Posted in Black History, Business, Homes, People, West Oakland

Fanny Wall Children’s Home

Fannie Wall Children’s Home and Day Nursery, an orphanage and daycare center, established in 1918 by African-American clubwomen in West Oakland. Sometimes it is called the Fanny Wall Home.

Charity is the Golden Chain that reaches from heaven to earth.”

from the letterhead

The Beginning

Care for the Orphans

Shelters the Half Orphans

Keeps the Children of Day Workers.”

Oakland Tribune April 1920

In 1914 the Northern Federation of California Colored Women’s Clubs President Fanny Wall and Financial Secretary Hettie Tilghman began working on a children’s home and day nursery to support black working mothers and care for orphaned black children. After years of planning and fundraising, the home opened in 1918 on Peralta Street in West Oakland.

Initially, the home was called the“Northern Federation Home and Day Nursery.” It was subsequently renamed to honor Fannie Wall who was the first woman to run the charity on a daily basis.

The Fannie Wall Children’s Home and Day Nursery was open to children of all races, ethnicities, and religions, it was the first facility in Northern California to provide various services including housing, boarding and daycare for black orphans.

It was located at 1215 Peralta Street in West Oakland from 1918-1928.

Fannie Wall Children’s Home and Day Nursery 1215 Peralta Street – the first site – Courtesy The African American Museum and Library Oakland
Oakland Tribune April 27, 1920

Who was Fannie Wall?

Fannie Wall ( 1860-1944) came to Oakland with her family in the early 1900s.  She was born in Gallatin Tennessee in 1860.  She was married to Archey(Archy) H. Wall (18??-1931), a staff sergeant in the US Army.  They had two daughters, Lillian (Williams) and Florence (Murray) and one son Clifton. Archey was transferred to the Presidio in San Francisco and they ultimately ended up in Oakland.

Wall was an early community activist who participated several organizations that promoted African American economic empowerment.  

Fanny Wall undated- Source: Beasley The Negro Trail Blazers

She served several terms as the president of the California Federation of Colored Women’s Club’s.

She co-founded the Art and Industrial Club of Oakland in 1906.  Under her presidency the club joined the Child Welfare League. Wall also help establish the “Colored Y” of Oakland.

In 1936 Archie Williams her grandson (Lillian)won a gold medal in the 400-meter run in Berlin.

Oakland Tribune Aug 8, 1936

Fannie Wall died on April 14, 1944 in her home on Telegraph Avenue.  She is buried in the same plot as her husband in the San Francisco National Cemetery.

Oakland Tribune Apr 20, 1944

Linden Street Site

In 1928, having outgrown its original location they moved to a new one on Linden Street.

Fannie Wall Children’s Home, 815 Linden – 2nd site -Courtesy The African American Museum and Library Oakland

The handsome house at 815 Linden Street was purchased $5000. The upper middle-class house was designed by Charle Man in the 1880s.  It was one of five buildings built by Frances Reichling a surveyor, who subdivided his property at the corner of Linden Street and Eighth Street.  The largest of the buildings became the family home and the others were rentals.

Linden Street 1948 -African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)

The home could accommodate up to 20 resident children and 8-15 children for day care services and was operated by a professional staff of over ten employees that included social workers and a volunteer psychiatrist. 

The house was considered step up from the one on Peralta Street and was across the street from the “Colored Y.”

Women and children seated around the piano at the Fannie Wall Children’s Home and Day Nursery- undated -African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)

New Look

The Linden Street site was given a face-lift in 1953. The “new look,” a two room addition to be used as the administrative offices, releasing the old offices and reception room for nursery classes and a future library.  The provided room for 47 children.  

In 1962 the Oakland Redevelopment Agency purchased the property at 815 Linden St. in order to demolish the building for the Acorn Project.

Management

Fannie Wall is Calling”

From the annual report

The Northern Federation of Colored Women Clubs operated the Fannie Wall Home until 1941. The home was then incorporated as an independent organization. At that time it was the only home in California that primarily cared for African-American children.

The home was admitted as an agency of the Community Chest-United crusade in 1923

Fannie Wall was elected as the first president and served more than 20 years as the head of the 21 board of directors. She was succeeded by Mrs. Lydia Smith Ward who in turn was followed by Mrs. Chlora Hayes Sledge in the 1940s.

The home was managed by a Board of Directors, which largely consisted of members of the Northern Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, a community advisory committee, and an executive director who oversaw the home’s day-to-day operations.

The Board of Directors of the Fanny Wall Home – Chlora Hays Sledge, President, center-left.Courtesy The African American Museum and Library Oakland

The home was the first Community Chest Children’s Agency in the East Bay to employ a trained social worker.

Girls with fans at the Fannie Wall Home, in the 1940s.Courtesy The African American Museum and Library Oakland

Fundraising

 The home received funding from a variety of sources including rent from an apartment in Berkeley donated by Josephine Sutton, Community Chest, the Dreiser Trust, and through fundraising events coordinated by the home.

Ticket to chicken dinner for Fannie Wall Home Benefit-1944 -African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)
Fannie Wall Children’s Home and Day Nursery, Inc. charity ball program – 1946 – African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)- Identifier
MS162_B1_F6_0
01
Oakland Tribune 1958

The third charity ball was held on January 19, 1948 at the Oakland Auditorium.

In 1959 a fashion show was held at Slim Jenkins to raise money for the building fund.  Models showed the latest styles.

A Haven For Children

Rodeo artists Schwartz and Grodin entertain children with finger paints at the Fannie Wall Children’s Home and Day Nursery – circa 1947 -African American Museum & Library at Oakland Photograph Collection
Oakland Tribune 1949

In 1949  the Fannie Wall home had 30 children who received day care while parents worked.  Ranging in age from 3 to 14 years.During the summer months the children took swimming lessons at the de Fremery Park pool: the enjoyed story hours at the West Oakland Branch Library, and they had special excursions to other city parks and playgrounds.

Birthday Party 1946

Monthly parties were held to honor the children whose birthday occurred during the month. They would dress up for special dinner or an afternoon party.

Oakland Tribune Aug 8, 1948
Integrated Playground at the Fanny Wall Home, the 1950s. Courtesy The African American Museum and Library Oakland

The Final Location

In 1964 they purchased a house at 647 55th Street for $19,000. They initially struggled to obtain a license from the Social Welfare Department, and the home was not re-opened until 1967 as part of a placement program for the Alameda County Welfare Department.

Fannie Wall Children’s Home 55th Street – 3rd site Courtesy The African American Museum and Library Oakland

The home was forced to close again in 1970 for remodeling and reopened in 1978 as a child daycare facility and Head Start Center. It is now called Fannie Wall Head Start.

Group photograph of attendees at Fannie Wall Children’s Home and Day Nursery mortgage burning ceremony (first row, left-right): Annie Mae Smith, Albertine Radford, Silvia Parker, Mildred McNeal, Marge Gibson (second row, left-right): Bessie Watson, Euna Tucker, N. Adams, Lela Posey (third row, left-right): Eugene P. Lasartemay, Roy Blackburn, Kermit Scott, Harold Adams – 1981 -African American Museum & Library at Oakland Photograph Collection
Fannie Wall Pre-K Program – 647 55th Street Oakland CA

More Info:

The End

Posted in Buildings, Business

Newsreel Theaters

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.

Oakland Tribune August 1941


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

Oakland Tribune 1912

The building first housed the Regent Theater later the Regent Photo Theater.

Regent Theater
Broadway at 12th circa 1917 – showing the Regent Theater. Photo by CHeney Photo Advertising

Peerlex Theater 

Oakland Tribune Sept 10, 1954

In the mid-1950s, the Regent was renamed the Peerlex. The Peerlex offered three action hits for 50 cents.  

Pussycat Theater

By 1972 the Regent was rechristened the Pussycat Theater showing XXX adult movies.

Pussycat Theater

The city of Oakland acquired the theater by eminent domain in 1987.

Franklin Theater

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

The Bishop Playhouse – undated Oakland History Room Photo

In 1935 the Fulton reopened as the Franklin, taking its name from the previous Franklin Theater which had closed.

Newsreel Theater

The Franklin Theater closed and was reopened as the Newsreel Theater in October of 1939.

Telenews Theater at the Franklin Theater

Oakland Tribune October 1939

The Newsreel Theater closed and transformed into the Telenews Theatre at Franklin and 15th opened July 18, 1941

Oakland Tribune 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.

Oakland Tribune July 18, 1941

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.

Oakland Tribune July 18, 1941

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.

Oakland Tribune July 18, 1941

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.

Oakland Tribune April 17, 1953

Fox News Theater on Broadway

Regent Theatre

Located at 1906 Broadway, the 552-seat Fox News Theatre opened on July 3, 1942.  

Oakland Tribune July 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.

Oakland Tribune Feb 22, 1953

Globe Theater

Oakland Tribune April 1954

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.

Oakland Tribune April 1954

More Info:

The End

Posted in Buildings, Business, Downtown

Money-Back Smith

Originally called “The Famous Clothing Company.” Later it was renamed “Smith’s Money-Back Store and Money-Back Smith.”  You probably knew it as Smith’s Department Store.

William Smith founded the first store in Oakland in 1885 (according to the Oakland Tribune)

Unique Nickname

“Money Refunded If Goods Are Not Satisfactory.”

Oakland Tribune

Willam “Money-Back” Smith

His friends, relatives, neighbors, and patrons were so used to the policy of ‘money-back” being associated with William Smith that became his nickname.

First Store

The first store was on Broadway, between 7th and 8th Street, later moving one block to 9th Street.

Brilliant Opening 

Oakland Tribune

The Famous Clothing Company proprietors held a grand opening reception on March 16, 1892, at 909 and 911 Broadway.

The Berkeley Gazette March 18, 1904

In 1896, Smith chose a new location at 10th and Washington, where the firm remained until 1912.

They then moved to 12th and Washington, which was enlarged and modernized several times.

1935-Blake Estate Co. building (the Blake Block) W. F. Woolworth, Money Back Smith inM.L. Cohen Co., photographers, for Downtown Property Owners Association, Inc. :Permission to use this image must be obtained from the Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room.

Another New Location

Circa 1933 – M. K. Blake building (the Blake Block), southwest corner of 12th Street and Washington Money Back Smith in view. M.L. Cohen Co., photographers, for Downtown Property Owners Association, Inc. Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room.

By 1912 the store was located at 12th and Washington Streets, and it was called “Money-Back Smith.”

Circa 1935 -M. K. Blake building (the Blake Block),.12th and Washington Money Back Smith in view. Downtown Property Owner’s Association. Volume 4. . M.L. Cohen Co., photographers, for Downtown Property Owners Association, Inc.

“Charge It” Plan

Oakland Tribune 1940

Breaking all precedents, Money-Back Smiths had for 54 years had a “cash only” policy offered a liberal 90-day charge plan. The plan had no downpayment, no interest, and no carrying charge.

More than 10,000 Eastbay residents opened accounts in the first six months. 

Charge it!”

They made the term “Charge it” a common word in the vocabulary. Smith declared September 27, 1940

55th Anniversary 

“Founded back in 1886 – literally the horse and buggy days of the city, the store has grown with Oakland.”

Oakland Tribune September 27, 1940

“We Couldn’t possibly cut a birthday cake large enough for all the of our customers, and so were cutting prices instead.”

Expansion

Blake Block [ SW corner of 12th and Washington.
Creator/Contributor:Cohen, Moses L., 1884-1975.
Downtown Property Owners Association (Oakland, Calif.).
Date:1944

In 1941 the store embarked on a program of remodeling and expansion that doubled its size. Two additional floors were added, which gave them three floors for selling merchandise.

Oakland Tribune Dec 1951

In 1945, the store acquired 30,000 Sq.Ft. of additional space in the Blake Building on Washington Street.

M. K. Blake Estate Co. building (the Blake Block), southwest corner of 12th and Washington Streets. Smith’s in view. – 1949, Jun. 27 . Camera Corner, photographers, for Downtown Property Owners Association, Inc. RIGHTS:Permission to use this image must be obtained from the Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room.

First Western Bank Building

Oakland Tribune 1955

In 1955 the old Henshaw Building at 14th and Broadway, built-in 1891, was demolished. The Henshaw building housed the MacDonough Theatre, one of Oakland’s first legitimate showhouses.

The First Western Bank Building was completed in 1958.

Image
Smith’s Downtown Oakland 1965 -https://twitter.com/christreadway

Location : 1330 Broadway Oakland CA

Smith’s Clothiers

Smith’s opened 24 stores throughout Northern California and Nevada.  

In 1988 after 102 years in business, closed its doors.

Press Democrat 1988

More Info:

There is some confusion as to when the store was located where. I tried my best.

The End

Posted in Business, Elmhurst, Fruitvale, Uncategorized

Ostrich Farm in Oakland

Ostrich farming was promoted as a sound investment over a century ago.
The farms, well documented on postcards, and were tourist attractions.

Ostriches were brought to the United States in the early 1880s from Africa. In the wild, they lived in warm, dry climates. Southern California seemed to have conditions similar to their natural African environment. By the late 1890s, there were eight locations in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Deigo counties.

The popularity of feathers in women’s fashion made raising the birds an attractive investment.

Farm in Oakland 

In the fall of 1907, San Francisco newspapers ran an ad campaign for stock investment in an ostrich farm in Oakland. 

In July of 1908, W.H.” Harvey” Bentley of the Bentley Ostrich Farm in San Diego County announced the opening of a branch in the Elmhurst District (sometimes Fruitvale) of Oakland at East 14th and High Street.

Bentley Ostrich Farm East 14th (now International Blvd) and High Streets Oakland, California
Photographer: Cheney Photo Advertising Company c 1913

It opened on August 30th of 1908. It featured birds named Mr. and Mrs “George Dewey” (Admiral at the battle of Manila Bay) and the other Spanish American War hero from the Cuba campaign, “Fighting Bob” Evans commander of the Great White Fleet.

Forty-six birds compromised the original herd.

Could this be George or Bob?

In 1910 it was announced that the addition of a factory to their local salesroom and yards. Which meant the hats were made in Oakland and not San Diego. For the years 1907 to 1911, ostrich plumage on women’s hats was at its peak and all the rage.

Bentley Ostrich Farm East 14th (now International Blvd) and High Streets Oakland, California
Photographer: Cheney Photo Advertising Company c 1911

New Name

In January of 1912, the owner of the Bently Ostrich Farm, was killed in an auto accident near the San Diego farm.

Oakland Tribune Sep 21, 1913

His son sold the farm to a group of Oakland investors.

View of main entrance to the Golden State Ostrich Farm;
Souvenir Publishing Co 1915

The name was changed to Golden State Ostrich Farm in 1913.

;

The farm had spacious ground floor offices and salesroom. In the sales there was a magnificent display of plumes in all sizes, prices and colors.

Title: Salesroom and office [picture] : Golden State Ostrich Farm, East 14th and High streets 1910
Collection: Selections from the Collections of the Oakland History Room and the Maps Division of the Oakland Public Library
Date of access: May 31 2020 10:32
Permalink: https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/13030/kt0p3022h1/

With the coming of World War I, as American and European women entered the workforce, utilitarian clothing replaced the flamboyant fashions of the early 1900s. Broader hats were pinned up with a broach or artificial flower.

Oakland Tribune 1909

Plucking is Painless”

Oakland Tribune May 01, 1952

The bird is shoved into a corner by several men. A hood is placed over the birds head. The plume is cut leaving about an inch of quill in the flesh. The quill would soon fall out.

Bankruptcy

Golden State Ostrich Farm in Oakland filed for bankruptcy in early 1915. 

“Whole Ostrich for the Price of a Feather”

 The press announcement said it was now cheaper to buy the entire ostrich than the amount once paid for the feathers to adorn a hat.

The ostrich farms in northern California had all but failed by 1915. The “industry” had a brief heyday, and in the end, defeat by war and a significant fashion change in hats.

The End

Posted in Black History, Business, People, West Oakland

Slim Jenkins Supper Club – Market

Harold “Slim” Jenkins was an African American entrepreneur and owner of the renowned Slim Jenkins Supper Club on 7th Street in West Oakland.

Exterior entrance of Slim Jenkins nightclub and coffee shop.
 E. F. Joseph Photograph Collection

Liquor Store and Market

SF Examiner

Slim Jenkins saw the economic opportunity in the business district and opened a liquor store on December 5, 1933, the same day as the repeal of Prohibition. Soon the business expanded a cafe.

1934
The exterior of Slim Jenkins Super-Market
 E. F. Joseph Photograph Collection
SF Examiner 1938

Coffee shop opens in April of 1938. The rest is history.

The interior of Slim Jenkins Super-Market
 E. F. Joseph Photograph Collection

The exterior of Slim Jenkins nightclub
 E. F. Joseph Photograph Collection
Oakland Tribune 1955
Oakland Tribune

More Info:

The End

 

Posted in Black History, Buildings, Business, West Oakland

Wrecker Uses Sherman Tank To…

Project Gateway – West Oakland

The world’s largest and fully mechanized mail handling facility designed to serve central California and the Pacific ocean area

Postmaster General – Aug 1959

It was announced the facility would be built on a 12-block site in West Oakland bounded by Peralta, 7th and Wood Streets, and the Southern Pacific railroad yards.

Oakland Tribune Aug 26, 1959

The postmaster general officially named the Oakland project “Project Gateway”

Oakland Tribune Aug 26, 1960

Major Problems

City officials were excited that construction will begin in about one year. They expected an Oakland payroll of some 750 workers and the clearing of some 20 acres of sub-standard homes for a significant redevelopment project.

Oakland Mayor Clifford E Rishell noted that the post office project presents some significant problems – chiefly the relocation of some 300 families (about 1000 people) in the project area.

The Oakland Redevelopment Agency was in charge of the relocation. A survey at the time determined that half of the 300 families had moderate incomes that will permit them to rent or purchase a home in other sections of the city. The other half will probably require public housing.

The job we face isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible

Arthur Hoff – Oakland Redevelopment Agency

One of West Oakland’s most revered landmarks was lost with the razing of the New Century Recreation Center and the adjoining school property at Atlantic, Pacific, and Peralta Avenues.

Also lost in the project would be a junkyard, few businesses, and McFeely School, which opened in 1949.

Evictions

In a March 1960 special meeting of city officials and postal officials were told 34 families had already received eviction notices. The families lived in homes already sold the government by Southern Pacific. 21 families had already found new homes.

August 1, 1960, was when they were to begin clearing the site,

Oakland Tribune Jul 19, 1960

A squadron of bulldozers was set to plow into the 12-block place of buildings. All put 12 parcels of the 187 total had been acquired in negotiation. Commendation orders were entered for the holdouts.

Sherman Tank

The postal officials were perplexed when building wrecker Aldo S. Allen submitted a low bid of $64,000 to clear the 20-acre site for Project Gateway. He was $10,000 lower than the next lowest bid and $50,000 lower than the highest bid.

I got an idea” Allen a one time midget car racer explained.

Aldo S. Allen – 81st Ave Oakland CA

His idea consisted of $2,000 purchasing a surplus Sherman Tank of World War II vintage, a 73,000- pound dreadnaught powered by a 500 horsepower engine. The tank would be much more powerful, faster, and safer.

He was Right!

Aldo climbed into the tank, which was in front of a row of six houses. He first practiced on a tree.

SNAP! Down went the tree.

Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960

Without pausing, he went towards the first house and bore a tunnel through the house. The second story remained intact. Again he aimed for the home, there was a roar, and the second story came down burying the tank for a moment.

10 Minutes Flat! The time to clear the first house

Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960

It took 90 minutes to flatten and remove all 6 houses

Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 17, 1960

Before and After

Oakland Tribune
The Daily Texan Aug 16, 1960

Post office Site Now A Dump

Oakland Tribune Jul 1963

In 1963 after five year of post office promises the city demanded action. The site had become a 12-block dumping ground. The city was losing money $22,000 in tax dollars and $50, 000 lost in additional school taxes. They were told that construction was set to begin in 1964. By July of 1967 the building was nearly one-third complete. Belated effects of a long wet winter have moved the opening date to March 1969.

More Info:

The End

Posted in Black History, Business, People, West Oakland

Stephens’ Family

Updated February 2021

The William M Stephens family was a very successful African American family from Oakland. They owned the Stephens Restaurant, and Virginia, their daughter, won acclaim at the age of fourteen when her name “Jewel City” was selected for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition buildings in a competition sponsored by the San Francisco Call-Post.  Virginia went on to be the first African American woman to receive a law degree University of California Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law in 1929.

Stephens Restaurant at 200 East 14th Oakland
Circa 1925 – photo by M.L. Cohen

Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

The Stephens Family

William Stephens Circa 1901
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California

William Stephens was born in 1870 in Accomack County, Virginia. He moved out to California while still a child and attended school in Oakland and San Francisco. After graduation, Stephens completed coursework at Heald College before taking a job with the Southern Pacific Railway in 1886. Beginning as a Sleeping Car Porter, he worked his way up to a clerkship under H.E. Huntington, assistant to the company’s President.

In 1894 he lived at 1132 Linden Street in West Oakland.

In 1898, Stephens resigned from Southern Pacific and took a position with the Crocker family, traveling with them throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Through these travels, Stephens learned about the hotel and restaurant business.

Pauline Stephens circa 1898
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

In 1901, he married Pauline Logan (1874-1929) of Tehama, California.

Pauline gave birth to one daughter, Annie Virginia (who went by Virginia), on April 7, 1903. Due to his daughter’s health problems as a young girl, Stephens resigned from his post with the Crockers and began working at an Oakland social club. He moved on from this position in 1915 to manage the clubhouse at the Hotel Del Monte Golf and Country Club in Monterey County.

Pauline died in May of 1929

Oakland Tribune May 24, 1929
Oakland Tribune Nov 22, 1931

William died on November 21, 1932

California Eagle Dec 2, 1932

Stephens’ Restaurant

Group of men standing in front of Stephens’ Restaurant & Lunch Room at 110 East 14th circa the 1920s
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California
California Eagle Dec 19.1930

Eventually, Stephens opened his own restaurant in Oakland. Known as Stephens’ Restaurant, it grew from small quarters into an ample establishment seating over 200 people, occupying three locations near Lake Merritt.

William Stephens (right) and employee inside Stephens’ Restaurant circa the 1920s
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the restaurant enjoyed great success and was usually filled to capacity. Stephens took great delight in employing African American high school and college students so they could earn money for their education.

Oakland Tribune 1930

The final location of the restaurant was 200 East 14th (now International Blvd) at 2nd Ave. I am not sure when it closed as it was still in business after Stephens died in 1932

Oakland Tribune 1929

Stephens Restaurant – 1925
Photo By ML Cohen
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.
Oakland Tribune 1930
Oakland Tribune July 1934

Stephens Cocktail Lounge

In 1936 the restaurant added a cocktail lounge and was under the management of George Devant and Charles Simpson ( Stephens nephew.)

Know to gourmets for years as the

home of real southern cooking”

Oakland Tribune
Oakland Tribune March 1936

Virginia Stephens

Stephen’s daughter, Virginia, won acclaim at the age of fourteen when her name “Jewel City” was selected for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition buildings in a competition sponsored by the San Francisco Call-Post.

Virginia Stephens on the left -The Jewel City, San Francisco, 1915:
PIPE – 100 Years
Oakland Tribune May 01, 1952

Virginia attended the University of California at Berkeley and received a bachelor’s degree in science in 1924.

Graduation Portrait of Virginia Stephens – 1929
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

Encouraged by her father to attend law school, she enrolled in Boalt School of Law at UC Berkeley and earned a degree in 1929. At that time, she was only the second woman to receive a law degree from the school and the first African American woman to complete the program.  Virginia passed the California Bar in the same year, the first African American female Attorney in California.

1929 Bar Card
MS005_B01_F01_004
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.
California Eagle – 1930

While at Berkeley, Virginia and Ida L. Jackson were charter members Rho Chapter in 1921 and Alpha Nu Omega, a graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. These were among the first Greek sororities for African American women west of the Mississippi.

Members of Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, University of California, Berkeley (left-right): Virginia Stephens, Oreatheal Richardson, Myrtle Price (in back), Ida Jackson (sorority president), Talma Brooks, and Ruby Jefferson (1921), 
African American Museum and Library at Oakland. 

Virginia married attorney George Coker (1906-1970). The Cokers helped tutor African American students for the State bar exams. They moved to Virginia and maintained a private law practice there for almost a decade.

In 1939 after working in private practice for ten years, they moved back to California, settling in Sacramento. Virginia received an appointment as Attorney in the State Office of the Legislature Council in Sacramento in May 1939. In this capacity, she helped with drafting and amending legislative bills, and worked under four different legislative councils:

Virginia Stephens Coker – undated
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

Upon her retirement in 1966, Virginia had attained the position of Deputy of the Indexing Section. Virginia died in Sacramento at the age of 83 on February 11, 1986.

More:

The End

Posted in Business, Early Montclair, Montclair, Montclair Tracts, Real Estate

Montclair Realty – Pioneers of the Hills

In 1924 brothers Paul and Herman Pause formed Montclair Realty Co. Before that, Paul worked for the Realty Syndicate.

Paul and Herman Pause

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.

Sales offices of real estate broker and home builder Cos Williams
in the undeveloped Montclair circa 1925
Photo by Cheney Photo Advertising
Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room.
Oakland Tribune 1929

In 1932 they moved into their new offices at 6466 Moraga Avenue. The building was occupied by B. Brooks, another real estate agent. The building was still standing in 2019.

Oakland Tribune 1932
Montclair Realty Office in 1940

6466 Moraga Avenue – 2019

Montclair Highlands

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 Montclair Highlands 1928

10th Anniversary

In 1934 Montclair Realty celebrated its 10th anniversary. During this time, they specialized in the development of the Montclair area. Oakland Tribune 1934

They worked on the following tracts:

They opened Piedmont Uplands, a new tract along Moraga Avenue at Maxwelton Road. The land was owned by the Henry Maxwell family, who ran a dairy called Maxwelton Farm. Before that is was the picnic grounds of Blair Park.

Montclair in 1937

Below is an aerial of Montclair’s business district in 1937. – Oakland Tribune Jul 18, 1937

Oakland Tribune 1937

In 1936 Paul Pause was the President of the Montclair Improvement Club for 1937. – Oakland Tribune Dec 12,1936

13th Anniversary

Oakland Tribune July 1937

In 1937 Paul Pause announced that Montclair Realty Company had a new home. The new two-story building was designed by Harvey Slocombe in an authentic Spanish style, complete with patio and tile roof. Howard Gilkey developed 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

Montclair Realty Staff and Pent House Living Room 1936
New Montclair Realty Office – Oakland Tribune 1937

The building was demolished in 1961 to make room for the expansion of the Standard Station next door.

Montclarion April 16,1961

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.

Oakland Tribune 1949

Death and New Owners

Paul Pause died in 1950. He was an essential figure in the development of Montclair since the beginning.

Oakland Tribune 1950

Lucille Chasnoff purchased the company sometime after Pause died in 1950. John Mallett purchased the company from her.

Oakland Tribune 1960

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 replaced the old and outdated Montclair Realty Office Building.

Oakland Tribune April 1956
Montclarion 1956
Montclarion 1956
2084 Mountain Blvd – Google Maps 2011

Different Logos –

Free Map

The End

Posted in Business, Model/Display Homes, Montclair, Real Estate

Home Tour of Montclair – 1937

Oakland Tribune Oct 22, 1937
  1. 5335 Estates Drive
  2. 5664 Thornhill Drive
  3. 1731 Mountain Blvd
  4. 6025 Bruns Drive
  5. Liggett Drive
  6. 2645 Camino Lenada
  7. Montclair Realty Offices- 6540 Moraga Ave
  8. Emge and Stockman Offices – Mountain and LaSalle
  9. Winder & Gahan Office – 6500 Moraga Ave

C.W. Leekins – 6054 La Salle Ave

Home Tour of the Hills District

Prominent real estate companies and builders in Montclair held an “open-house” week during the Oakland National Home Show held October 22- 30, 1937. Oakland Tribune Oct 22, 1937

The following is a list of the sponsors:

  • C.W. Leekins – builder
  • Montclair Realty Company
  • Herbert A. Richardson – builder
  • Emge and Stockman Realtor
  • Winder & Gahan – developers

C.W. Leekins Sponsored

Oakland Tribune Oct 1937
  • 2645 Camino Lenada
  • C.W. Leekins – builder
  • 1937
  • $7250
Oakland Tribune 1964 – $32,750
2645 Camino Lenada St – Google Maps
  • 5335 Estates Drive
  • C.W. Leekins – builder
  • 1937
  • 1731 Mountain Blvd
  • C.W. Leekins – builder
  • 1937
  • $6750
1731 Mountain Blvd – Google maps

H. A Richardson Sponsored

Oakland Tribune Oct 1937
  • 6025 Bruns Drive
  • H.A. Richardson – builder
  • 1937
  • $13,000
Oakland Tribune Oct 17, 1937
SF Examiner 1985 $279,500
6025 Bruns Court Google Maps

Montclair Realty Company Sponsored

Oakland Tribune Oct 1937
  • 5664 Thornhill Drive
  • F.H. Slocombe – Architect
  • L.A. Larson – builder
  • 1937
  • $6850
Oakland Tribune Aug 1937
Oakland Tribune 1938

Emge & Stockman Sponsored

Oakland Tribune Oct 1937

Winder & Gahan Sponsored

Oakland Tribune Oct 1937
Posted in Business, History, Montclair, People, Uncategorized

Freeway Variety

Freeway Variety
Photo by Bill Boyd

C 1978

If you grew up the Montclair District of Oakland from 1956 to about 1990, you shopped at Freeway Variety.

The Montclarion March 1956

Freeway Variety opened in March of 1956. It was owned and operated by partners Cy Fritz and David Iventosch. They both had experience running the same type of stores in Berkeley.

The Montclarion March 1956
The Montclarion March 1956
The Montclarion March 1956

In 1957 Iventosch bought out his partner Fritz.

The Montclarion Apr 17, 1957
The Montclarion Apr 17, 1957
The Montclarion May 1957
From the Forgotten Montclair Page on Facebook
A basket from Freeway Variety

I felt the best way to describe this most beloved and dearly missed variety store is by sharing memories of it, which were detailed in a Facebook group.   The group is lovingly called  Forgotten Montclair.  It is dedicated to preserving and sharing the memories of growing up in the Montclair District of Oakland, California.

Laura C: I bought my Beautiful Crissy doll there, in elementary school, along with my camping cookware for Brownie camp. When I graduated from high school, I bought my powder blue gym clothes there.

Joanne G: Freeway Variety was “candy land” heaven to me!  My mom never let me have candy growing up – not ever once being able to trick or treat. So if I was ever able to ride my bike up to Freeway Variety from lower Broadway Terrace (all uphill)! The Now or Later were my first choice after a spin around the store to take in the isles of crazy stuff.

Joan G

Todd E: Lived in Montclair 1970 – 1992. Freeway Variety was like the ultimate dive bar of five and dimes. It was kind of dark with low ceilings, but it was comfy. It felt a little bit like a place where you could buy a Gremlin from some ancient guy in the back where all the wicker baskets hung from the ceiling.  There were nuances to Freeway Variety that can never be replicated anywhere else. There was nothing funnier than riding your BMX down that strange concrete slope and dropping your bike down and entering the store in one fluid motion. It’s the place where I thought Army Men and those little parachute dudes were born. It had all the romantic stuff of childhood, candy, cards, Slurpee, video games, toys, Choose Your Own Adventure Books, a whole section on Movie Novelizations (with pictures in the middle!), strange arcane stuff like rabbit’s feet and real Mexican Jumping Beans. To me, the basic concept of what 1 mile is will always be the walk from my house over by Joaquin Miller School to Freeway Variety.

Christopher W

Christopher W:  Ah, there it is, my favorite store growing up in Montclair. While my mom shopped at Lucky’s, I would be down at Freeway Variety looking for everything from match cars, Pez dispensers, loved the chocolate ones, and when I was tiny, I would get a quarter and ride the horse in the front. Good times

Cherie L: We would walk down there from Westwood Way. Buster brown socks. Schools supplies. Candy, you name it. Lived in Montclair from 1959 to 1982.

Stephanie W: Florence was my auntie

Nanette: I loved Freeway Variety! The old creaky wood floor that sloped down. You could get art (my favorite), craft, and school supplies. And of course where we got our Wacky Packs!!!!·

Susan S: Look what I found cleaning out my closet

Dennis J: Does anyone remember the ladies of Freeway Variety store? Florence, Winnie, Mildred, and May.  I worked there after school and on weekends. Coolest boss ever: Big David Iventosch. My first real job!!!

Helene C: Loved everything about Freeway Variety. The smell of popcorn, candy, turtle pond scum. The only place where you could get candy, washcloths, home goods, toys, candy, an iron, a picture frame, valentines, Christmas cards, canning jars, toy guns, turtles, popcorn, and sweet. And those old ladies behind the counter. A golden childhood staple and memory. I pity everyone else.

Erik H:  Florence always gave me extra on my Icee. But you introduced me to the “Suicide “flavored slush.

Dena M: I remember we would all go there to pick out our Halloween costumes and buy wax harmonicas.

Susan S: Look what I found cleaning out my closet

Jan D: The ladies used to follow us around the store, thinking we were going to steal something!

Donna:   I still have my Ink bottles and pens.

Lara: I loved getting presents from here. Thanks to my mom, this is dated. I guess that means I am too! 33 years ago . . .

Donna:   I still have my Ink bottles and pens.

The End