Posted in Buildings, Montclair, Then and Now

Hamburger Joints in Montclair

Most who grew up in the Montclair District of Oakland have fond memories of Mort’s Drive-in on the corner of Moraga and Medau. My memories of Mort’s are from when it was on Thornhill Drive next to the 7-11. The smell of french fries (the best!)wafting through the air and into our classrooms would make our mouths water. I can still remember how good they smelled and tasted. Yum!

Long before Mort’s opened at the corner of Moraga Avenue and Medau Place, the land was part of the Medau Dairy. (read about the Medau’s here).

FYI – I don’t know why McKeen’s was sold. I am thinking the owner’s political life was taking up a lot of his time. But that is just my opinion.

The Corner of Moraga and Medau – 6420 Moraga

Here is how the corner looked like in 1954. 

Moraga and Medau in 1954
Public Works Photos, Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey

McKeen’s Charcoal Broiler

McKeen’s in 1958
Montclarion

On a shakedown run, they sold three hundred “Big Mac’s” in four hours.

“Big Mac” & “Little Mac”

Montclarion July 1958

In 1958 Robert “Bob” Mckeen, a local realtor, opened a delightful contemporary style barbecue restaurant. The ex-Cal basketball star planned on eventually having a chain of them, and Montclair was the first one. It offered both take home and on the site dining.

Bob McKeen 1958

“Montclair claims Big Bob and his natty new spot.”

Oakland Tribune July 1958

Mort’s Drive-In

Montclarion March 1961

Morton “Mort” and Gertrude Saunders bought McKeen’s in 1961 and reopened it as Mort’s Drive-In.

Montclarion March 1961
Montclarion March 1961

Arson Suspected!

In April of 1966, fire swept through Mort’s Drive-In, causing several thousand dollars in damage.

The building was broken into through a rear window. Police believe the intruders were disappointed in not finding any cash on the premises. Papers and rubbish were piled in the middle of the room and set on fire.

Mort Sauders, the owner, offered a reward of $100 for information.

Montclarion April 13, 1966
Montclarion April 13, 1966
Montclarion April 13, 1966

Going, going gone!

Crown Liquors and Cleaners

In 1967 a new building replaced the Drive-In.. Crown has been there ever since.

Oakland Tribune 1967
Oakland Tribune 1968

More Info:

A special thanks to Chris Treadway for the clippings from the Montclarion.

The End

Posted in History, West Oakland

A Forgotten Tunnel…

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 MansionOakland Local wiki

Forgotten Tunnel Revives Dimming Memories

In 1961 the Peralta Villa, 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. Oakland Tribune March 23, 1961

While clearing the land, a 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 exciting story.

The Tunnel

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.

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The MacDermont Property 1407 8th Street Oakland CA

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.

Partial View of the Machine Shop at 1407 8th Street, Oakland
Partial View of the Machine Shop at 1407 8th Street, Oakland – ppie100.org

The man who built Railroads – the small ones

louis 1901
Louis MacDermot- 1901 -From the ppie.org

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.

carraig
From the ppie100.org

In 1913, he was awarded the concession to build and operate an intramural railway at the Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) due to open in February 1915. He started construction in his backyard.  The first completed locomotive was the working engine No. 1500, an 0-6-0T type.

Engine No 1500 – ready to be moved

Swanton Pacific Railroad Society Newsletter January 2012

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.

Altoona_Tribune_Wed__Mar_10__1915_
March 1915

Over open Railway on the Marina –  San Francisco Bay -1915 –SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY.

Over open Railway on the Marina –  San Francisco Bay -1915 –SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY.

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.

Old house of Chas. McDermott N. E. corner 7th and Center Sts. Oakland.
Showing one of the old cars used in the
Panama Pacific World’s Fair at San Francisco in 1915
Jesse Brown Cook Collection
Bancroft Library

Unfortunately, this fate was also shared by the Overfair Railway wooden passenger and freight cars.  The locomotives had the luxury of spending their “retirement” in sheds. The others did not fare so well.

MacDermont Home C 1930
MacDermot  Estate c 1940 -Swanton Pacific Railroad

Another photo of the MacDermot home with one of the cars in the yard – OMCA

Swanton Pacific Railroad Society Newsletter January 2012

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

Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Nov_10__1940_
Oakland Tribune November 11, 1940
MacDermot and Sid Snow 1941
Oakland Tribune 1941

Louis MacDermot with Sid Snow – 1941 from the  Swanton Pacific Railroad Society Newsletter – February 2004

Moving Day 1940 or 1941 and Overfair train coming up the grade at the Oakland Zoo with Sid Snow’s home in the background – (which I believe is from the Talbot Estate and not the Durant Estate as noted) from the  Swanton Pacific Railroad Society Newsletter December 2007

Lost Dream

Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Jan_25__1959_.jpg
Oakland Tribune Jan 1959
Oakland_Tribune_Tue__Aug_27__1968_
Oakland Tribune 1968
Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Jan_5__1969_
Oakland Tribune 1969

The railroad lives on

Swanton Pacific Railroad in Davenport CA

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 railcars.

 Cal Poly’s Live Steam Railroad –  Swanton Pacific Railroad

For more on the railroad – 

The End