland Tribune July 1957
Oakland Tribune June 30, 1957

Older Home Gets New Life

In 1956, the Greater Eastbay Associated Homebuilders purchased a 50-year-old home at 1535 10th Avenue.

Oakland Tribune April 1956
Oakland Tribune April 1956

Home and Garden Show

The house was moved from its lot to become an exhibit at the Home and Garden Show.

Oakland Tribune April 1956

It was completely remodeled as a part of Oakland’s Operation Home Improvement Campaign.

Oakland Tribune April 1956

 Following the show, the home was moved to and used as the Clinton Park Project field office.

The office was located at 1621 6th Avenue.

Oakland Tribune 1963

Looks like the house was moved sometime in the mid 1960s. A church is there now.

A Rehab Project

The homes at 624 and 630 Foothill Blvd

Many New Apartment Buildings

From 1956 to 1962, 57 new apartment buildings were constructed. By 1960 $4,000,000 had been spent on new apartment construction.

First Project

The ground was broken in May of 1956 for the first significant construction project for Clinton Park.  

Robert A. Vandenbosch designed the 32-unit apartment building at 1844 7th Avenue and East 19th Street.

 The three-story structure was built around an inner court that has balconies overlooking the court from every apartment.

Now called Casa Simone –

New Apartment Project

Looking from East 18th towards 12th Avenue Photo by Cheney Photo Advertising 1919

A new 12-unit apartment building replaced a “dilapidated” single-family dwelling at 12th Avenue and East 18th Street.

Oakland Tribune

The old structure was located at 1755 12th Avenue, was built in 1900. It had been converted illegally to an eight-unit apartment.

The structure costs $75.000 to build.

1133 East 18th Street

Garden Type Apartment

In 1958 a new $400,000 apartment was built at 1125 East 18th Street.

Oakland Tribune 1958

Two old homes and their outbuildings were razed to make room for the 40-unit two-story building with parking for the 24 cars on the ground floor.

1125 East 18th – Google Maps

An eight-unit apartment building at 645 Foothill Blvd was under construction at the same time.

Clinton Park Manor

Clinton Park Manor, a 144-unit complex, was built in 1958 at the cost of $1,400,000.  

  • 24 efficiency units
  • 50 one-bedroom units
  • 46 two-bedroom units
  • 24 three-bedroom units

Architect Cecil S. Moyer designed the four three-story structures with a landscaped courtyard in the middle.

It is now called Oakbrook Manor – 1229 East 19th Street

The complex is bounded by 12th and 13th Avenues and East 19th and East 20th Streets.

Google Maps

One of Oakland’s first schools, Brooklyn Grammar School, was built on the site in 1863. It was renamed Swett School in 1874, and in 1882 a new school Bella Vista was built there. Bella Vista School was razed in 1951.

The Valhalla Apartments

In March of 1960, a three-story 48-unit apartment building was built on the northeast corner of 12th Avenue and East 17th Street at the cost of $556,000.

Architect Cecil Moyer also designed this building. The new building contained (it might still have the same layout):

  • 3- bachelor apartments
  • 24- one-bedroom apartments
  • 11- two-bedroom apartments
  • 10- three-bedroom apartments

The courtyard had a swimming pool.

1720 12th Ave Google Maps

Six old homes, some dating back to the 1890s, were demolished to clear the site.

Today it is call Cambridge Terrace Apartments

Apartments

A partial list of the new apartment buildings

  • 2225-7th Avenue – 1957
  • 1618-6th Avenue – 1957
  • 1640 -6th Avenue -1957
  • 602 Foothill – remodeled
  • 1925-35 10th Avenue – 1960

New Supermarket

In 1960 Safeway Stores Inc. built a new 20,000 square foot building and a parking lot on 14th Avenue.

The Architects were Wurster, Bernardi, and Emmons of San Francisco.

1711 14th Avenue – Today – Google Maps

Loops’ for Traffic

To meet the problem of through traffic on a residential street, which caused neighborhood deterioration. Forty-seven intersections were marked to be altered, either to divert automobiles to through streets by way of traffic “loops.” or slow them down with curb extensions.

The traffic-diverting “loops” will be landscaped areas extending diagonally across intersections.

The result of these intersections was that through traffic in the project area is limited to 5th, 8th Avenues, north and south, East 21st Street, Foothill Blvd, and East 15th Street, east-west.

The Diverters -Google Maps

Diverters were placed at East 19th Street and 6th and 11th Avenues and East 20th Street at 7th and 10th Avenues. Also at East 20th Street and 12th Avenue.

Discouragers were also placed at East 20th Street and 13th Avenue and East 19th Street and 13th Avenue.

New Mercury Lights and Traffic Signals

Excerpts of articles from the Oakland Tribune 1960

Other features of the program included:

  • New Recreation Center
  • Widening of several streets and the installation of curbs and sewers.
  • Planting of 1,600 trees about 20 per block.
  • Construction of pedestrian overpasses over Foothill Blvd and East 15th Street for safe access to Franklin School.
  • Installation of new street lighting, street signs, and traffic signs.

Beautiful Homes of Clinton Park

Project Report

By March of 1962, 1,081 structures, containing 3,056 dwelling units have been repaired to eliminate all code. Violation. There have been ll7 structures demolished during the same period.   

Final report of Oakland Renewal Foundation, Inc. on Clinton Park Project, Oakland, California. – @HathiTrust

During this same period, 57 new apartment buildings were constructed within the project area, adding l,l08 new units to the existing housing supply. 

More Info:

Oakland (Calif.). Housing Division. (, 1962). Clinton Park: a historical report on neighborhood rehabilitation in Oakland, California. Oakland, Calif.: The Dept.

Clinton – Oakland Local Wiki

The End

Posted in Buildings, Real Estate, West Oakland

The Acorn Projects

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. 

Acorn Housing Project model, April 7, 1966. – The Acorn Housing Project promised sleek, modern architecture — concrete-block units with sharp angles and crisp white exteriors

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.

Oakland Tribune 1959

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.”

Oakland Tribune February 24, 1965

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
Oakland Tribune

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.

Oakland Tribune 1967

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.  

Acorn SIte 1966  By the time this picture was taken, 90 percent of the Acorn project-area had been “cleared,” and 86 percent of residents had relocated — many to the neighborhood of East Oakland and the northern East Bay city of Richmond.*

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.

Groundbreaking ceremony for Acorn construction, November 10, 1967John B. Williams (kneeling) holds a sign for the Acorn Urban Renewal Project as it is hammered into the ground by Robert C. Weaver, Secretary of the newly founded Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

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.

Source: San Francisco Examiner 9/16/68 “Oakland’s Redevelopment Project Ready for Public” (available at Oakland History Room)
  • Studio – $67.00 a month
  • 4-bedrooms – $145.00 a month

By December of 1968, 106 families lived in the Acorns.

SF Examiner Sept 1968

Award for Acorn

 Architects Edmund Burger and Patricia Coplans won the 1970 Holiday Award for the design of the Acorn Projects.

The Acorns Today

SF Examiner May 1998

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.

SF Examiner May 1998

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.

  • high-tech security system
  • gated property
  • recreational center
  • community building
  • tot lots
  • three basketball courts
  • swimming pool

Acorn Town Center and Courtyards – Bridge Housing

More Info:

The Acorn NeighborhoodOakland Local Wiki

Imagining a Past Future – Photographs from the Oakland Redevelopment Agency – Places Journal

Affordable Housing Today – Architecture California 2001

Acorn Oakland RenaissanceFacebook Page

Portraits of Progress and PainEastbay Yesterday

The Planning History of Oaklandwebsite

Tot Lot

The End

Posted in Black History, West Oakland

The Black Y’s of Oakland

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.

Oakland’s Black Y.W.C.A

In 1920 a small group of local black women, Mrs. Willie HenryMelba Stafford, and Hettie B. Tilghman, organized the Linden Center Y.W.C.A. with the central organization’s support and approval.

Linden branch of the YWCA in Oakland, California. circa 1940 Clubhouses–California-Oakland. Young Women’s Christian Associations–California–Oakland. Neighborhoods–California–Oakland–West Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room.

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.

Young Women’s Christian Association Collection – African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)

The Linden Y functioned as a job placement center and welfare agency during the Depression years.

Linden Street Y.W.C.A. interest groups, clubs, classes
 Young Women’s Christian Association of Oakland.
African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)

The branch operated as a community center, offering members religious training, recreational activities, counseling, vocational training, and music and art programs.

 Linden Street Y.W.C.A. interest groups, clubs, classes
 Young Women’s Christian Association of Oakland.
African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)
MS110_B01_F03_019

 Y.W.C.A. yearbook
Young Women’s Christian Association of the U.S.A.–History.
African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)

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 Center YWCA.


Group of men and women sitting on wall in front of Linden Branch Y.W.C.A – circa 1930s African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)
Joseph, E. F. (Emmanuel Francis), 1900-1979
Group Photo 1940
African American Museum and Library at Oakland, MS189_0809

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.

Linden Street Y.W.C.A. 828 Linden Street circa 1940
 Young Women’s Christian Association of Oakland.
African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)

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.

3431 Market St -Today Google Maps

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.

Oakland Tribune Mar 19, 1934

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.

Exterior of Y.M.C.A. building African Americans–California–Oakland–History–Pictorial works. source: Joseph (E. F.) Photograph Collection circa 1930s : MS126_2499
836 -36th Street today – Google Maps

804 Linden Street burned in 1960 and then was razed for the Acorn Projects.

More Info:

Oakland Heritage Alliance Newsletter – The Black Y’s of Oakland – Winter 1987-88

Oakland Heritage Alliance News Winter 2013 – Remembering the Linden Street Y

Linden Street Y.W.C.A. – Oakland Local WIki 

The End

Posted in Buildings, Lake Merritt, Parks, People

Edson Plaza and Conservatory

From 1911

The glass palace was once a part of the estate of A.K.P. Harmon in Oakland.

A.K.P. Harmon

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.

From the Map of the City of Oakland and Surroundings. Compiled from Official and Private Surveys. by J.C. Henkenius. 1888. Britton & Rey Lith., S.F. Cal. Entered…1887.

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.”

Harmon House and Conservatory from Webster Street, Oakland. ca. 1870
Gift of Miss Marietta Edwards
H68.10.6B
Harmons Greenhouse
Sf Examiner May 1, 1896

Mr. Harmon died in 1896, and his estate was subdivided and sold.

Sf Examine May 03, 1896

Edson Plaza

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.

New or greatly enlarged industrial establishments of Oakland and East Bay cities / by Oakland (Calif.) Chamber of Commerce. Cheney Photo Advertising Co. ; Wickham Havens, Inc.
circa 1917 Courtesy of Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Center
http://www.oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt7199q9d0/?order=87

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
Oakland Tribune Aug 4, 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

Oakland Tribune Sept 8, 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.”

Oakland Tribune Jan 27, 1927
Oakland Tribune July 19, 1927

Veterans’ Memorial Building

Veterans’ Memorial Building 200 Grand Ave – Oakland Local Wiki

More Info:

The End

Posted in East Oakland

Lion Statues at the Oakland Zoo

Oakland Tribune May 11. 1963

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.

Oakland Tribune May 08, 1963

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.

Oakland Tribune March 11, 1964

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.

Hall of Records updated Oakland History Room

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.

Today

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.

Lion Statues at the Oakland Zoo – Lion Statues on Waymarking.com
Lion Statues at the Oakland Zoo – Lion Statues on Waymarking.com
Lion Statues at the Oakland Zoo – Lion Statues on Waymarking.com

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.

More Info:

Lion Statues at the Oakland Zoo – Lion Statues on Waymarking.com

The End