I 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-80's. On that tour, I learned that there use to be a train (Sacramento Northern) that ran through Montclair, in the early 1900's and that people lived the area as early as 1860's. I have 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.
The fire bore a striking resemblance to the disastrous 1923 Berkeley fire which swept from the hills, destroyed 600 buildings and leaving 4000 homeless.
The fire started at 11am and was under control by 2:30 pm and officially out by 4pm.
More than 200 firemen from the Oakland and San Leandro fought the fire for over four hours with the help of the residents who lived in the area. At times the fire came within feet of homes and rained sparks on their roofs. The damage was held to the loss of two homes, brush and oak trees.
From noon until 2pm the battle was a see-saw affair
Oakland Tribune October 16, 1960
For the residents it was a battle to the death. They stood of roofs and garages pointing hoses with little pressure behind them at the walls of flame which roared through the brush and oak trees.
In the hills above Leona Street flames roared 50 feet into the air and came within that distance of homes. At one point police advised people advised the residents on Leona Street, Mountain Blvd and Mountain View Avenue to evacuate.
Royal Edward Towns (February 10, 1899–July 23, 1990) was one of the first African American firefighters in Oakland and was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department.
Royal Towns joined the OFD in 1927 and was assigned to Engine Company No. 22, a segregated firehouse in West Oakland. The station was located at 3320 Magnolia Street.
Royal Towns was the 11th black Oakland fireman in 1927. The 12th wasn’t hired for another 15 years. In 1971 there were only 35 black firemen. Towns became the first to be promoted in the OFD. He became a chief’s operator in 1941 and retired as a lieutenant in 1962.
Towns was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department. He helped train many other black applicants to pass the fire department test
Royal Towns was born in Oakland on February 10, 1899, to William Towns and Elizabeth Towns.
Towns married Lucille Dennis May 26, 1920. Together they had three children. The family lived in various locations within Oakland
According to the tenants of the Peralta Villa housing projects in West Oakland, they first heard about the program when the a group of boys from the Alameda County Central Labor Council (funded by a grant from the War on Poverty) started demolishing the backyard fences and flower gardens.
The fences were removed, Housing Authority officials say, as the first step in a program of “beautification”
The tenants were really angry because some had paid the OHA for the fences and planted their gardens. No advance notice was given – the workers just started tearing everything up.
The War on Poverty ran into a major obstacle this week – the War on Poverty
As a part of the War on Poverty‘s a work-study program was funded to provide the salaries of University of California students to work with the tenants .
The students worked with the residents of Lockwood Gardens to help them develop a sense of community identity and to learn how to help themselves.
It was these students that encouraged the tenants to form the Lockwood Improvement League .
The program funded by the War on Poverty the same people funding the “Beautification Program” and removing their fences.
The tenants of Peralta Villas met at Cole school and formed the Peralta Improvement League. Thirty tenants volunteered to form their own “human fence” they wrote up a list of demands and began their fight to save their gardens.
Stop tearing down the remaining fences
Rebuild the fences already taken down
Reimburse the tenants whose private property was destroyed
Consult the tenants first before doing any further work
They were also upset by the lack of advance warning. They got 200 signature in favor of keeping the fences.
The Lockwood Gardens tenants were all for beautification but not at the expense of their backyards. One tenant was upset because he had just rebuilt his fence. Not all the tenants of the tenants took care of yards or kept their fences in repair. But they felt the OHA could work it out with those tenants.
The tenants of both Peralta Villa and Lockwood Gardens protested and managed to halt or limited the amount of work that could be done at either of the projects.
The OHA laid out a new backyard fence policy “Residents must keep their backyards neat and in repair; no new fences could be installed; no satisfactory fence will be torn down now, but eventual elimination of all fenced areas can be expected”
In August of 1965 the OHA board voted to poll each family of Campbell Village, Lockwood Gardens and Peralta Villa if they want a fence. Everyone was to be asked even the people who lived in the 2nd floor. There was a total of 916 total units in the three projects.
The tenants were given 2 choices in the questions asked :
It appears to be a lower-the-cost- maintenance program
The Pro-Fence group leader
In July 1966 all the fences had been removed and the place looked like a dump reported one tenant. The lawn was dead in most places as it wasn’t being watered.
Oakland in the Days When Oaks Were Here and the Peralta’s Owned all the Land
Oakland Tribune Feb 1891
The house was located at N. E. corner east Eighth Street and Fourth Avenue, East Oakland. The address was first 202 East Ninth Street. East Ninth Street was later renamed East Eight Street and house was renumbered from 202 to 404. The final address was 404 East Eight Street.
In Search of Gold
The lure of the gold drew Moses Chase and his son George to California in 1849. They sailed from Boston on aboard the Capitol on a 176-day voyage. He hoped to make his fortune panning for gold, then return home to marry Mary Ellen Clinton. They had no luck at finding gold and soon they found themselves back on the coast.
Chase then became the first white man to settle in Oakland and he first camped at the foot of what is now Broadway, in 1849.
He then leased land from the Peralta Family just east of what is now Lake Merritt. the land later became part of Township of Clinton which later became a part of Oakland.
It was on this land he built a small cabin of 14 feet wide and 24 feet, from ship timbers, driftwood and rough boards. He intended to bring his new bride back to California from Boston and live in the cabin. But she died before he arrived back home to marry her. The Township of Clinton was named in her honor.
In 1856 the front part was added. This would become the main section of the house. Over the years other alternations and additions expanded the cabin into a two-story building of 17 rooms during its 86-year occupancy by Chase, his son and his grandson. The original section, after standing intact until 1936 when it was cut in half and became the laundry room.
As you see in the photograph, the house is in first class condition today, October 5, 1928. Photo taken by Jesse B. Cook and Joseph A. Murray.
Chase spent the later years of his life a near recluse on Bay Farm Island, but he died in the family home February 17, 1891 at the age of 84. He was laid to rest at the Mountain View Cemetery.
A Wedding Takes Place
In May of 1925 Albert B. Chase was married in the same room he was born in 45 years before. Albert was the son of George Chase (1841-1919) the only child of Moses Chase.
At the time of his wedding Albert was the only surviving member of the Chase family. His older brother had died in 1924 and his sister in 1925.
Oakland 80th Birthday
In honor of Oakland’s 80th Birthday in May of 1932 the Clinton Improvement Association erected a sign on the home noting its historical significance. Oakland Tribune Apr 07, 1932
Razing the Old Home
In 1946 workman from the Symon Brothers Wrecking Company started razing the “old Chase home” a small rear portion of which was the original cabin to which Chase built in 1849.
Through three generations the old home continued at the family residence, until in 1936 Albert died. Albert’s widow sold the home to Guido Pacini, a trucking contractor. Pacini graded the adjoining lot for his trucking business. The old home was completing renovated and was use as a residence, most recently the home of Picini’s daughter and her husband.
In 1924 brothers Paul and Herman Pause formed Montclair Realty Co. Before that Paul worked for the Realty Syndicate.
The business district of Montclair looked like this when Montclair Realty was formed. Cos. Williams a builder was the only other business at that time.
In 1932 they moved into their new offices at6466 Moraga Avenue. The building was occupied by B. Brooks another real estate agent. The building is still standing in 2019.
6466 Moraga Avenue – 2019
Montclair Highlands “All the World No View Like his”
In 1928 Montclair Realty was the developer and selling agents for a new tract behind the business district of Montclair. One of the first homes was the “Model View Home” built in 1928. Please see my page on this – The Highest Home in Oakland
In the 1934 Montclair Realty celebrated their 10th anniversary. During this time they specialized in the development of the Montclair area. Oakland Tribune 1934
In 1937 Paul Pause announced that Montclair Realty Company had a new home. The new two-story building was designed by Harvey Slocombe in true Spanish style, complete with patio and tile roof. Howard Gilkey designed the garden.
Dramatically different the Pent House Model home brings to you “Ideas of 1938” in colorful interior finishes and modern furnishings. – Oakland Tribune 1937
The building was demolished in 1961 to make room for the expansion the Standard Station next door.
Silver Anniversary – 1949
Paul Pause was a founding member of the Montclair Improvement Club. He was a member of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce residential committee and its highway and transportation committee. He was also a member of the Commonwealth Club.
Death and New Owners
Paul Pause died in 1950. He was an important figure in the development of Montclair since the beginning.
Lucille Chasnoff purchased the company some time after Pause died in 1950. John Mallett purchased the company from her.
New Office in 1954-56
In 1954 a new office building was built at 2084 Mountain Blvd. Montclair Realty offices were on the ground floor. It was the only office building that had its own off-street parking. The offices featured gold walls with charcoal woodwork with built in desks and partitions. In 2019 a brand new building replaces the old and outdated Montclair Realty Office Building.
February 19, 1972 – Little Sister, Gunn, and Thunderclap
March 04, 1972 – Little John featuring John Hart
April 08, 1972 – Loading Zone –
September 30, 1972 – Anglo Saxon – with John Hart formerly of Little John
November ?? 1972 – Gold
*Green Death did the light show
From the Forgotten Montclair Group – Their light shows were essentially two shallow glass bowls, placed on an overhead projector. The bottom bowl held oil and food coloring and the top bowl fitted inside it, allowing them to squish the colors around in kaleidoscopic patterns. They set up their equipment and chairs on top of a table in the back of the room where the band played. Despite the low-tech process, their light shows were very cool and added a lot to the atmosphere of the rock concerts.