It has been awhile since I have published a new post. I have been dealing with an major medical issue in my family. It is still ongoing. This is something I put together a while back.
A bungalow court is a group of small bungalows or workers cottages built around a court or central yard. An apartment court is a group of buildings built around or have a central courtyard.
Bungalow Court, a New Apartment Site
In 1921 a new kind of building known as a Bungalow Court opened, the first in Oakland. The building is located at Hill Lane and Euclid Avenue.
Euclid Court consists of ten three-room bungalow apartments, grouped around a central courtyard. Each unit has separate front and back entrances.
Euclid Court was built for Dr. J.L. Hobbs at the cost of $75,000 and was designed by W.E. Schirmer.
432-450 Euclid Avenue
W.E. Schirmer – Architect
Virginia Court Apartments – Filbert Street
Virginia Court is a colorful Spanish type apartment building, with twelve apartments of two rooms each.
Each unit came with the following:
Spark gas ranges
Marshall and Stearns wall-bed
1430 Filbert Avenue
Court Pueblo Apartments – On Foothill Blvd.
The Court Pueblo Apartments opened in February 1930 and is located at 6114 and 6120 Foothill Blvd.
There are twelve units of two or three rooms. Each apartment had the following:
Spark Gas Range
Marshall & Stearns Beds
Completely furnished for $45 to $52.50 in 1930
Court Pueblo is Spanish in Style.
6114-6120 Foothill Blvd
Apartment Court on Seminary
“The five-room apartments are practically complete homes.”
Oakland Tribune 1928
Apartment Court opened in January 1928 and is located at 1725 and 1729 Seminary Avenue.
It is four buildings of eight apartments, each attractively arranged in a park-like* setting with a central thoroughfare.
No longer a park-like setting
Four five-room Apartments.
Twenty-Two two-room Apartments
Brookdale Court is located at 3760 Brookdale Ave near 38th Ave.
Located at 3745 Brookdale Avenue near 38th Avenue. There are 2 and 3 room units available. They rented for $40 and $45 a month in 1928.
“Seville” Spanish-Type Apartments
Reminiscent of the early history of California the Seville was built by Barr and Sons.
“The exterior of lime white stucco in monk finish with wrought iron balconies and, rails, the Spanish court effect with landscaped slopes, broken stepping stones and green shrubbery, the tiles roof of handmade Spanish tiles laid as the early day padres would lay them”
20 apartments of 2,3, and 4 rooms furnished from $57.50 up in 1927.
A news cinema or newsreel theatre is a cinema specializing in short films, shown continuously. They also occasionally show feature films.
Newsreel Theatre on Broadway
It was announced in July of 1941 that Oakland was to have a Newsreel Theater, a sister to the one in San Francisco.
The 300 seat theater had spacious lounge rooms which provided accommodations for writing a letter, holding a business conference, reading the latest newspapers, magazines, etc.
Was Regent Theater
The building first housed the Regent Theater later the Regent Photo Theater.
In the mid-1950s, the Regent was renamed the Peerlex. The Peerlex offered three action hits for 50 cents.
By 1972 the Regent was rechristened the Pussycat Theater showing XXX adult movies.
The city of Oakland acquired the theater by eminent domain in 1987.
The theater located at 1518 Franklin opened as the Bishop Theater in 1916 and then became the Fulton Playhouse in 1918. The building was designed by Edward T. Foulkes
In 1935 the Fulton reopened as the Franklin, taking its name from the previous Franklin Theater which had closed.
The Franklin Theater closed and was reopened as the Newsreel Theater in October of 1939.
Telenews Theater at the Franklin Theater
The Newsreel Theater closed and transformed into the Telenews Theatre at Franklin and 15th opened July 18, 1941
The theatre was the first to include local newsreel stories as part of the regular week’s program. Each program or show comprised some fifty news events, including the “Ringside Seat to World War Two” series with Regan McCrary.
During the opening week, they showed a “Salute to Oakland,” a film on Oakland’s industrial, civic, and community life. The film showed the new Woodminster Amphitheater, Lake Merritt, Mills College, Oakland’s High Schools, and City Hall.
The lobby included a large “Progressive War Map,” which was updated daily. Twelve clocks, showing the current time in cities throughout Europe, American, and Asia, and a teletype machine was also in the lobby.
Franklin Theater Once Again
When Telenews took over the Fox News Theater’s operation on Broadway in 1943, this theater became the Franklin once again and showed first-run movies.
Closed and Demolished
The theater went dark in 1951.
Fox News Theater on Broadway
Located at 1906 Broadway, the 552-seat Fox News Theatre opened on July 3, 1942.
Fox Offers Timely Topics in Modern Show House.” – Oakland Tribune July 5, 1942
The Fox News Theater had a broadcasting studio in the downstairs lounge. Vital news programs, topics of the day were broadcasted on the KQW CBS outlet.
Telenews took over the operation on April 30, 1943. The theater was renamed The Broadway Telenews Theater.
On April 16, 1954, it was renamed Globe Theater and went over to screening feature films, with Dinah Sheridan in “Genevieve.” The latest newsreels were also shown.
Requests for bids to build the school were made in July of 1886.
The completed school was small at only 32×36 feet, with just one classroom. It was Gothic in design with a graceful looking bell tower. It had two entrances, one for the boys and the other for the girls, with each entry having a 6×6 vestibule. The sash bars of the windows are all horizontal, copying the style of schools in Europe.
The construction cost about $2,500 and took about two months to build.
The architects were Goodrich & Newton.
The dedication of the school was held in October 1886. It was attended most of the families that lived in the area. Opening remarks were made by Judge EM Gibson and W.H Mead. Some of the families in attendance:
Entertainment provided by the students from the school under the direction of their teacher Miss Lucy Law. The following students performed:
Hays School was the scene of brightness and beauty on Friday June 14, 1901. Friends and family gathered to witness the closing exercises. The four graduates were:
In 1904 appointed Mr. S. Morrell and Mr. Johnson to fill the vacancies caused by the removal of George Hunt and G.W. Logan.
Attendance for the year ending 1911 for the Hays School was 11 students.
The school was closed around 1913, and the building was demolished. It was probably due to the Oakland, Antioch, and Eastern Railway construction, later known as the Sacramento Northern. For more on the Sacramento Northern, please go here. The East Bay Hills Project
In 1927, the Montclair firehouse was built on the same site. The storybook style building was designed by Eldred E. Edwards of the Oakland Public Works Department.
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.
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.
It was converted into a rooming or boarding house’
Sometime in the late 1920s the old mansion was razed and the Hotel Lakehurst was built.
It is now called Lakehurst Hall.
Location: 1369 Jackson St now 1569 Jackson Street at the corner of 17th Street.
“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.
In 1882 Alexander purchased a lot on the northwest corner of Sixteenth and Filbert for $6,000.
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.
Sometime after 1912, the mansion was converted to a rooming house renting out rooms until the mid -1960s.
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.
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.
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.
To make room for Highway 980 the William H. Quinn Home at 1425 Castro Street was moved to 1004-06 16th Street.
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.
The house had 14 rooms made of redwood. The barn had room for 10 horses
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.
It was reported that Susan B. Anthony once slept there.
The house and barn property was purchase by Marston Campbell, Jr, as an investment. It was torn down in 1948.
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.
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.
“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
“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.”
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 inNovember 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.
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.
After a few years, it became the Montclair Bussiness Assoc.
Membership was made up of residents of Montclair, Merriewood, and Forest Park.
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.
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.
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.
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 was at the corner of Lakeside Drive and 17th Street. The three-story mansion was built in 1902 by John Russell Burnham.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Edwin Goodall built an elaborate mansion in 1880. The house was located at 1537 Jackson Street.
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 theJackson Lake Hospital.
In 1960 the hospital was razed to make room for an apartment building called the Jackson Lake Apartments.
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.
The mansion of Capt. Thomas Mein was located at the corner of Jackson and 15th Street.
The three-story 16-room Victorian was built in 1899, included a winding staircase and marble fireplaces.
In 1964 home was razed to make room for a new 34-unit apartment called the Delphian.
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.
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 nation’s first federally assisted rehabilitation project.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Older Home Gets New Life
In 1956, the Greater Eastbay Associated Homebuilders purchased a 50-year-old home at 1535 10th Avenue.
Home and Garden Show
The house was moved from its lot to become an exhibit at the Home and Garden Show.
It was completely remodeled as a part of Oakland’s Operation Home Improvement Campaign.
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.
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.
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.
New Apartment Project
A new 12-unit apartment building replaced a “dilapidated” single-family dwelling at 12th Avenue and East 18th Street.
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.
Garden Type Apartment
In 1958 a new $400,000 apartment was built at 1125 East 18th Street.
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.
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.
The complex is bounded by 12th and 13th Avenues and East 19th and East 20th Streets.
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.
Six old homes, some dating back to the 1890s, were demolished to clear the site.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
During this same period, 57 new apartment buildings were constructed within the project area, adding l,l08 new units to the existing housing supply.
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 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.”