There have been many discussions and articles about the name “Uptown” for an area in downtown Oakland. Most people hate it, except for the new people who just moved here, who call it “hip” or “trendy” (this is just my opinion I did not conduct a poll).
Most recently on one of the Facebook groups, I belong to. Just about everybody who commented hates the use of word uptown. Only two people actually read my comment about the history of the name. One still didn’t buy my explanation, and the other thanked me.
No as a native oaklander we have never used the word uptown it was always downtown”Facebook Group
Gentrification definitely gentrification”Facebook Group
We went Downtown
Growing up in Oakland, we always went downtown and never uptown because we went home.
It still is downtown to us and will always be! I will not argue that!
People are assuming the name “Uptown” comes from newcomers or “gentrifiers” that are taking over the area.
I know I questioned it, thinking they (the developers) were trying to make it sound like New York.
An article in the East Bay Express validates that thought.
“The use of “Uptown” to refer to what is really part of downtown Oakland is relatively new and followed the city’s massive gentrification project to renovate the Fox Theater and build 10,000 new units of housing around Grand Avenue and Telegraph in the early 2000s.”East Bay Express
Too bad, the author of that article didn’t spend time researching the name.
Statements like this would further their belief that the term is new and made up.
“Square (the tech company) has launched its East Bay operations by moving a few hundred employees into new digs in downtown Oakland’s hip and trendy Uptown neighborhood.”Square sets up shop in Oakland – East Bay Times Feb 13, 2020
A couple of years ago, I decided to research the name a little more. I was reading an old report from the redevelopment agency from the 1980s and I saw a reference to the “Uptown District”. That got me to thinking and the rest is history.
A bit of history follows.
During the first fifty years of Oakland, the primary business activity centered around 9th and Broadway. The first map of Oakland, drawn in 1853, marked 14th street as the northern boundary of the city.
Businesses initially were built near the waterfront at 1st and Broadway. As transportation improved and the population increased, buildings moved further up Broadway.
A prominent sign of upward commercial advance was the completion of the First National Bank in 1908 at Broadway and San Pablo, along with the Cathedral Building and City Hall.
Uptown Historic District
The Uptown Historic District runs from 18th Street to 21st Street along Broadway at the north end of Oakland’s central business district. It includes three blocks of the triangular gore between Broadway and Telegraph Avenue, plus the Fox Theater on the west side of Telegraph and portions on the eastern side of Broadway at the 19th Street intersection.
The district represents a phase of the expansion of the central business district, in the 1920s and 30s. The new shopping and entertainment center was at the north end of the turn of the century downtown, anchored by the new Capwell department store and developed by Capwell’s 20th and Broadway Realty Company.
The district is an essential collection of small to medium scale commercial buildings of the 1920s and 30s, historic brownstone and terra cotta buildings from the 1920 and colorful Art Deco Terra Cotta from the 1930s.
Capwell’s, I. Magnin buildings, the Fox and Paramount Theaters, and the Flora Depot building are excellent examples of each of the styles.
Uptown the Beginning
In 1895 the Tribune’s new was located “Uptown.”
In the early 1900s as Oakland grew from the waterfront people started calling the area past 14th Street “Uptown.” By 1903 the area just below 14th Street was called getting crowded and the large mercantile businesses were reaching out for more space. They could only go uptown.
The real expansion uptown began in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Capwell’s was built in 1928.
Pioneers in “Uptown Oakland”
Smith Brothers new “Beautiful Uptown Store”
It was reported in the Oakland Tribune on March 24, 1936 that 19 new leases were signed in Oakland’s uptown business district.
In 1944 the new Hibernia Bank was built in “Uptown.”
After 17 years on 14th Street Walson’s moved “Uptown” to 2000 Franklin in 1968.
I could go on and on but I won’t.
There have been walking tours of the “Uptown District” since the early 1980s.
I like that the “old” name was used and not changed to something awful like the following:
“NOBE” is possibly the baldest and most obnoxious attempt to rename part of Oakland. Devised by realtors, the name is an acronym referring to North Oakland-Berkeley-Emeryville.”East Bay Express
“Baja Dimond” This is a ridiculous name that some realtors have tried foisting on the part of the Fruitvale just below the Interstate 580 freeway across from the actual Dimond neighborhood. It’s the Fruitvale, not the Dimond.
East Bay Express
Just remember that Uptown is a part of Oakland’s History.
- Uptown – Oakland Local Wiki
- Oakland’s Uptown – William Sturm – OHA Newsletter November/December 1982
- Gentrification Changed the Names – Is East Bay Express Oct 2018
- Staff Report # PLN15-026 – Capwell’s Building. Page 4 – Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board
- New Buildings for Uptown – Oakland Tribune May 14, 1924
- City Expansion – Oakland Tribune Apr 06, 1927
- Capwell’s Groundbreaking – Oakland Tribune Feb 16, 1928
- $300,000 Uptown Realty Deal – Oakland Tribune Dec 18, 1944
- Walston is now Uptown – Oakland Tribune April 17, 1968