Posted in Home Building, Montclair, People

On Moraga Avenue

An Enterprising Family and Their New Home in the Montclair District.

Oakland Tribune

Mr. and Mrs. John W Martinsen’s like many others in the area took on the task of building their own home.

Mrs. Martinsen would serve a hot lunch for them from a cabin they had built in the back of the lot.

The home is located on the corner of Moraga Avenue and Estates Drive.

From the 1943 Directory

They lived there until sometime in the mid-1940s.

She dresses in a regulation feminine hiking costume, and is able and effective assistant to her husband

Oakland Tribune


Intersection with Estates Drive c 1950
Public Works Photo,
Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey, Oakland City Planning Department
intersection with Estates Drive, this east image from 1951
Public Works Photo,
Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey, Oakland City Planning Department
From Google Maps


The Martinsen Home – Google Maps
  • 5901 Moraga Avenue at the corner of Estates Drive
  • John W. Martinsen – builder and owner
  • $10,000
  • 1922


Oakland Tribune Nov 03, 1930

The End

Posted in Early Montclair, History, Home Building, People

Residents of Hays Canyon – Now Montclair

Hays Canyon or sometimes called Jack Hayes Canyon was the area in hills behind Piedmont.  It was named for Col. John “Jack” Coffee Hays (1817-1883) who lived in the area from 1856-1883.   His estate Fernwood was located approx. where Moraga Avenue, (Hays Canyon Rd.)  Hwy 13 and Thornhill Drive (Thorn Road) meet. 

Hays (Hayes) Canyon was in the Piedmont District and both the Brooklyn and Oakland Townships

The main road to the or through the canyon was called the “Hays (Hayes) Canyon Road” which traveled the route of present day Moraga Avenue.  According to one article the beginning of Hays Canyon was at Bonita Avenue in Piedmont.

From Google Maps

Hays Canyon Road is now known as Moraga Avenue

Hays Canyon is now Montclair.

In 1891, the S.F. Call described Hays Canyonthe romantic valley just beyond the ridge that receives its name from the famous Colonel Jack Hays” and “the beautiful home of W. J. Dingee” and the “fine places of Mrs Kohler, Judge E.M Gibson and Mrs. Fields and others.

S F Call – Mar 22, 1891

Colonel John C. Hays – Fernwood

Residence of Col. John C. Hays, Oakland, Alameda County, California.”
(Published by Thompson & West, Oakland, Cal., 1878)
from Oakland History Room

Hays died at home April 22, 1883, at the age of 66.   After his death Fernwood was sold to William J. Dingee.

Wm J. Dingee – Fernwood

Dingee built an opulent 19-room Queen-Anne style mansion, and had additional landscaping done with gardens, terraces and waterfalls. He also added such features as a deer park and an elk paddock.

Athens of the Pacific” 1896

Sadly, the home and countless artworks were destroyed in a fire in 1899. Oakland Tribune Oct 19, 1899

After the Fernwood burned Mrs. Adeline Percy built a modern log cabin on the property. In the 1920s the property was sold and subdivided.

Oakland Tribune March 12, 1916
Yellow arrow Percy Log Cabin, green arrow pool, blue arrow tennis courts.
Oakland Tribune Aug 19, 1923

Judge E. M. Gibson – Cote Brilliant

Judge E.M. Gibson owned the property the just beyond Thornhill School. It was latter owned by E.M Boggs. The house burned down in 1910. Dr. Mark Emerson bought the land in the mid-1920s and built a lovely home and lived there until the late 1950s. St John’s Episcopal Church is now there.

Map showing the locations of the Gibson and Fields land
Oakland Tribune April 23, 1887
Oakland Tribune Jun 1888
Oakland Directory 1889
Oakland Tribune 1888

J. B. Fields

Joseph B. Fields was born in England. Prior to moving to Hays Canyon he was an Oakland Police officer for 12 years.

He owned 25 acres of farming land next the the property of Judge Gibson. His land was in the general location of Aspinwall Road is today.

Oakland Tribune April 16, 1890
SF Chronicle Jan 25,,1891

Mrs. C.A. Kohler – Glen Kohler

Glen Kohler the home of Mrs.. Kohler was located about where Thornhill Drive, Pinehaven Road and Woodhaven Way meet.

Cordelia A. (“CA”) Kohler was the widow of Andrew Kohler (1819-1885) of Kohler & Chase Pianos,  who had a fine home Hays Canyon on Thorn Road (Thornhill Drive) she named it  Glen Kohler.

She died at her home in Hays Canyon on November 27, 1894.  Her funeral was largely attended by the old settlers of the county and was held at her home on November 30, 1894.  She is  buried at Mountain View Cemetery  alongside her husband Andrew and her daughter Louisa (1849-1854)  who died at the  young age of 5.

Oakland Tribune Oct 17 1885

Glen Kohler was designed by architects the Samuel and Joseph C. Newsom (Newsom Brothers) in 1885. The residence was 18 rooms, in what was know as the “free style”. At a cost of about $10,000.

Oakland Tribune Nov 14, 1885
Oakland Tribune Feb 12, 1886
S F Call Nov 29, 1894

I don’t know what happened to Glen Kohler after Mrs. Kohler died. It is possible it was used at a Sanatorium (more on that later).

More on Hays Canyon

The End

Posted in East Oakland, Home Building, Oakland Tracts, Tract or Subdivisions

Central Terrace – 55th and Foothill

It is located where Foothill Blvd meets Trask Street and 55th Avenue. 55th Avenue was formally called Central Avenue and Foothill Blvd was often referred to the Scenic Boulevard. Central Terrace also includes Ruth Avenue, Laverne Avenue, El Camille Avenue and Kingsland Avenue. The area now is considered to be an extension of Maxwell Park or the Fairfax District, depending on who you talk to.

Mutual Realty Co.’s Central Terrace office,
Foothill Boulevard at 55th Avenue and Trask Street looking north
Cheney Photo Adv. Co., photographers. C 1912
Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room.

Brochure for Central Terrace

The Mutual Realty Company put the Central Terrace Subdivision on sale in April of 1912.  The agent was Fred T. Wood, who later took over the project. Later they added the Central Terrace Extension and Scenic Park Knoll

Earth Sciences and Map Library,
University of California, Berkeley -Cadastral map. Historic Maps of Bay Area

Central Terrace is surrounded by modern schools and educational institutions of the very highest standard, the John C. Fremont high erected at the cost of $140,000, the Melrose School, the W.P. Frick School and the Lockwood Grammar School and the famous Mills Seminary for young ladies, all are within short walking distance from any part of Central Terrace”

See brochure below
Central Terr 1915_side
Earth Sciences and Map Library,
University of California, Berkeley –
Historic Maps of Bay Area
Earth Sciences and Map Library,
University of California, Berkeley –
Historic Maps of Bay Area
From the Brochure
Oakland Tribune Apr 1912
Foothill Blvd at 55th Avenue
Photo By Cheney Advertising c 1912
Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room
Laverne from 55th Ave
Photo By Cheney Advertising c 1912
Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room
Ruth Ave from 55th Ave
Photo By Cheney Advertising c 1912
Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room
Photo By Cheney Advertising c 1912
Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room
Ruth Ave
Photo By Cheney Advertising c 1912
Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room
55th and Ruth Ave – Google Maps
Foothill and 55th today – Google maps

More to come –

Posted in Home Building, Model/Display Homes, Oakland Tracts

Sunshine Court

Sunshine Court is group homes built by Pedigreed Home Builders in 1927

Each home had 4 or 5 rooms with separate garage, ranging in from $3950-$4550. 

Every Sunshine Court Home had a dining room set, gas range, Hoyt water heater, linoleum, curtain rods, bathroom fixtures and other time and money-saving extras.

The first six homes went on sale in May of 1927

  • 1425 Sunshine Court.
  • 1638 Sunshine Court.
  • 1645 Sunshine Court
  • 1651 Sunshine Court
  • 1657 Sunshine Court
  • 1665 Sunshine Court

Sunshine Court Model Home

“Le Petit Chateau” was located at 1665 Sunshine Court.   The home was completely furnished by  Montgomery Wards.

Oakland Tribune May 1927
1665 Sunshine Court
Oakland Tribune May 1927
1665 Sunshine Court
Oakland Tribune May 01, 1927
Oakland Tribune May 08, 1927

Sunshine Court – Oakland Local Wiki

Location of Sunshine Court

The End

Posted in History, Home Building, Oakland Tracts

State Rifle Range at Leona Heights

Updated with new map – May 11, 2019

Everyday while taking my kids to school we would pass a street call Rifle Lane. I thought that was a weird name for street. I wondered why? (they named it that), as I do a lot things as I drive around Oakland (or anywhere).

From Google maps – go here to see more of the map

Fast forward a few years later. I was looking up the history of the area I lived in off of Keller Ave. The area is now called the Eastmont Hills (kind of boring). The area goes back to 1925 when the C.P Murdock Company put it on the market and they called it Melrose Highlands. The area is just up the hill from the new Chevrolet Assembly Plant (now Eastmont Town Center). They sold the area as good place to live if you work at the plant.

Oakland Tribune Jul 25, 1925

In my research I came across the following article from July of 1925. The Upper San Leandro filter plant (7700 Greenly Drive) and the State Rifle Range are adjacent to Melrose Highlands. I thought wow there was a rifle range right about where Rifle Lane is now. Solved that one. Well not really but…close.

Maybe now some the smart people who read this blog can help me in figuring out where the range was located. Maybe someone remembers it.

Oakland Tribune Jul 19 1925

From the Oakland Tribune Oct 29, 1929 – Major fire in the Oakland Hills – threatens the rifle range. Map of the fire below –

Oakland Tribune Oct 29, 1929

What I know

The range has been called the following:

  • National Guard rifle Range
  • California National Guard rifle range
  • State Rifle Range at Leona Heights
  • Leona Heights Rifle Range
Oakland Tribune Apr 11, 1917

In 1917 the National Guard rifle range was transferred from Marin County to Leona Heights in Oakland. They had purchased “140 acres of land directly back of the quarry for the purpose”. The land was formally the property of the Realty Syndicate. The range opened in 1920. The location varies. Close to Mills College, 2 miles from Mills College, a the top of Seminary Drive and the back of the Leona Quarry.

San Francisco Examiner Mar 1921

In July 1921 a major fire destroyed most of the range. For more on the fire – Oakland Tribune Jul 04, 1921

Oakland Tribune Jul 04, 1921

It may have also been the location of the stables of the 143rd Field Artillery Regiment. I know there were horse stables there.

Oakland Tribune Mar 10, 1927

The California Guardmans highlighted the rifle range in their Feb-March 1925 issue. You can see it here. From the Military Museum site. “A California National Guard range and local training area located in the Oakland Hills of Alameda County. It may have also been the location of the stables of the 143rd Field Artillery Regiment. The site was developed approximately 1919 and was actively used until at least 1941. The site supported elements of the 143rd Field Artillery, 159th Infantry and 250th Coast Artillery Regiments. The April 1919 edition of The American Rifleman, stated that there were 60 firing points for rifles with targets placed between 200 and 600 yards. There was also a pistol range with 14 firing points. The range was described as one of the finest ranges west of Camp Perry, Ohio.”

Military Museum
Military Museum
From the Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of California – 1921
Oakland Tribune Dec 10, 1923

The End

Posted in Home Building, Model/Display Homes, Montclair Tracts

Forest Park – Homes

Just a few of the homes of Forest Park – I will update if I find more.

Oakland Tribune May 1927 – 6415 Oakwood Drive
Oakland Tribune May 1927 – 6415 Oakwood Drive
Oakland Tribune Feb 28, 1928
6415 Oakwood Drive
6415 Oakwood Drive – Present Day – Google maps
6415 Oakwood Drive – Google maps
The Forest Park Home of Benjamin Locket
Built in 1927
Original address was Box 411 Idlewild Drive
Now 7087 Thornhill Drive
7087 Thornhill Drive Present Day – Google Maps

Forest Park Mansion known as the Castle

The castle was the home of Col. Leonard Dunkel. Dunkel lived at 6708 Thornhill from about 1932 until his death in 1974.

Oakland Tribune Aug 12, 1928
Located at 6708 Thornhill Drive
Oakland Tribune Jun 26, 1955
6708 Thornhill Drive – Present Day – Google maps
Casa Bonita – Oakland Tribune May 1929
6760 Thornhill Drive – Google Maps

The End

Posted in History, Home Building, Oakland

The Boyd Log Cabin

This log cabin located across the street from the entrance to Joaquin Miller Park at 3551 Joaquin Miller Road . It was build in 1922 by Thomas”Hal” Boyd.

3543 Joaquin Miller Road
3551 Joaquin Miller Road – Back of the cabin
3551 Joaquin Miller Road – Google maps

High above the city on Joaquin Miller Road he designed and built a log cabin. He used timber that had been cleared close by.

Hal Boyd loved the outdoors so much so he learned to paint so he could express his love. The log cabin was his studio where he painted. In 1926 he had an exhibit of his art work.

During the day he was employed by the city as as a forest ranger to watch over Sequoia Park (now Joaquin Miller Park).

When his parents Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Parker Boyd lost their home in the Berkeley fire of 1923 he added on to his cabin giving them a place to live. – Oakland Tribune Jan 06, 1926

Oakland Tribune Jan 06, 1926
For rent Oakland Tribune Jul 23, 1924
Oakland Tribune – 1927
Review from his Berkeley Exhibit

He worked as a special promotion and production manager for the Woodminster Summer Concert Series during the 1945 season.

Oakland Tribune Jan 12, 1945
Oakland Tribune Aug 08, 1950

Found this article from 1955. It says the cabin was destroyed in a fire. I don’t know if this true or case of the wrong address. 3543 Joaquin Miller Road is the house next door. The cabin is still there.

San Francisco Examiner April 17, 1955

Sometime in the 1950s he moved to Carmel, CA – He lived there until he passed away in August of 1990.

  • In 2014 the cabin sold as a “fixer upper” for $260,000. REDFIN.Com
  • Ask Art – Thomas Hal Boyd – Biography
  • An Architectural Guidebook to San Francisco and the Bay Area – page 277