Posted in Buildings, Lake Merritt, Parks, People

Edson Plaza and Conservatory

From 1911

The glass palace was once a part of the estate of A.K.P. Harmon in Oakland.

A.K.P. Harmon

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.

From the Map of the City of Oakland and Surroundings. Compiled from Official and Private Surveys. by J.C. Henkenius. 1888. Britton & Rey Lith., S.F. Cal. Entered…1887.

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.”

Harmon House and Conservatory from Webster Street, Oakland. ca. 1870
Gift of Miss Marietta Edwards
H68.10.6B
Harmons Greenhouse
Sf Examiner May 1, 1896

Mr. Harmon died in 1896, and his estate was subdivided and sold.

Sf Examine May 03, 1896

Edson Plaza

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.

New or greatly enlarged industrial establishments of Oakland and East Bay cities / by Oakland (Calif.) Chamber of Commerce. Cheney Photo Advertising Co. ; Wickham Havens, Inc.
circa 1917 Courtesy of Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Center
http://www.oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt7199q9d0/?order=87

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
Oakland Tribune Aug 4, 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

Oakland Tribune Sept 8, 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.”

Oakland Tribune Jan 27, 1927
Oakland Tribune July 19, 1927

Veterans’ Memorial Building

Veterans’ Memorial Building 200 Grand Ave – Oakland Local Wiki

More Info:

The End