Posted in Home Building, Montclair, People

On Moraga Avenue

An Enterprising Family and Their New Home in the Montclair District.

Oakland Tribune

Mr. and Mrs. John W Martinsen’s like many others in the area took on the task of building their own home.

Mrs. Martinsen would serve a hot lunch for them from a cabin they had built in the back of the lot.

The home is located on the corner of Moraga Avenue and Estates Drive.

1923
1930
From the 1943 Directory

They lived there until sometime in the mid-1940s.

She dresses in a regulation feminine hiking costume, and is able and effective assistant to her husband

Oakland Tribune

Photos

Intersection with Estates Drive c 1950
Public Works Photo,
Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey, Oakland City Planning Department
intersection with Estates Drive, this east image from 1951
Public Works Photo,
Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey, Oakland City Planning Department
From Google Maps

Location

The Martinsen Home – Google Maps
  • 5901 Moraga Avenue at the corner of Estates Drive
  • John W. Martinsen – builder and owner
  • $10,000
  • 1922

More…

Oakland Tribune Nov 03, 1930

The End

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 Business, History, Montclair, People, Uncategorized

Freeway Variety

Freeway Variety
Photo by Bill Boyd

C 1978

If you grew up the Montclair District of Oakland from 1956 to about 1990 you shopped at Freeway Variety.

The Montclarion March 1956

Freeway Variety opened in March of 1956. It was owned and operated by partners Cy Fritz and David Iventosch. They both had experience running the same type of stores in Berkeley.

The Montclarion March 1956
The Montclarion March 1956
The Montclarion March 1956

In 1957 Iventosch bought out his partner Fritz.

The Montclarion Apr 17 1957
The Montclarion Apr 17 1957
The Montclarion May 1957

I felt the best way to describe this most beloved and dearly missed variety store is by sharing memories of it which were detailed in a Facebook group.   The group is lovingly called  Forgotten Montclair.  It is dedicated to preserving and sharing the memories of growing up in the Montclair District of Oakland, California.

  • Laura C: I bought my Beautiful Crissy doll there, in elementary school, along with my camping cookware for Brownie camp. When I graduated to high school, I bought my powder blue gym clothes there.
  • Joanne G: Freeway Variety was “candy land” heaven to me!  My mom never let me have candy growing up – not ever once being able to trick or treat. So if I was ever able to ride my bike up to Freeway Variety from lower Broadway Terrace (all uphill)! The Now or Later were my first choice after a spin around the store to take in the isles of crazy stuff
Joan G
  • Todd E: Lived in Montclair 1970 – 1992. Freeway Variety was like the ultimate dive bar of five and dimes. It was kind of dark with low ceilings, but it was comfy. It felt a little bit like a place where you could buy a Gremlin from some ancient guy in the back where all the wicker baskets hung from the ceiling.  There were nuances to Freeway Variety that can never be replicated anywhere else. There was nothing funnier than riding your BMX down that strange concrete slope and dropping your bike down and entering the store in one fluid motion. It’s the place where I thought Army Men and those little parachute dudes where born. It had all the romantic stuff of childhood, candy, cards, Slurpee’s, video games, toys, Choose Your Own Adventure Books, a whole section on Movie Novelizations (with pictures in the middle!), strange arcane stuff like rabbit’s feet and real Mexican Jumping Beans.To me, the basic concept of what 1 mile is will always be the walk from my house over by Joaquin Miller School to Freeway Variety.
  • Christopher W:  Ah there it is, my favorite store growing up in Montclair. While my mom shopped at Lucky’s I would be down at Freeway Variety looking for everything from match cars, Pez dispensers, loved the chocolate ones, and when I was really small, I would get a quarter and ride the horse in the front. Good times
Christopher W
  • Cherie L: We would walk down there from Westwood Way. Buster brown socks. Schools supplies. Candy you name it. Lived in Montclair from 1959 to 1982. 
  • Nanette: I loved Freeway Variety! The old creaky wood floor that sloped down. You could get art (my favorite), craft, and school supplies. And of course where we got our Wacky Packs!!!!ยท    
  • Dennis J: Does anyone remember the ladies of Freeway Variety store? Florence, Winnie, Mildred, and May.  I worked there after school and weekends. Coolest boss ever: Big David Iventosch. My first real job!!!
  • Helene C: Loved everything about Freeway Variety. The smell of popcorn, candy, turtle pond scum. The only place where you could get candy, washcloths, home goods, toys, candy, an iron, a picture frame, valentines, Christmas cards, canning jars, toy guns, turtles, popcorn, and candy. And those old ladies behind the counter. A golden childhood staple and memory. I pity everyone else.
  • Dena M: I remember we would all go there to pick out our Halloween costumes and buy wax harmonicas.
Lara Christmas Memory 1983
  • Lara: I loved getting presents from here. Thanks to my mom, this is dated. I guess that means I am too! 33 years ago . . .
  • Erik H:  Florence always gave me extra on my Icee. But you introduced me to the “Suicide “flavored slush.
  • Jan D: The ladies used to follow us around the store, thinking we were going to steal something!
  • Stephanie W: Florence was my auntie
Susan S
  • Susan S: Look what I found cleaning out my closet
Donna
  • Donna:   I still have my Ink bottles and pens.
Basket from Freeway Variety

Obituary David Iventosch – Oakland Tribune – April 2019

The End

Posted in Early Montclair, History

A Murder in Hays Canyon

Hays Canyon or sometimes called “Jack Hayes Canyon” was the area in hills behind Piedmont. Now known as Thornhill Canyon, Thornhill Drive and Moraga Avenue. For more info please see here – Oakland Local Wiki – Hays Canyon

On June 6th, 1894 Manuel Souza Quadros was murdered on the old Thorn Road in the “Jack Hayes Canyon” (Hays Canyon) by an unknown man while returning home. “The assassin did his work well and left no trace behind him”. Quadros had a wife and three children. He had a very “good reputation as a sober and industrious fellow”. He was returning home after delivering milk to the Oakland Creamery.

In order to reach the Moss Ranch (not sure where this was will have to research more) he had to pass through the canyon pass Blair Park. When found he was lying on the seat of his wagon “in a lonely place” in the canyon. He was shot in the breast . He was killed instantly by a 44 caliber pistol.

Theodore Medau , a rancher gives the only clue to the murder. He says “a middle- aged man, who was very excited” stopped him and said that a man was dead down the road. The man said he had 15 miles to drive and he was in a hurry. Medau went down the road a few hundred yards and found the deceased. San Francisco Chronicle June 07, 1984

Was He Assassinated?

Suspected in Murder

Quadros Suspected Slayer – Before Grand Jury

Oakland Tribune July 19, 1894

Miller Indicted

San Francisco Examiner July 26, 1894

Miller Trial to Start

San Francisco Call Sep 03, 1894
San Francisco Call Sep 03, 1894

Miller does not seem to be frightened at the prospect of a noose.

San Francisco Call Nov 14, 1894

Acquitted of Murder

Frank Miller Will Not Have to Stand a Trial

The moment Miller walked out of the courtroom he said was going to “start to walk East at once”.

San Francisco Chronicle Nov 21, 1894

Discharged and Rearrested

San Francisco Chronicle Nov 21, 1894

Murdered Man’s Estate

San Francisco Chronicle Nov 24, 1894

Now the question is who murdered Manuel Quadros? I can’t find anything on it…yet.

Is this considered a “cold case” ?

Is it still on the books?

Does the modern day Oakland Police Department even know about this murder?

Was he murdered for his estate?

Inquiring minds want to know.

More to come I hope.

Update –

In January of 1886 a man by the name of John Schneider (the name he gave them) was arrested for a stage coach robbery in Ukiah. When he was arrested the SF Call published a picture of him. See Below

San Francisco Call – Jan 29 1896

Attorney Tom Garrity recognized the man as Frank Miller. Garrity was Miller’s attorney during Manuel Quadros murder case. Two other men also identified Schneider as Miller.

April 18, 1886
San Francisco Examiner Feb 01, 1896
Posted in Early Montclair, East Oakland, Oakland, Streets, West Oakland

Naming Our City Streets

Growing up in Montclair (for me) Thornhill Drive was always just Thornhill Drive. But come to find out it was once called Thorn Road (sometimes Thorne Road). Thornhill is a nicer sounding name than Thorn. But there is a perfectly good reason as to why it was called Thorn Road.

Thorn Road

From the 1878 Map of Oakland,

William J. Dingee 1878 Map of Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda . David Rumsey Map Collection –

The name goes back to 1856 when man named Hiram Thorn (Hiram Thorne) built the road at a heavy expense. Thorn’s road brought redwood logs to Oakland out of the vast forest known as the Moraga Redwoods where he ran a lumber mill on Pinehurst Road. Thorn was later given a franchise to run and collect tolls for the road, it was one of 3 toll roads in Oakland. In 1933 Thorn Road officially became Thornhill Drive.

From the 1870 Oakland City Directory

Since I found out about Thornhill Drive I have been very curious about the names of our city streets. If you are interested you can read more at the Oakland Local Wiki page Street Names.

Oakland had lots of streets that seemed to be name for tress. Like Acacia Avenue Beech Street, Birch Street, Holly Street, Linden Street, Locust Street, Palmetto Street, Pine Street, Poplar Street, Plymouth Street, Redwood Road, Sequoyah Road, Spruce Street, Walnut Street and Willow Street. To name a few.

In the Laurel District there are streets named for the states. The streets are Maine, Vermont, Jersey, Montana, Texas, Ohio (now Dakota) Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas. California and Wisconsin Streets. Maine, Vermont and Jersey are no longer due to the construction of the MacArthur Freeway . I happen to live on Georgia Street.

In Sequoyah Hills, which located in the Oakland Hills above 580, off of Keller Avenue, directly below Skyline Blvd. The streets are named Hansom, coach, chariot, phaeton, shay and surrey are varieties of horse-drawn carriages. Better yet, the theme is a pun, considering the wheel-like arrangement of Shay, Phaeton and Coach streets radiating from Hansom.

View Post

In Montclair there is group of street possibly named for early explorers. The streets are Balboa Drive, Cabrillo Drive, Cabot Drive, Drake Drive, Gasper Drive, Magellan Drive and Mendoza Drive. Another group of streets seem to be named after WW I Generals. They are Liggett Drive, Pershing Drive, Sims Drive and Wood Drive.

The following is a group of articles by Albert E. Norman from the Oakland Tribune in 1960-1960.

Oakland Tribune Jan 1960
Oakland Tribune June 12, 1960
Oakland Tribune June 19, 1960
Oakland Tribune June 26, 1960
Oakland Tribune July 03, 1960
Oakland Tribune Julu 10, 1960
Oakland Tribune July 17,1960
Oakland Tribune July 24, 1960
Oakland Tribune July 31, 1960
Oakland Tribune August 07, 1960
Oakland Tribune August 14, 1960
Oakland Tribune August 28, 1960
Oakland Tribune Sept 04, 1960
Oakland Tribune Sept 11, 1960
Oakland Tribune Sept 18, 1960
Oakland Tribune Sept 24, 1960
Oakland Tribune October 02, 1960
Oakland Tribune October 09, 1960
Oakland Tribune October 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune October 23, 1960
Oakland Tribune Nov 06, 1960
Oakland Tribune Dec 11, 1960
Oakland Tribune Dec 18, 1960
Oakland Tribune Dec 25, 1960
Oakland Tribune Jan 15, 1961
Oakland Tribune Feb 1961

If you have wondered about the name of your street, leave message below and I will check it out.

Links

Oakland related links:

Misc Street Links:

Coming soon Gold Star Streets

The End

Posted in Model/Display Homes

26 Ascot Court – Piedmont Pines

Model Home Opens –

26 Ascot Court is on a quiet cul-de-sac in Piedmont Pines and it opened for inspection in October 1935.

Oakland Tribune – Oct 07 1934
See here
in 2019 from Realtor.Com

The French regency designed home was a joint effort of Frederick L. Confer and his father F.W. Confer.

The house was built on slopping lot  among the pine trees with a picturesque view of the bay and the Golden Gate . The lot is just under 1/2 acre in size.

The home was sold before it was completed. The buyer was R.F.D. Le Mon of New York, who was planning on making Oakland his home.

R.F.D Le Mon was the developer of the Le Mon Park section of Piedmont Pines.

Mitchell & Austin were the realtors in charge of the property.

Featured in Architectural Magazine

October 1936

The house featured in an article called ” Homes – They Are Building Them Now” in the October 1936 edition of The Architect and the Engineer.

Architect and Engineer October 1936
Architect and Engineer October 1936
Architect and Engineer October 1936
Architect and Engineer October 1936
Architect and Engineer October 1936 –

Frederick L. Confer has designed many homes in the Oakland. Including the Style House which was discussed in a previous post.

In 1937 he designed another home for R.F.D. Le Mon at 14 Cornwall Court .

Putting down roots in Montclair

In 1944 Admiral Thomas Sprague and his family moved into 26 Ascot Court . But his life in the Navy took off and the traveled around the world. In 1951 Sprague retired from the Navy and they settled in after only living in the for 2 weeks in the 8 years they owned it.

The Sprague Family lived there until about 1963 after Mrs. Sprague passed away.

A Montclair Treasure – March 2019

In March of 2019 the house was put on the market for $ 1,249, 000 and it sold for April of 2019 for $1,300,000.

From Realtor.com
Realtor.Com
Realtor.Com

Links:

The End

Posted in Early Montclair, History, Montclair Tracts

Thornhill Park

I wish I had more to share on this Thornhill Park this is all I can find. I only found out about it by accident when researching the home of Judge EM Gibson who lived on a ranch in area where Thornhill School is now and over to Aspinwall Drive. Judge Gibson lived there in the late 1880’s. I will soon post something on the first residents of Montclair which will include Gibson. I will call this page a work in progress to be undated.

The boundaries of Thornhill Park from REDFIN.com

Thornhill Park was first advertised for sale in May of 1917. It was handled by the Reality Syndicate at first and then Phil Hearty a local Montclair Real Estate Agent. The area was only know as Thornhill Park for few years it is now called Montclair and possibly Forest Park (another blog in the works) or what ever is best to sell the area.

Thornhill Park was an area of small farms of 1/4 acre to 1 acres where you could grow your own food or say raise chickens as noted the ad below.

Oakland Tribune May 1917
Oakland Tribune 1922
Oakland Tribune
April 1922

By 1922 they were having a “Liquidation Sale” and trying to “close out” the rest of the tract. Selling 1/2 acre lots for 66 cents on the $1.00. It seems Thornhill Park wasn’t a big seller. I noticed it wasn’t advertised as much as any of the other tracts in Montclair like Forest Park, Merriewood, or Fernwood were. Later on Phil Hearty a developer and agent who had an office at 5815 Thornhill for years, took over the sale of the remaining Thornhill Park lot. Now Thornhill Park is part of Forest Park and Montclair Highlands.

Oakland Tribune 1922
The home of F.M. Boggs was the home Judge EM Gibson (more about him later) and later the home Dr. Mark Emerson Alameda County Coroner and now St. Johns Church
is in that location. Approximate location 1707 Gouldin Road

Some of the homes in Thornhill Park –

Oakland Tribune April 1922
650 Thorn Road is now 6116 Thornhill Drive

A September 1919 advertisement for 6-Room Bungalow on One Acre in Beautiful Thornhill Park located at 650 Thorn Road (now Thornhill Drive) . It is my best guess that this is not 6110 or 6116 Thornhill Drive. 650 Thorn Road is one address that I can’t link to a modern address number. But I am fairly certain that it is one those two.

Oakland Tribune September 1919

6138 Thornhill Drive is another on the original homes in Thornhill Park. Back in the 1920’s the address was 670 Thorn Road . The Bullard family lived there until the 1990’s, from what I can tell. 6022 Thornhill Drive also. Col. George and Edith Mullin moved their in about 1917 when the address was 570 Thorn Road. The Mullin’s played a big role in the Montclair Women’s Club and Montclair Presbyterian Church.

Oakland Tribune March 1943
6067 Aspinwall Road –
Recently sold for $910,000 in 2017 – Zillow

For now this is all I have.

End