Posted in Buildings, Oakland, People, Uncategorized, West Oakland

Thomas Mahoney House

As I take a little break from my series on the schools in Oakland, I thought I would share this little bit of history with you.

These photos have popped up many times over the years and I didn’t give them much thought. They popped up again yesterday. I decided to look into them and see what I could find.

Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator. Thomas Mahoney House, 69 Eighth Street, Oakland, Alameda County, CA
. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/ca0013/>.
Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator. Thomas Mahoney House, 69 Eighth Street, Oakland, Alameda County, CA
. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/ca0013/>.

Both photos are online at the Library of Congress. Please note there is a typo in the LOC description the address is 669 Eighth Street.

  • Thomas Mahoney House – LOC

I don’t know what became of the house after these photos were taken. I will let you know if I find out anything.

Early Pioneer

So, I started looking into Thomas Mahoney (sometimes spelled Mahony) Wow, I was amazed to find a Thomas Mahoney living at 669 Eighth Street in 1870 The census reports he lives there with his wife and four children.

!8718 Directory
1888 Directory

Mahoney came to California in the 1850s. He mined for awhile in Tuolumne county before retiring on his ranch in Hills of Oakland. In 1863 he sold his ranch and moved to the home on Eighth Street next the St. John’s Episcopal He was married in 1863 and raised four children in the home. His wife died in 1891 and he died in 1900.

His obituary

Oakland Tribune Jan 29 1900

Thomas Mahoney a well known pioneer of this city, died at his home, 660
Eighth Street, last evening, in the 71st year of his age.

The deceased was a native of Ireland and came to this State many years ago, where he engaged in ranching. He owned a large quantity of land to the north of the present city limits, from which the sites now comprising Mountain View, St. Mary’s and the Jewish Cemeteries was purposed by the managers of those several burial places.

The deceased was a widower, his wife having died a number of years ago. He was the father of Mrs. Laura J. Bassett, Louise H., Emma E. and George Mahoney.

The funeral services will be held next Wednesday in St. John’s Episcopal
Church. Interment will take place in St. Mary’s Cemetery

Oakland Tribune Jan 1900

Family members continued to live in the home until around 1913.

St Mary’s Cemetery

In 1863 Archbishop Alemany purchased 36 acres of land known as the ” Mahoney Ranch” from Thomas Mahoney. The land is now known as St. Mary’s Cemetery next to Mountain View Cemetery. Thomas Mahoney was buried there in 1900.

Find A Grave – St. Mary’s Cemetery – Thomas Mahoney

Past and Present of Alameda County, California
Book by Joseph Eugene Baker
Oakland Tribune May 22, 1922

The Knave

Laura Mahoney Bassett was well known for her reminiscences in the Sunday Knave in the Oakland Tribune. She was the oldest daughter of Thomas Mahoney and she was born in Oakland in 1866 where she lived most of her 80 years. She died in 1950.

Oakland Tribune Jue 23, 1950

Sunday Knave

Some of her “reminiscences” in the Sunday Knave.

Oakland Tribune 1944
Oakland Tribune June 29, 1947
Oakland Tribune July 6, 1947
Oakland Tribune Aug 10, 1947

Go here to read the clip above. Oakland Tribune

The End

Posted in Buildings, East Oakland, Schools, Then and Now, West Oakland

Then & Now – Oakland Schools Part 5

This is the fifth in a series of posts on Oakland Schools. I intend to show then and now pictures of the schools, along with a bit of history of each school. Some of the pictures are in the form of drawings, postcards or from pages in historical books.

Not all schools will be included in this series. Sometimes I might just post a picture of the school.

Brookfield Village School

Brookfield Village school opened for the new school year in September of 1944, the newest of Oakland’s 77 schools.

Brookfield Village Elementary School opened without the benefit of bells.

Oakland Tribune Sept 17, 1944

Brookfield was Oakland’s newest public school which opened under wartime handicaps. Money and supplies were tight. Classes were being held in 19 portables that arrived in the 3 weeks before school started.

There were 767 boys and girls were enrolled just 33 less than anticipated in that first year.

New School

In February of 1950 they held a groundbreaking ceremony for Unit 1 of the new Brookfield Village School.

Oakland Tribune

The school unit was designed by Confer and Willis . The new building had 11 classrooms, a library and an auditorium. It was a one-story building of wood frame construction.

Oakland Tribune Apr 24, 1951

New Addition

Oakland Tribune Oct 1957

In November of 1957 they broke ground for new addition costing $286,680. The new building will include a cafeteria, 10 classrooms, a kindergarten plus 2 special class classrooms.

Brookfield Today

Brookfield Lions: Learning and Thriving with Pride.

Brookfield Today

The school is located at 401 Jones Ave. Oakland, CA 94603

Clawson Grammar School

Clawson School dates back to the 1880s as seen in the image below.

Clawson in 1895

Clawson Elementary School was built in 1915. This Neo-Classical design had two stories and utilized extensive terracotta ornamentation. The ornamentation around its front doors. The building was designed by

School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921

The Clawson Elementary School was listed as standing near the intersection of 32nd Street and Magnolia Street in Polk-Husted’s Oakland, California, City Directory, 1918

School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921
School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921
School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921

Kindergarten

Entrance to the Kindergarten CLassroom
Clawson School pergola, Oakland, California (1916) 1
School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921

Principal’s Office

School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921
School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921
School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921

Auditorium

School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921

Lavortories Boys and Girls

School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921
School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921

Clawson Closed

The building functioned as a school until it was closed sometime between 1971-1973. OUSD closed 3 schools in 1973 rather than spend the money needed to retrofit them, including Clawson School. Clawson couldn’t meet the new tougher seismic standards that went into effect in 1973.

New Life

Clawson Lofts – Realtor.com

After extensive remodeling and structural upgrading, the building reopened as the The West Clawson Lofts in 1999.

Location 3240 Peralta Street Oakland CA

  • Clawson School – Oakland Local Wiki
  • Clawson School – American Architect
  • School Architecture – 1921
  • West Clawson Lofts – webpage
  • Clawson School – PCAD

Emerson Elementary School

Emerson School 1912
John Galen Howard collection of progress photographs, ca. 1905-1910
The Bancroft Library UC Berkeley

Emerson Elementary School was built in 1913. It was designed by John J Donovan and John Galen Howard. The total cost of the school was $163,879. It was located at 49th and Shafter Avenue.

Oakland Tribune 1912
Oakland Tribune 1912
School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921
School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921
School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921

The address is 4803 Lawton Avenue. In 1978, it was torn down because it was considered seismically unsafe.

Emerson Today
Emerson Today

The End

Posted in Buildings, Schools, Then and Now, West Oakland

Then & Now – Oakland Schools Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of posts on Oakland Schools. I intend to show Then and Now pictures of the schools, along with a bit of history of each school. Some of the pictures are in the form of drawings, postcards or from pages in historical books.

Not all schools will be included in this series. Sometimes I might just post a picture of the school.

Durant School

Bids were in to build a new school at the corner of West Street. The bid of $5000 made by J.J. Chapplain was the winner. The new school was called the Durant School in honor of the Rev. Henry J. Durant who the the 16th Mayor of Oakland (1873–January 22, 1875) and one of the founders the University of California.

Durant School opened in August of 1875. It was reported by the Board of Education that all grades were formed and that they had over 400 pupils with 8 teachers.

In 1878 a 6-room addition was added.

Durant Elementary School

Plans for a new Durant School to be built were accepted in 1912. The old school was to sold. The new building built at the corner of 29th and West Street and was to exceed $160,000.

School Architecture: Principles and Practices
By John Joseph Donovan 1921

The building above was designed by architects John J. Donovan and Louis Christian Mullgardt, and was completed in August of 1914-15 at the cost of $179,868

In 1971 (probably before) it was determined that the school was structurally unsafe in the event of an earthquake. Bids were requested for construction a a new school. Don’t know what happened with that. I couldn’t locate any pictures of a newer Durant School.

Location 2820 West St Oakland CA

Lafayette Grammar School

Picturesque Oakland 1889
Britton & Rey.
http://www.oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt309nd1h6/?order=20
Views of Oakland California’. Oakland: Pacific Press Publishing Company, 1893

Lafayette School was located at 17th and West Street and was built in the late 1860s.

The Lafayette Grammar School was one of the first schools built in Oakland. Lafayette even housed Oakland High School in 1869.

Oakland Tribune 1905

Lafayette Grammar School was named in the honor of Marquis de Lafayette, a French military leader and statesman, who fought on the side of the colonists during part in the American Revolution.

Lafayette Grammar School later changed its name to Lafayette Elementary School.

A brand new school was dedicated in October of 1949. Constructed at a cost of $594,825, the new school has 22 classrooms, a kindergarten and an auditorium.

The school today

Lakeview Elementary School

The School was established in 1909 as an annex of Grant School which was over-crowded. The Board of Education built a temporary structure of two rooms at the corner of Van Buren and Perry Streets. They called the school the Grant Annex.

Oakland Tribune Sept 1913

With the rapid growth of the surrounding area, it soon became necessary to build a permanent school.

Oakland Tribune 1913

In the 1913 a large red brick building was built in a modern style of architecture opposite of the Grant Annex at the corner of Grand Avenue and Perry Street. The new school was called Lakeview.

Construction of Lakeview School – circa 1913-14
Lakeside School

John J. Donovan was the architect of Lakeview Elementary. The estimated cost of building the school was $75,000.

Lakeview was situated on a high terrace with ivy-covered banks. Two flights of broad steps lead from the main building to Grand Avenue.

Lakeview School is situated at the head of Lake Merritt and surround by the beautiful Piedmont Hills. In one of the most attractive districts of Oakland.

Oakland Tribune Oct 1917

Across the street from the main building were two attractive smaller buildings that could not be seen from Grand Avenue.

There were manual art portables and a playground complete with equipment.

It appears that Julia Morgan designed an addition to Lakeview in 1915

Oakland Tribune Feb 1915

By 1917 Lakeview had an enrollment of 768.

Lakeview School circa 1930s

Fire at the Lakeview School Annex – May 1937

Oakland Tribune May 03, 1937

MacArthur Freeway

In 1926 a group of Lakeview district residents appeared before the Board of Education to advocate steps to protect the area behind the school from future development. See below

They should see it now!

Go here to read the rest of the article
Oakland Tribune June 29, 1926

Lakeview School will soon be an island, completely surrounded by traffic”.

Oakland Tribune Jan 03, 1962
Oakland Tribune Jan 03, 1962

The school is located at 746 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA, 94619

Lakeside Elementary – today
Lakeview
Elementary – today

It is now a charter school

American Indian Public High School –AIMS COLLEGE PREP HIGH SCHOOL
746 GRAND AVE, OAKLAND, CA 94610 | TEL: 510-220-5044

The End

Updated Oct, 2019

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 announce 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, 19

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 major redevelopment project.

Oakland Mayor Clifford E Rishell noted that the post office project presents some major 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 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 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 that 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 the were to begin clearing the site,

Oakland Tribune Jul 19 1960

A squadron of bulldozers was set to plow into the 12-block site 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 for $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.

Without pausing he went towards the first house and bore a tunnel through the house. The second story remained intact. Again he aimed for house, 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

It took 90 minutes to flatten and clear all 6 houses

Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
The Daily Texan Aug 16, 1960
More on Project Gateway in west Oakland

The End

Posted in Buildings, East Oakland, Laurel District, Schools, Then and Now, West Oakland

Then & Now – Oakland Schools Part 1

My 100th post!

This is the first in a series of posts on Oakland Schools. I intend to show Then and Now pictures of the schools, along with a bit of history of each school if. Some of the pictures are in the form of drawings, postcards or from pages in historical books.

Not all schools will be included in this series. Sometimes I might just post a picture of the school.

Castlemont High School

Castlemont High School is in Oakland, California, United States, originally known as East Oakland High School. The Castlemont name was selected by a vote of the students. Castlemont High School was founded in 1929 in a medieval-style building. The school is located at 8601 MacArthur Boulevard.

Castlemont High circa 1920s

 Castlemont High was designed by Chester Miller and Carl Warneke, Oakland architects. Oakland Local WIki – Castlemont High

Castlemont High circa 1930s

The building was replaced in 1961 as the old one was not earthquake safe.

Castlemont High Today

For an eight-year period, from 2004 to 2012, the large school housed three separate smaller schools called the Castlemont Community of Small Schools. The smaller schools were known by the names:

  1. Castlemont Leadership Preparatory High (10-12)
  2. Castlemont Business and Information Technology School (10-12) (CBITIS)
  3. East Oakland School of the Arts (10-12)

Dewey School

Dewey School was established as an elementary school at 38th avenue and East 12th Street in 1899. It was a part of the Fruitvale School District.

It was named after Admiral George Dewey who was a hero in the Spanish-American War that was being fought at that time. 

Oakland Tribune April 28, 1899

In 1964 Dewey became the first continuation high school in Oakland. Below is how Dewey looked in 1964. In 1913 an addition was added to the original school and it was still in use in 1964.

Oakland Tribune June 12, 1964

Dewey is now located at 1111 2nd Ave, Oakland, CA, 94606

Dewey Today

Franklin School

Oakland Tribune March 1928

The Brooklyn School was a two-story building built in 1863-64 at a cost of $5,000.

Brooklyn was annexed into Oakland in 1872. After the annexation the nine year old school was renamed Franklin Grammar and Primary School.

Dec 30 , 1874

An addition to the school was added in 1879 at a cost of $3,217.

Oakland Tribune Dec 30 1902

On December 02, 1902 the school was destroyed by fire.

Oakland Tribune 1904
Oakland Tribune April 18, 1906

When the SF earthquake of 1906 struck the new school building was almost complete. The brick and steel work was done and the building was ready for the roof. When the school was finally complete the total cost was $204,343,45.

Franklin Grammar School – Cheney Photo Advertising Circa 1912

Franklin School

In 1923 an oblong shaped assembly hall was built at the rear of the school on 10th Ave and E16th. The cost $40,000.

Oakland Tribune 1926

In 1943 the schools address was 1530 Ninth Avenue.

In 1953, the 1906 brick building was declared unsafe. In 1955, it was demolished to make way for a new building. The new school was a principal part of the Clinton Park Urban Renewal Project. The school opened in Sept 1956 and was dedicated in Jan of 1957. The new school cost $467,000 .

In 1956 a man while remodeling his store found a old report card from 1875.

Franklin Elementary – today

The school is located at 915 Foothill Blvd

Fremont High School

The John. C. Fremont High School was the successor of Fruitvale High School, and was organized in 1905 by Frank Stuart Rosseter. The old building was destroyed in an arson fire on the night of January 1, 1930. The school has been located at 4610 Foothill Boulevard since 1905.

John C Fremont High School

Cheney Photo Advertising Company circa 1910

The old building was destroyed in an arson fire on the night of January 1, 1930. The school reopened on April 19, 1932.

Fremont School Today –

Frick Junior High

Frick was built on the Boulevard between Baker and Bay View (now Foothill and 62nd) . The school takes its name from W.P. Frick who donated the lot the school is to be built on. It was then part of the Lockwood District. The school was dedicated on March 17, 1909.

W.P Frick School

circa 1913 Photographer: Cheney Photo Advertising Company

The original school was kindergarten through the seventh grade. The building had 8 rooms. With the rapid growth of the area around Frick School it was decided to make Frick school a junior high in 1923.

New School

Oakland Tribune May 30, 1926

In a 1927 a new school was built on adjoining land and was called Frick Jr. High School. The style of the new building Spanish and Moorish architecture.

Oakland Tribune Jun 05, 1927

Another New School

In 1953 it was determined that the 1927 building was a poor earthquake risk. In 1957 the was broken for a new school fronting Brann Street. The old building was razed during the summer of 1960. The present school has been in use since 1960-61.

Frick Middle School Today

Frick School today – Google Maps

It is now called Frick Impact Academy

Hamilton Junior High School

Alexander Hamilton Junior High was built in 1922. The school is located at 2101 35th Avenue.

Athletic Festival at Hamilton Junior High

It was named after Calvin Simmons sometime in the early to mid-1980s. The school was renamed United for Success Academy in 2006.

The school today. Google Maps

Horace Mann Grammar School

Horace Mann was built in about 1910-1912. The school is located at 5222 Ygnacio Avenue. It was known as Melrose Heights School first.

Horace Mann Grammar School
Ygnacio and Vicksburg Avenue

Cheney Photo Advertising Company circa 1912

Groundbreaking for the new Horace Mann school after it was determined to be not earthquake safe was in 1959. The new school was formally dedicated in 1961.

Oakland Tribune May 11, 1959

Horace Mann today – Google Maps

Sequoia Elementary School

Sequoia Elementary School is located at on Lincoln Avenue at Scenic Avenue. It was built in 1910. Ida M. Hammond was the first principal. The building below is facing Scenic Avenue. The address of the school is 3730 Lincoln Avenue.

Original Sequoia School
Lincoln Avenue and Scenic Street

Cheney Photo Advertising Company circa 1910

In 1926 a new school building was built adjoining the original. The new building will have 13 to 14 rooms and an auditorium, it will face Lincoln Avenue as seen below.

The original building is razed to make room for a new $235,880 addition. The addition added seven classrooms and a cafeteria.

Oakland Tribune Nov 28, 1958

Sequoia School today. Google maps

University High School

University High School, which was built in 1922 and opened in 1923 and was designed by Charles W. Dickey.  The school is located at 5714 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, (the original street name was Grove Street, but became MLK, Jr. Way in 1984)

University High School circa 1920s

It originally opened in 1923 at what was 5714 Grove Street. Due to the proximity of the campus to the City of Berkeley, “UNI” gained the reputation of the “feeder” high school of Oakland of students directly to the University of California. The high school was closed following World War II in 1948.

n 1954, the campus was converted into first location of Oakland City College, which later became Merritt College. Merritt College moved to its new campus in 1967. In the early 1970s the location temporarily became a high school again, as Oakland Technical High School moved its students into the campus while its normal location was retrofitted for earthquake safety. At the time, many called this site “Old Tech,” although Oakland Tech was actually opened at its current location in 1914, before University High School.

The school is now used by the North Oakland Senior Center. Annual events at the Center include holiday dances, birthday parties, and flea markets. There are weekly salsa, swing and line dancing classes, along with activities such as Tai Chi and blood pressure screening.

University High School – today

his site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992

The End

Updated Oct 20, 2019

Updated Nov 08 , 2019

Updated Nov 13, 2019

Posted in Black History, History, People, Then and Now, West Oakland

Royal E. Towns – Engine Company No. 22

Royal Edward Towns (February 10, 1899–July 23, 1990) was one of the first African American firefighters in Oakland and was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department.

Royal E Towns

Royal Towns joined the OFD in 1927 and was assigned to Engine Company No. 22, a segregated firehouse in West Oakland. The station was located at 3320 Magnolia Street.

Exterior of Oakland Fire Department Engine no. 22
3320 Magnolia Street

Three firefighters sitting in Oakland fire truck parked in driveway of fire Engine no. 22

Royal Towns was the 11th black Oakland fireman in 1927. The 12th wasn’t hired for another 15 years. In 1971 there were only 35 black firemen. Towns became the first to be promoted in the OFD. He became a chief’s operator in 1941 and retired as a lieutenant in 1962.

Royal E. Towns (center) and his colleagues with Engine Company No. 22
of the racially segregated Oakland Fire Department. (1943)

Towns was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department. He helped train many other black applicants to pass the fire department test

Royal Towns on the left with Oakland firefighters standing in front of fire engine no. 22 – Circa 1943

Personal Life

Royal Towns was born in Oakland on February 10, 1899, to William Towns and Elizabeth Towns.

Towns married Lucille Dennis May 26, 1920. Together they had three children. The family lived in various locations within Oakland

Royal E. Towns died July 23, 1990 and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery

More Photos

The photos are courtesy of the Royal E. Towns papers, MS 26, African American Museum and Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California. Photos at Calisphere

3320 Magnolia Street Oakland – Then and Now
It is no longer a Fire Station
Rolling Hoses in front of Engine No 22
Two firemen attaching hoses to fire hydrant, firefighters practicing with fire hoses in park in the background – on Peralta Street
Peralta Street – Then and Now
Firemen holding fire hose in street next to
Gleason and Company building – Circa 1950s
at the corner of Magnolia and 34th Street

34th and Magnolia – Then and Now
Firemen holding fire hose in street next to Gleason and Company building
Circa 1950s – 34th and Magnolia
Across from the Gleason Company today
Firemen holding fire hose in street next to Gleason and Company building
Circa 1950s – 34th and Magnolia
Looking down Magnolia towards 34th St.
Circa 1950s
Looking down Magnolia towards 34th St.
Then and Now
Dog climbing ladder to get apple in front of Oakland Fire Department Fire Engine No. 22 – circa 1950s
Fireman jumping off ladder in front of Oakland Fire Department fire Engine no. 22

More on Royal E. Towns

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