Posted in East Oakland, History, Oakland, West Oakland

Backyard Fence War

In June of 1965 the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) began what was called a “Beautification Program”.

Under the housing authority’s plan, fenced in yards were to be removed and replaced with turfed areas in the following projects:

According to the tenants of the Peralta Villa housing projects in West Oakland, they first heard about the program when the a group of boys from the Alameda County Central Labor Council (funded by a grant from the War on Poverty) started demolishing the backyard fences and flower gardens.

The fences were removed, Housing Authority officials say, as the first step in a program of “beautification”

The tenants were really angry because some had paid the OHA for the fences and planted their gardens. No advance notice was given – the workers just started tearing everything up.

They Organize

The War on Poverty ran into a major obstacle this week – the War on Poverty

Oakland Tribune June 30, 1965

As a part of the War on Poverty‘s a work-study program was funded to provide the salaries of University of California students to work with the tenants .

The students worked with the residents of Lockwood Gardens to help them develop a sense of community identity and to learn how to help themselves.

It was these students that encouraged the tenants to form the Lockwood Improvement League .

The program funded by the War on Poverty the same people funding the “Beautification Program” and removing their fences.

The tenants of Peralta Villas met at Cole school and formed the Peralta Improvement League. Thirty tenants volunteered to form their own “human fence” they wrote up a list of demands and began their fight to save their gardens.

  1. Stop tearing down the remaining fences
  2. Rebuild the fences already taken down
  3. Reimburse the tenants whose private property was destroyed
  4. Consult the tenants first before doing any further work
Oakland Tribune July 1965

The labor for the “Beautification Program” was provided by the Alameda County Labor Council through a grant from the War of Poverty.

Lockwood Gardens

The OHA decided to on June 25, 1965 to “beautify” the projects. They started with Lockwood Gardens.

The people of Lockwood Gardens newfound sense of community identity was outraged.

Each of the thirty- plus dwelling units in Lockwood Gardens had its own yard and most had fences. Some had lawns and some had shrubs and flowers.

The enclosed yards gave the tenants a sense of individuality, security, and pride.

All backyard fences would come out, the lawns, shrubs and flowers would be dug out. A common turf area without fences would replace individual yards.

Oakland Tribune June 30, 1965

They had been using my yard as adverstiment for years.

Jim Sorenson 1137 65th Ave – Oakland Tribune
Oakland Tribune June 30, 1965

They were also upset by the lack of advance warning. They got 200 signature in favor of keeping the fences.

The Lockwood Gardens tenants were all for beautification but not at the expense of their backyards. One tenant was upset because he had just rebuilt his fence. Not all the tenants of the tenants took care of yards or kept their fences in repair. But they felt the OHA could work it out with those tenants.

The Protests

The tenants of both Peralta Villa and Lockwood Gardens protested and managed to halt or limited the amount of work that could be done at either of the projects.

Oakland Tribune July 13, 1965

The OHA laid out a new backyard fence policy Residents must keep their backyards neat and in repair; no new fences could be installed; no satisfactory fence will be torn down now, but eventual elimination of all fenced areas can be expected”

In August of 1965 the OHA board voted to poll each family of Campbell Village, Lockwood Gardens and Peralta Villa if they want a fence. Everyone was to be asked even the people who lived in the 2nd floor. There was a total of 916 total units in the three projects.

The tenants were given 2 choices in the questions asked :

Oakland Tribune Sep 01, 1965

It appears to be a lower-the-cost- maintenance program

The Pro-Fence group leader

In July 1966 all the fences had been removed and the place looked like a dump reported one tenant. The lawn was dead in most places as it wasn’t being watered.

More on the Beautification Program

The End

Posted in Buildings, Oakland, People

First Framed House in Oakland

Oakland in the Days When Oaks Were Here and the Peralta’s Owned all the Land

Oakland Tribune Feb 1891

The house was located at N. E. corner east Eighth Street and Fourth Avenue, East Oakland. The address was first 202 East Ninth Street. East Ninth Street was later renamed East Eight Street and house was renumbered from 202 to 404. The final address was 404 East Eight Street.

From the 1884 directory
From the 1912 Directory
Oakland Tribune May 01, 1932
Okland Tribune Nov 13, 1949

In Search of Gold

The lure of the gold drew Moses Chase and his son George to California in 1849. They sailed from Boston on aboard the Capitol on a 176-day voyage. He hoped to make his fortune panning for gold, then return home to marry Mary Ellen Clinton. They had no luck at finding gold and soon they found themselves back on the coast.

Chase then became the first white man to settle in Oakland and he first camped at the foot of what is now Broadway, in 1849.

He then leased land from the Peralta Family just east of what is now Lake Merritt. the land later became part of Township of Clinton which later became a part of Oakland.

The Cabin

It was on this land he built a small cabin of 14 feet wide and 24 feet, from ship timbers, driftwood and rough boards.  He intended to bring his new bride back to California from Boston and live in the cabin. But she died before he arrived back home to marry her. The Township of Clinton was named in her honor.

Showing the original home

In 1856 the front part was added.  This would become the main section of the house. Over the years other alternations and additions expanded the cabin into a two-story building of 17 rooms during its 86-year occupancy by Chase, his son and his grandson. The original section, after standing intact until 1936 when it was cut in half and became the laundry room.

Bancroft Library – Jesse Brown Cooke Scrapbook
http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf7k40107n 
BANC PIC 1996.003:Volume 27:089–fALB 
I0051808a.tif 

As you see in the photograph, the house is in first class condition today, October 5, 1928. Photo taken by Jesse B. Cook and Joseph A. Murray. 

Bancroft Library – Jesse Brown Cooke Scrapbook
http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf3f59p0hs 
BANC PIC 1996.003:Volume 27:090–fALB 
I0051809a.tif 

See: While Oakland was Finding its Place on the Map of the World – Oakland Tribune May 01, 1932

First Settler Laid to Rest

The Oldest Inhabitant has Gone to Rest

 Chase spent the later years of his life a near recluse on Bay Farm Island, but he died in the family home February 17, 1891 at the age of 84. He was laid to rest at the Mountain View Cemetery.

A Wedding Takes Place

Another view of the home

In May of 1925 Albert B. Chase was married in the same room he was born in 45 years before. Albert was the son of George Chase (1841-1919) the only child of Moses Chase.

At the time of his wedding Albert was the only surviving member of the Chase family. His older brother had died in 1924 and his sister in 1925.

Oakland 80th Birthday

In honor of Oakland’s 80th Birthday in May of 1932 the Clinton Improvement Association erected a sign on the home noting its historical significance. Oakland Tribune Apr 07, 1932

Razing the Old Home

Oakland Tribune July 02, 1946
Oakland Tribune 1948

In 1946 workman from the Symon Brothers Wrecking Company started razing the “old Chase home”  a small rear portion of which was the original cabin to which Chase built in 1849.

Through three generations the old home continued at the family residence, until in 1936 Albert died. Albert’s widow sold the home to Guido Pacini, a trucking contractor.   Pacini graded the adjoining lot for his trucking business.  The old home was completing renovated and was use as a residence, most recently the home of Picini’s daughter and her husband.

Cook Brothers Equipment Distributors began a 10 year lease of old homestead after it was cleared.   Oakland Tribune July 02, 1946

Oakland Tribune 1948
Showing the 404 East 8th Street in 1951 – Sanborn Map

More on Moses Chase

The End

Posted in History, Montclair, Oakland

1937 Fire – Upper Broadway Terrace

A brush and timber fire that destroyed at least four Oakland hill area homes and menaced at least 50 more burned in the area of Pine Needle Road and Upper Broadway Terrace and came close to the buildings of the new Broadway Low-Level tunnel (Caldicott Tunnel). This was on September 25, 1937.

Oakland Tribune Sep 26, 1937

The photo below was taken at the hight of the blaze but before the fire jumped Tunnel Road.

Families Flee

Scores of families fled their homes in fear; others who sought to save the belongings were ordered out by fireman.

Mrs. G.H. Cowles with Eunice and Hazel Cowles
of 6142 Pinewood Road
The W.R Powers Family lost their home at 6142 Ruthland Road.
Edith Thorpe 6, holds her pet Rhode Island Red Hen

Burned Area

The fire started close to the home of Police inspector Jesse Jackson at 6019 Pinewood Road at around 3 pm September 25, 1937. During the first six hours, the fire had burned across the western edge of the Pinehaven district up Broadway Terrace to a point just below Skyline Blvd. and back down another canyon to the west.

Oakland Tribune Sept 26, 1937

The fire chief estimated the fire burned over 9 square miles of rolling hill county.

Oakland Tribune Sept 26, 1937

Hose lines Burned

Several hundred feet of hose laid across brushy areas to link the pumps to the fire area were destroyed by flames. Lack of water was a problem, they had used up all the water in reservoirs in the immediate area.

Eyewitness Accounts

C.F. Humphrey – 13025 Broadway Terrace

Mrs. Marguerite Risley – 6493 Farralone Way

Homes Lost or Damaged

  • 15030 Broadway Terrace – Ted Gould – gone
  • 16060 Broadway Terrace – S. Albright – damaged
  • 17014 Broadway Terrace – Ed Pohley – damaged
  • 17044 Broadway Terrace – S. Sund – damaged
  • 17050 Broadway Terrace – S.C. Purser – damaged
  • 6539 Gwin Road – V. Sagues -damaged
  • 6142 Pinewood Road – G. H. Cowles – damaged
  • 6142 Ruthland – W.R. Powers – gone
The Press Democrat Sep 26. 1937

Fire Started –

The fire started when a “backyard bonfire” got out of control.

1929 Fire

There was a fire in November of 1929 in just about the same area. Some of the same homes were damaged then. The W.R. Powers home was saved in 1929 only to burn down in 1937.

Oakland Tribune Nov 15, 1929
Oakland Tribune Nov 15, 1929

1933 Fire

The was a fire in 1933 with the loss of one home at 7135 Pinehaven Road.

1930 Directory
Oakland Tribune Oct 23 1933

The End

Posted in Home Building, Model/Display Homes, Oakland, Real Estate

Open for Inspection Today – Aug 13, 1939

Oakland Tribune 1939
Oakland Tribune Aug 13, 1939

Six modern furnished homes were opened for inspection on Sunday August 13, 1939. The homes were located in Berkeley, Moraga and Oakland. I will just highlight the two homes from Oakland.

Lincoln Highlands

  • Harmony Home
  • 2700 Alida Street
  • 1939
  • $6750 up
  • Lincoln Highlands
  • Irwin M. Johnson – architect
  • W.H. Wisheropp – owner and builder
  • H.G. Markham – realtor
Oakland Tribune Aug 1939

Harmony Home was one of several homes that were built in 1939. It is located in the scenic tract called Lincoln Highlands on Alida Street at the top of Coolidge Avenue.

The compact plan included a large living room, a dining room, a kitchen with breakfast nook, a tile bath with three bedrooms, as well as an informal den with access to double garage.

Oakland Tribune Aug 1939
Oakland Tribune Aug 20, 1939
Oakland Tribune Aug 27, 1939

In less than a month over 12,000 had toured Harmony Home.

Oakland Tribune Sep 1939
Harmony House Today – 2700 Alida Street – Google Maps

Sheffield Village

  • Hampstead House
  • 1939
  • Sheffield Village
  • Theodore Thompson – architect
  • E.B. Fields – developer

Sheffield Village is located above Hwy 580 at Dutton Avenue.

I couldn’t locate the actual “Hampstead House”. I have included other houses in the area that were for sale during the same time period.

Hampstead House 1939 – Unknown location
3039 Roxbury Ave – 1939
3039 Roxbury Avenue – Google map
3046 Revere Ave – Google Maps

Prior to the opening of Hempstead House in Sheffield Village the H.C Capwells Company created a full scale floor plan model completely furnished in the furniture department on the fourth floor of their downtown store.

Oakland Tribune June 18 1939
Oakland Tribune Aug 1939
Oakland Tribune Aug 1939
Oakland Tribune Aug 1939

More on Sheffield Village –

If anyone knows the street address for the Hampstead House please leave a comment.

The End

Posted in Buildings, History, Oakland, People, Streets

Alden Farm

Official and historical atlas map of Alameda County, California. Compiled, drawn and published from personal examinations and surveys by Thompson & West. Oakland, Cala. 1878.
Res. & farm of P.A. Finigan, Brooklyn Tp.

The Alden Farm (Alder Farm) once stood on the land where Holy Names University is located today.

In 1874 Charles Low owned the property. A barn was located where Tobin Halls and the university’s gymnasium are today. He built a house for his family on the site where Brennan Hall stands today. You can see a map of the campus here.

Oakland Tribune May 1877
Oakland Tribune Nov 28, 1877

In 1877 Peter A. Finigan (Finnegan) purchased the property from Low and built a second house near where Cushing Library is today.

SF Examiner Jun 30, 1877

In 1884 Thomas Magee of Thomas Magee & Sons Real Estate Firm purchase the farm. I bet Magee Avenue was named after him.

Magee added a second story to the house that Finigan built.

During the early years the Magee’s would spend winter at their home in San Francisco and summer on Alden Farm. After the 1906 earthquake and fire they made their home permanently at Alden Farm.

Alden Farm was considered one of the premiere showplaces in Oakland. Many social event and weddings were held there over the years.

Oakland Tribune Jul 04, 1900
Oakland Tribune Jun 04, 1911
Oakland Tribune Jul 08,1922
Oakland Tribune Aug 10, 1924
Oakland Tribune Apr 24, 1932

Many Fires

Oakland Tribune Sep 08 1904
Oakland Tribune 19, 1931
Oakland Tribune Aug 1945

Fire Destroys Alden Farm

Oakland Tribune Mar 01, 1953
Oakland Tribune Mar 01, 1953
Oakland Tribune Sep 16, 1953

Holy Names University

Oakland Tribune Feb 04, 1955
Oakland Tribune Oct 06, 1955

Deaths of the Magee’s

More Info
Posted in Montclair, Oakland, People

Living Double-Lives in Montclair

A couple of years ago someone in a Facebook group I belong to asked if anyone else remembered a story or rumor that went around Montclair in the mid-50s. It was a story about a guy the ran repair shop on La Salle Ave who was a spy for the American Government or something like that. It took me a while but I found it.

Undercover Agent – Asked to Join

Wilmington Daily Press Apr 23 1953

The tall shapely women said she joined the Communist Party after an FBI agent approached her and said:

Would you like to do this? There will be nothing it for you, but you would be doing your country a great service.

San Francisco Examiner April 1953



Joins Party to Help FBI in Roundup of Subversives

The tall shapely women was Sylvia Hill the wife of Dickson P. Hill of the Montclair District. The Hill’s lived had 3 children and lived on Snake Road. Mr. Hill owned Montclair Radio & TV Service at 6127 La Salle Ave.

From the outside they were your typical 50s family.

Oakland Tribune Dec 1953

Dickson P. Hill said he and his wife were approached by Communists in 1944 and ask the FBI ( I think the FBI was already watching them) what they should do. The FBI told them to try to join the party so they could do the country “a great service.”

They joined the Communist party in 1945 at the request of the FBI, and rose to the positions of membership chairman and education chairman receptively, while serving as undercover agents.

Double Lives

Hill and his wife lived “double lives” as Communists for the FBI for about four years. He said he named more than 50 people in Oakland-Berkeley area he had met personally and identified them as Reds. He also identified 36 organizations as Communist Party clubs during his membership 1945-1949. Dec 03, 1953

Santa Cruz Sentinel Dec 02, 1953
Oakland Tribune April 16 1953

Reds Call Labor School ‘Ours,’ Witness Testifies

Oakland TribuneJan 26 1956
Oakland Tribune Jan 25, 1956

California Labor School of Alameda County

Oakland Tribune Sep 17,1944

The California Labor school presented a Russian film “One Day in Soviet Russia” with English narration.

Oakland Tribune Aug 12 1945

Lectures on the ‘Roots of Fascism’

Oakland Tribune Nov 29, 1945

More Info:

The End

Posted in Buildings, East Oakland, History, Oakland, People, Uncategorized

Edenvale – The Talbot Estate

From Eden of the Pacific, Oakland Tribune 1898

1857 – 1888:  Ellis A Haines  purchased the property from the Peralta’s

In 1888,  Frederick C. Talbot of the San Francisco lumber firm of Pope & Talbot purchased 133- acres from  Ellis A. Haines in Elmhurst near San Leandro and adjacent to the Souhter Farm ( now the Dunsmuir Home) for $15,000. 

San Francisco Chronicle Jul 28, 1888
Oakland Tribune Jul 30,1888

Depending on who wrote it or what you read the total acreage seems to change. Above you will see in one clipping has the total acreage as 133- acres and in the other it as 153 -acres. It has been as high as 453 acres. I have always understood it to be the same land that both the Oakland Zoo and Knowland Park, but who really knows?

Oakland Tribune aug 08, 1890
Oakland Tribune Sept 14, 1888

Edenvale –

Nestled in the hills surrounded by the choicest fruits and flowers, “Edenvale” as the name suggests is a veritable paradise.

The estate was 140-acres (different acreage) of rich land used for farming and orchards. 60 acres were planted with almonds, cherries, oranges, walnuts, lemons, prunes, apricots, peaches and olives. 80 acres of choice farming land.

Talbot Home –
Cheney Photo Advertising
C 1915
View of Edenvale from the hillside
Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History 
OutWest
A Magazine – Of The Old Pacific and The New
Page 125 -July 1907


In the picture you can see the caretakers home in back (the taller one). This house is still standing today.

The garden was laid out with rare trees and a variety of plants and lighted pathways. There was a large pond with a bridge the crossed it. The pond was large enough for a small rowboat.

The main house was a modern elegant colonial structure of 12 rooms, with 4 baths running water and gas throughout. It Burned down in 1921.

There was a large modern stable, a greenhouse, servants quarters. There was a home for the caretaker which is still standing today. A brooder for chickens and pen for pigs. Oakland Tribune Mar 22, 1902

Unknown Talbot Family Members at EdenVale c 189?
Photo by I.W. Taber
Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History 

Barn Burns –

San Francisco Dec 21, 1901
Oakland Tribune May 18,1900

Talbot Farm for Sale

Oakland Tribune March 10, 1902
Town Talk March 22, 1902
Note it is 140 acres

Meanwhile…

R.C. “Cliff” Durant Purchases Estate

Durant purchases the Talbot estate “Edenvale” . The estate comprises of 470-acres (different acreage) and sold for $200,000.

Oakland Tribune Nov 25 1919
San Francisco Examiner Feb 08, 1920

The above says 478-acres and below says 200-acres. They are dated a year apart.

Oakland Tribune Nov 23, 1919
Oakland Tribune Dec 21, 1921

A Map showing the location of R.C Durants/F.C. Talbots Mansion

Oakland Tribune 1921

The Estate Becomes A Park

In 1929 the city of Oakland council voted to purchase the the former country estate of the late F.C. Talbot from the Park Commission. The 350-acres ( different acreage) would cost the city approximately $662,000. That deal fell through. The whole story is confusing . Durant Park opens to the public in 1932.

Oakland Tribune April 19, 1929

In 1935 Sidney Snow took possession of the 475-acre (different acreage) Durant Park and started building the zoo. He ran it with a some help from the city of Oakland. – From A History as Told by the Founder’s Daughter”

In 1937 Durant Park is now called the Zoological Gardens and Arboretum of Metropolitan Oakland. I bet they still call it Durant Park.

Oakland Tribune May 22, 1950
To read the entire article go here

In 1950 Durant park is dedicated as the “East Bay State Park” under the California park system. In a dedication speech it was noted the there were many trees and plants from F.C Talbot estate and they were included in the Historical Arboretum which is separate park from the Oakland Zoo.

Oakland Tribune 1957
The row of Canary Island Palms

A row of mature Canary Island Date Palms mark the part entry. Stately Mexican Fan Palms, Chilean Palms and exotic Bunya Bunya frees from Australia dot the formal meadows of the existing picnic grounds. These Arboretum’s specimens were planted at the turn of last century (I bet before that) as part of the Talbot Estate grounds. There is also collection of 8 species of palms, native and exotic oaks, redwoods and many other specimens from North Africa, the Himalayas, Chile and the Canary Islands. – From the Zoo Master Plan 1996

In 1951 the park was renamed “Joseph Knowland State Arboretum and Park . Now called Knowland State Arboretum and Park and the Oakland Zoo.

In 1962 a fire destroyed building that had been home to Effie the elephant until 1959. The building had been marked unsafe. The building was built in 1890, was part of the Talbot Estate.

The Estate Today

On the below map the large red square shows where most of the estate was . The smaller green box shows the location of caretaker home that was apart of the Talbot Estate. When Sidney Snow ran the zoo he and his family lived there. Now is it used by zoo employees . The meadow by the main gate still has some of trees planted by Talbot over 100 years ago. They are part of the Knowland State Arboretum and Park. I need to check this out.

From the Zoo Master Plan 1996
Sidney Snow’s Home
Circa 1939
Google Map 2019 showing the caretakers home still standing in Knowland Park

Links :

A couple of things:

I am working on getting copies of the real photos as opposed to copies of copies. I am also checking on the what’s up with the Knowland State Arboretum and Park. Does it still exist. I know on real crowded days they allow parking on the meadow, where some of the historic trees are.

The End for now..