Subdivision of Montclair – approx. the area above Thornhill at Woodhaven and Oakwood Drive and up to Snake and Colton Blvd. The Forest Park Pool (now Montclair Swim Club) was included with the tract. – Updated May 06, 2019
“Wickham Havens, Inc., to Sell Fine Scenic Property on the Highlands Northeast of Beautiful Piedmont” – Oakland Tribune May 11, 1924
A residential park that has been “twenty years in the making” is how they described Forest Park when in first opened in May 1924. The hills of Forest Park were barren of trees , when the late Frank C. Havens undertook the task in the early 1900s of planting them with trees. His son Wickham is in charge of selling Forest Park.
Big wooded lots some with a view of the bay were selling at a few hundred dollars each. “Investment in Forest Park today means rich profits in the future” – Come out and see the $10,000 pool being built for the residents – Oakland Tribune June 1924.
I wish I had more to share on this Thornhill Park this is all I can find. I only found out about it by accident when researching the home of Judge EM Gibson who lived on a ranch in area where Thornhill School is now and over to Aspinwall Drive. Judge Gibson lived there in the late 1880’s. I will soon post something on the first residents of Montclair which will include Gibson. I will call this page a work in progress to be undated.
Thornhill Park was first advertised for sale in May of 1917. It was handled by the Reality Syndicate at first and then Phil Hearty a local Montclair Real Estate Agent. The area was only know as Thornhill Park for few years it is now called Montclair and possibly Forest Park (another blog in the works) or what ever is best to sell the area.
Thornhill Park was an area of small farms of 1/4 acre to 1 acres where you could grow your own food or say raise chickens as noted the ad below.
By 1922 they were having a “Liquidation Sale” and trying to “close out” the rest of the tract. Selling 1/2 acre lots for 66 cents on the $1.00. It seems Thornhill Park wasn’t a big seller. I noticed it wasn’t advertised as much as any of the other tracts in Montclair like Forest Park, Merriewood, or Fernwood were. Later on Phil Hearty a developer and agent who had an office at 5815 Thornhill for years, took over the sale of the remaining Thornhill Park lot. Now Thornhill Park is part of Forest Park and Montclair Highlands.
Some of the homes in Thornhill Park –
A September 1919 advertisement for 6-Room Bungalow on One Acre in Beautiful Thornhill Park located at 650 Thorn Road (now Thornhill Drive) . It is my best guess that this is not 6110 or 6116 Thornhill Drive. 650 Thorn Road is one address that I can’t link to a modern address number. But I am fairly certain that it is one those two.
I love to try and figure out the who, what and where. I would rather try to figure it out all by myself before asking for help. That is the fun part for me. Sometimes it is very easy. Other times it is not.
The biggest clue to this photo was the Higgins Church on Hopkins which is now MacArthur Blvd. I started there.
I started looking into the Higgins Church. The church in 1898 was located near Fruitvale Ave and Hopkins in the old Fruitvale School building. It had some connection to the Fred Finch Orphanage
In 1907 the laid the corner stone for a new church at the corner of School St and Boston. The church was renamed Fruitvale ME Church. Joaquin Miller read a poem at the ground breaking. The church building was dedicated in 1908. The church building is still there with a few additions or modifications and is located at 3111 Boston. It now called the First Samoan Congregation Christian Church
A couple days ago I found a Knave article “Memories linger for Dimond District Pioneers” in the Oakland Tribune November 1970 the 2nd page of the article included this same picture with some new clues.
I now have clues for the house and a different church. So off I went to find out more.
I think the location has been solved. I thought the house was moved or demolished due to building the freeway and it almost was. I am so glad it is still there.
Recently someone asked about when 7-Eleven came to Montclair. Which was about 1958.
I thought I would go back a little farther and tell you about the first store in Montclair.
A little history…
In 1925 the land that 7-Eleven is now on was bought by a man named Otto Schuneman. Mr. Schuneman then built a store. His store was a combination fountain and grocery store and a service station in front. The original building is still standing behind the 7-11 store.
In 1930 according to the article in the Montclarion (below) from 1957 the store was closed down by the Board of Trade. I haven’t been able to confirm this.
I haven’t been able to find any photos of the store or the station.
Funk’s Grocery – 1930-1940
In March of 1930, Davis L. Funk leased the store from Schuneman and bought out his remaining stock. Mr. Funk had owned a couple other stores in Oakland.
He called his store Funk’s Grocery.
The Funk family lived at 5677 Thornhill in the mid to late 30s to early 40s.
In the early 1960s the Montclair Presbyterian Church next door bought the house from the owners.
My ex-husband and I worked for the church from 1983- 1987 and we got to live in the house.
This house, grocery store and the Thorn Road Bible School (now Montclair Presbyterian) were all built in 1925-27.
In 1940 Funk took on a partner his son-law Malcom “Scotty” Hodge the husband of his daughter Lenore and the store was re-named the Montclair Food Center.
Funk and Hodge ran the store together until Funk died in 1949 his home on Grisborne Ave, behind the store.
Hodge and his wife continued on after that until 1957 when they could’t work out a new lease with the owner Otto Schuneman. My thought is…it was because he could make more money leasing it to Speedee Mart
When the store closed down in 1957 it was the last on Montclair that had maintained a credit and delivery service. Montclair Food Center was more than just a store to many of the customers of 20 years or more.
By 1957 Montclair was also changing. Payless Grocery Store (soon to be Luckys) and LaSalle Avenue Market were located in the business district and soon a new Safeway would be built.
Speedee Mart – 1958-1966?
In about 1958 the store was leased by Speedee Mart Corporation.
In 1964 the parent company of the 7-Eleven Stores bought all the Speedee Mart franchises in California.
They began slowly changing the name to 7-Eleven (7-11)
I recently found an article from 1961 about the discovery of an underground tunnel on what was the MacDermont Mansion in West Oakland. This is what I discovered looking into the mansion. MacDermot Mansion – Oakland Local wiki
Forgotten Tunnel Revives Dimming Memories
Oakland Tribune – March 23, 1961
In 1961 the Peralta Villa’s a 20-year-old WWII housing unit was being demolished to make room for new low rent apartments. They were located in the area bounded by 7th, 8th, Center and Cypress Streets.
While clearing the land workman discovered a concrete-lined tunnel – long forgotten and never recorded on the city records.
Was it a WWII bomb shelter? Did rum runners use it during prohibition?
The guesses proved to be wrong but an interesting story.
The tunnel (built between 1905 -1910) was the work of Louis MacDermot the son of a prominent early Oakland family who owned the land. Their home (1407 8th St) was built sometime before 1876 (some say it could have been the French consul). Charles F. MacDermont’s name appears on title records as early as 1870. The home was a showplace with landscaped grounds covering the entire block. In the 1920s the city proposed buying the site for a park, but the plan fell through. The home stood empty and decaying behind a wooden fence until 1941 when it was razed to make way for the war-time housing. The tunnel went undetected then.
The concrete-lined tunnel ran across the stable yards from the brick boiler room near the family home to a machine shop. It was about 3 feet wide and 4 1/2 feet high. There were L-shaped hooks with oval rollers embedded on the sides. Conductors for electrical wire had been installed on the ceiling. The hooks apparently held steam lines which heat the machine shop.
The man who built Railroads – the small ones
Railroad buffs might know the name Louis MacDermot. He built miniature railroads. He and his mechanics designed locomotives, freight cars, and coaches in great detail.
In 1913, he was awarded the concession to build and operate an intramural railway at the Panama Pacific International Expositiondue to open in February 1915. He started construction in his “back yard. The first completed locomotive was the work engine No. 1500, an 0-6-0T type.
The Overfair Railway, that ran along the Marina between Fort Mason and the Presidio. A 10 cent fare provided transportation to the Polo Field, State / Foreign buildings, California Building, Exhibit Palaces, Yacht Harbor, and The Zone.
Overfair Railway on the Marina – San Francisco Bay -1915 –SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY.
Overfair Railway on the Marina – San Francisco Bay -1915 –SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY.
Life after the fair – The Decline of the MacDermot Estate
After the Fair, MacDermot became a recluse and stayed on the deteriorating grounds of the family’s Oakland mansion. Unfortunately, this fate was also shared by the Overfair Railway’s locomotives and wooden passenger and freight cars. The locomotives had the luxury of spending their “retirement” in sheds. The others did not fare so well.
Another photo of the MacDermot home with one of cars in the yard – OMCA
In 1941 he agreed to build the “The Mountain Lion Railway” for the Oakland Zoo. He moved three engines and the twelve best passenger cars to the Alameda County Zoological Gardens (today’s Oakland Zoo). Beginning on August 1, 1941, with two cars running behind a forlorn No. 1913, the operation started. The faithful Pacific had lost both its boiler jacket and its leading truck, relegating No. 1913 to the status of a 0-6-2. The Overfair equipment had substantially deteriorated and MacDermot increasingly erratic behavior soon forced the Zoo’s management to eject the railway. Please see – Swanton Pacific Railroad Society Newsletter January 2008
The Swanton Pacific Railroad serves as an operational memorial to Al Smith who acquired and relocated the trains to the Swanton Pacific Ranch. The rolling stock consists of three one-third scale Pacific-type steam locomotives that were built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a diesel switcher locomotive and a variety of passenger and maintenance of way railcars.
Audrey Robinson was the first African American teacher at Thornhill Elementary School in Oakland Ca.
Audrey Lucinda Robinson was the daughter of Charles Nelson and Maude Gibson. She was born in 1915 in Oakland. She attended Peralta School and graduated from Claremont in 1930 and University High in 1933. The family lived at 6148 Colby Street.
She was a member of the Colored YWCA at 8th and Linden in West Oakland. She was a member of a club that included Lionel Wilson the former Mayor of Oakland.
Audrey married Frederick D. Robinson, a Washington, D.C. police officer in 1941 shortly before he was deployed to fight in World War II. In 1944 Robinson died during combat in Italy.
Thornhill Elementary School
She was the first African American teacher at Thornhill School in the Montclair District of Oakland. She taught kindergarten for 10 years from 1966-1976. She said that she never experienced any form of racism from the children, staff or parents. She said about one African American child would join her class every year. She loved her time at Thornhill and love the children. She was loved by the children.
Audrey was dedicated to preserving the history of African Americans in the City of Oakland and she volunteered with the African American Museum and Library of Oakland (AAMLO). She also became very active at the Oakland Museum, serving as Docent Chairman for the History Department. She also served as Vice President of Administration for the Cameron-Stanford House Preservation Association.
Audrey passed away in June of 2008 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Audrey was predeceased by her husband, a WW II fatality, and her son. She is survived by her daughter, Jeri, her grandson Frederick and two great-grandsons.