Posted in History, Parks, West Oakland

Oakland’s First Playgrounds

In 1909 a newly appointed commission met at city hall with then Mayor Frank Mott to assume the responsibility of establishing a public playground system.

Oakland was the second city in California to establish a playground system; the first was Los Angeles in 1905.

Superintendent of Playgrounds

George E. Dickie
Greater Oakland 1911

In May of 1909, the commission appointed George E. Dickie, the first playground superintendent, and that summer, the city opened two “experimental” playgrounds at Tompkins and Prescott Schools.

Oakland Tribune
Oakland (Calif.) Park commission., Oakland (Calif.) Playground commission. (1910). The park system of Oakland, California. [Oakland: Carruth & Carruth.

Before 1909, the Oakland Women’s Club operated summer playgrounds for two years at West Oakland’s Tompkins and Prescott’s schools at their own expense.

Oakland (Calif.) Park commission., Oakland (Calif.) Playground commission. (1910). The park system of Oakland, California. [Oakland: Carruth & Carruth.

With a budget of $10,000, the commission opened three municipal playgrounds in 1910.

Oakland (Calif.) Park commission., Oakland (Calif.) Playground commission. (1910). The park system of Oakland, California. [Oakland: Carruth & Carruth.

The first was opened on January 10, 1910, at  de Fremery. The park included a dozen swings, two long slides, a baseball diamond, two regulation tennis courts, and courts for basketball, volleyball, and handball.

Oakland (Calif.) Park commission., Oakland (Calif.) Playground commission. (1910). The park system of Oakland, California. [Oakland: Carruth & Carruth.

Two weeks later, they opened Bushrod Playground at 60th Street and Shafter. The land was deeded to the city in 1904 by Dr. Bushrod Washington James of Philadelphia with the stipulations that it is maintained as a public park forever.

Playground at Bushrod Park 1911
Oakland (Calif.) Park commission., Oakland (Calif.) Playground commission. (1910). The park system of Oakland, California. [Oakland: Carruth & Carruth.

The first recreation “center” was built at the site, and the structure remained standing until 1943.

Oakland Tribune 1911

They then provided playground equipment to the West Oakland Park (which later became Bayview, and is now Raimondi Field) and Independence Park ( now San Antonio).

Oakland Tribune 1911

Recreation for Everyone

In 1911 the city charter was revised to include the role of recreation in the community, this resulted in disbanding the commission, and a board of playground directors was created to oversee the parks. The Parks and Recreation Department was formed

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Author:

II have been an Oakland history buff since going on an Oakland Heritage Alliance Tour of the Fernwood Neighborhood in the Montclair District of Oakland, in the mid-'80s. On that tour, I learned that there use to be a train (Sacramento Northern) that ran through Montclair in the early 1900s and that people lived the area as early as 1860s — been hooked ever since. Since then, I have spent a lot of time looking into the history of Montclair, and I have learned a lot. I feel this will be the best way to get it out of my head and onto paper.

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