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 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 interesting 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 work 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

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

Overfair 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 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

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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

Posted in History

Calvin Simmons – 1950-1982

A special edition of my blog, in honor of Black History Month and a wonderful man.

I was lucky enough to know Clavin Simmons personally.  He was the conductor of Oakland Symphony when I worked there.

Calvin
Calvin Simmons Conductor

Let me backup a little bit my mom Sarah Chambers started working at the Oakland Symphony in 1977 when I was still high school. She started as the receptionist and worked her way up the ladder to the Director of Education.

During the summer she would sign me up to hand out flyers at lunchtime events. One of our board members would do the same of her daughter Libby Schaaf, now the Mayor of Oakland.

I was hired in 1980 as the receptionist and I also worked my way up the ladder to Box Office/Marketing Assistant. We both worked for the symphony until September 1986 when they filed for bankruptcy.

The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Mon__Jan_28__1985_
Sarah Chambers Director of Education and my Mom

Before the Oakland Symphony

Calvin was born in San Francisco in 1950.  Music was apart of his life from the beginning.  His mother taught him the piano.  By age 11, he was conducting the San Francisco Boys Chorus.

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SF Examiner Sept 19, 1969

The Maestro Kid

He was the assistant conductor with the San Francisco Opera from 1972 to 1975, winning the Kurt Herbert Adler Award.

He remained active at the San Francisco Opera for all his adult life, supporting General Director Kurt Herbert Adler, first as a repetiteur and then as a member of the conducting staff. He made his formal debut conducting Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème with Ileana Cotrubas. His later work on a production of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District drew national attention. 

In 1979 he conducted the premiere of Menotti’s La Loca at San Diego.

He made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera conducting Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, returning the following year. He was on the musical staff at Glyndebourne from 1974 to 1978 and conducted the Glyndebourne Touring Opera.

The_Los_Angeles_Times_Tue__Jan_20__1976_ (3)

Oakland Symphony

Simmons became musical director of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra at the age 28 in 1978.  He was one of the early African-American conductors of a major orchestra.

His debut or audition was in early 1978.

The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Sun__Apr_16__1978_
SF Examiner April 1978
The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Sun__Apr_23__1978_
SF Examiner April 1978
The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Sun__Feb_19__1978_

A wordless Maestro – September 1978

The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Tue__Sep_26__1978_

Finale – 1982

His final concerts were three performances of the Requiem of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the summer of 1982 with the Masterworks Chorale and the Midsummer Mozart Festival Orchestra.

On Sunday, August 22, 1982, I was next door helping my husband who was repairing our neighbor’s roof. All of a sudden my mom screams out the window that Calvin has died. Such a sad day. It took another week to find his body. I t was such a loss to Oakland and to the music world. He was on his way to greatness.

Calvin was visiting friends in Upper State New York. Connery Pond was a place he went to a lot to unwind and regroup. While waiting for dinner he decided to take a canoe ride out in the. He was by himself about 150 feet from the shore, he was a good swimmer. A woman was taking pictures of the sunset from the shore. She pointed her camera towards Calvin and he must have noticed that and being the ham he was, he stood up to pose. He then fell into the water.

A memorial service was held on Sept 07, 1982 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, more than 2200 people attended.

A memorial concert was held on Sept 20, 1982, at the Paramount Theatre, the home of the Oakland Symphony.

The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Mon__Aug_23__1982_

Various articles from August 1982

The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Mon__Aug_23__1982_ (1)
Philadelphia_Daily_News_Tue__Aug_24__1982_
The_Boston_Globe_Tue__Aug_24__1982_
The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Tue__Aug_31__1982_

A Final Tribute

The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Tue__Sep_7__1982_ (1)

The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Tue__Sep_7__1982_
The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Tue__Sep_7__1982_ (2)

The_Windsor_Star_Fri__Jan_22__1982_

Calvin joined the Youth Orchestras tour in July of 1982

More on Calvin

The End

Posted in Buildings, Early Montclair, History

Hays School in Montclair

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Hays Schoolhouse
Students and teachers pose in front of the School
c 1886 Oakland History Room

In March of 1886, the Board of Supervisors created a new school district.  That took from portions of the Piedmont, Peralta, and Fruitvale districts and representing about 44 children. The new district was called the Hays district, in honor of the late Colonel John Coffee Hays.  The superintendent appointed the following residents of the area as trustees:

  • W.H. Mead
  • J H Medau
  • Susan Hays (widow of Colonel Hays)
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Oakland Tribune Mar 1886

The land for the school was given to the district from Hetty S. Henshaw.   The Montclair Firehouse was built in the spot in 1927, using the front part of the lot. 

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Oakland Tribune Jul 1886

New School Built

Requests for bids to build the school were made in July of 1886.

Oakland_Tribune_Wed__May_19__1886_

The completed school was small at only 32×36 feet,  with just one classroom.  It was Gothic in design with a graceful looking bell tower.  It had two entrances, one for the boys and the other for the girls each entrance having a 6×6 vestibule.  The sash bars of the windows are all horizontal, after the style of the school buildings in Europe.  The building cost about $2,500 and took about two months to build. The architects were

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Oakland Tribune July 1886

The building was designed by Goodrich & Newton

Oakland Tribune 1887

Dedication

The dedication of the school was held in October 1886.  It was attended most of the families that lived in the area.  Opening remarks were made by Judge EM Gibson and W.H Mead.  Some of the families in attendance:

Entertainment provided by the students from the school under the direction of their teacher Miss Lucy Law.  The following students performed:

  • Clara Gibson
  • Gussie Gibson
  • Carrie Mead
  • Daisy Mead
  • Susie Mead
  • Mattie Mead
  • Edith Medau
  • Louise Medau
Oakland_Tribune_Sat__Oct_16__1886_
Oakland Tribune October 1886
Oakland Tribune Feb 11, 1888
Oakland Tribune Mar 16, 1888

Graduation 1901

Oakland Tribune June 1901

Attendance for the year ending 1911 for the Hays School was 11 students.

Oakland TRibune Aug 01, 1911

The school was closed in around 1913 and the building was demolished.  It was probably due to construction of the Oakland, Antioch and Eastern Railway later known as the Sacramento Northern.   For more on the Sacramento Northern please go here. The East Bay Hills Project

Montclair Firehouse

The Montclair firehouse was built in 1927 on the same site. The story book style building was designed by Eldred E. Edwards of the Oakland Public Works Department.

Storybook firehouse on Moraga Avenue in the
Montclair district of Oakland, California. 1934, ohrphoto.districts.031.
Oakland. Buildings Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room.

Misc Articles

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Oakland Tribune 1891
Oakland_Tribune_Wed__Nov_20__1889_
Oakland Tribune Nov 1889

A little controversy. From 1891 and 1895

For More on Hays Canyon

The End

Posted in History, Model/Display Homes, Oakland, Tract or Subdivisions

Oakmore Highland Model Homes

Breuner-Tribune Home June 1934

Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Jan_21__1934_
Oakland Tribune Jun 1934

1774 Liedmet
1774 Leimert Blvd –  Google maps

Display Homes of 1934

New homes at 1746 Leimert, 1808 Leimert and 1816 Leimert – Sept 1934

 

1746 Leimert-COLLAGE

1746 Leimert, 1808 Leimert and 1816 Leimert

Just a few of the homes in the Oakmore Highlands Neighborhood.

 

For more on Oakmore Highlands please see: Oakmore Highlands

 

Posted in History, Oakland

Oakland…The White City

This is not about race. It about when Oakland city planners decided to market Oakland as “The White City”.  As a suggestion to future designers and builders.  It was not intended to be used in public, just circulated among builders and planners of the city.   I get the thinking behind the slogan and can almost picture Oakland with the sun shining on the buildings.  The was not the first time the slogan of a White City was used.  The Great White City

This was in 1914.


‘White City, Oakland Plan

Years ago in about 1914, a noted architect(of the time) while looking back at Oakland from a ferryboat “he spoke of it as “The White City”.   What he saw was the new shiny white buildings of Oakland, turn golden in the sunlight.   Oakland on a  “sunny day, the blue sky, and white buildings, turned golden in the sun, remind one of the mystical cities of Maxfield Parish”  Oakland Tribune Oct 1916

Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Oct_29__1916_
The origin of  Oakland… The White City – Oakland Tribune October 28, 1916

Style as Artistic Feature

In 1914 a plan to further the beautification of Oakland and designed to make Oakland more striking from the bay.   Members of the Oakland Commercial Club,  A.S. Lavenson, vice-president of the club, and city planning enthusiast and H. A. Lafler of the same organization. Oakland Commercial Club, Oakland, 1913;

Their idea was to suggest that builders in the future especially in the taller buildings use white material.   Oakland, as a “white city” situated before the hills in an elevated position could be remarkable sight.  A great mass of white buildings, with tall spires or tower, like many of that time “give semblance of, will it is declared, Oakland truly wonderful”  Oakland Tribune Sept 1914.

Already the from the bay the new City hall City Hall, the new federal building, and the Central Bank building Central Bank Building and other tall buildings in white, present a remarkable site all standing out from brown hills and their surroundings “like great monuments to progress”  Oakland Tribune Sept 1914

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Oakland Tribune  Sept 1914

Uniform Skyline and White Buildings

 

 

 

 

Posted in Early Montclair, History

The First Bus lines in Oakland

New Service to Montclair
From Ac Transit Time Sept 1961

In May of 1921, The Key System began to operate motor coach service. The first line opened up on May 16, 1921, to Mills College and a week later on May 21st, service to Montclair began.¹

The Realty Syndicate purchased and paid the bills for the motor coaches, to provide transportation for potential customers to Montclair. The coaches were painted to match the street cars.

There is a little dispute as to which line was first, the Montclair or the Mills College lines  My feeling is a tie that both started in May 1921.

The first tract office was a tent and later it was a small building. The tract office was later moved the triangle piece of land at Mountain Blvd, Antioch St, and Antioch Ct.  Antioch Ct.  The building later became the offices of Winder Gahan, real estate agents in dealing with Montclair.  The original site as seen in photo was located on the opposite side of Moraga Rd (at LaSalle) which is now in the middle of the Warren Freeway (Hwy 13).¹

Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Feb_25__1940_ (1)
Offices of Winder Gahan at Antioch St and Antioch Ct. circa 1942

 The Schedule

During the commuting hours 6am-9am and 5 to 7pm every 20 minutes. During the remainder of the day a 40-minute service. The fare was 6¢ with transfer privileges to street cars.  In 1924 they offered service to run until midnight. Before this bus transportation had been confined to out-of-town service along the highway.

New Terminal – October 1928

In 1928 a new $18,000 Terminal was built in Montclair.  It was located at the corner of Mountain Blvd and La Salle, a short walk to the Sacramento Northern station.  The Spanish Style building was designed by local architect  Hamilton Murdock and was the first building structure in Montclair.  An Architectural Guide – Pg. 276 

The building is still standing and is located at 6206 LaSalle Ave. 6206 La Salle

A Reunion

In September of 1961, a forty-year-old photo led a reunion between to former drivers who pioneered local motor coach service in the East Bay.

J.L. “Marty” Martin started working in May 1921 and C.E. Pehrson started in September of that same year.  The met in Montclair at the approximate site of the first terminal and discuss new verses or coaches and how much things had changed.

AC Tansit newsletter
Sept 1961 – Reunion – Please see link ( 2) below to read online version of this

Various from the Oakland Tribune

References
    1. Historic Photo of Early Bus Found  Transit Times April 1975
    2. Reunion of early drivers  Transit Times September 1961
    3. More on AC Transit – Transit Times September 1963