Saturday was an amazing Oakland Urban Paths walk through the Golden Gate district in North Oakland. It was also Love Our Neighborhood Day, with streets closed to vehicle traffic and opened to pedestrians and bikes, so in addition to the 70 or so people and 7 dogs who joined us for the walk, there were hundreds of people walking, biking, scootering, and skating in the streets.

The walk was organized by artist and cultural historian Sue Mark, who is working on a project called Finding Klinkner. She and her husband Bruce are probably better known as the creators of the 10,000 Steps Project in downtown Oakland, which placed dozens of sidewalk markers telling the stories of Oakland’s parks and people in downtown.

We started the walk at the Golden Gate branch library, where we heard from Ruby Bernstein, Oakland Library Commissioner, about the library, its history, and the programs it provides. We headed up San Pablo (and enjoyed the use of the street!) to 59th Street, where Sue Mark told us about Charles Klinkner and Klinknerville, the name of the Golden Gate district for a time. She spoke near the Gateway Market, former site of Klinkner Hall.

A short distance away, we passed the de Rome House, the family home Louis de Rome. The de Rome foundry cast the firehouse bell that is in front of the library, as well as the large elk statue in the Elk’s Club plot in Mountain View Cemetery. We also passed the 59th Street Firehouse, a historic firehouse that was converted into condominiums in the mid-1990s.

Then it was over to the Destiny Arts Center where Beatriz Chavez told us about the youth and adult programs there. We took a brief tour through the space, which is entirely lit with natural lighting. Just outside Destiny Arts is the North Oakland Farmers Market run by Phat Beets Produce. Several speakers including Susan Park and Toveo Hill told us about Phat Beets’ mission to bring affordable access to fresh produce to North Oakland, facilitate youth leadership in health and nutrition education, and connect small farmers to urban communities.

Further wandering (and one wrong turn by me!) led us past countless Victorians and other homes to the Golden Gate Recreation Center. It’s home to several colorful murals, and provides various programs to the community in addition to the basketball court and baseball diamond. The building is apparently due for some retrofit work.

Back out on San Pablo Avenue, we heard from long-time resident and SPAGGIA (San Pablo Avenue Golden Gate Improvement Association) organizer Laura Ingram. She told us about some of the changes in the neighborhood over the years, early voter registration efforts in the neighborhood, and the formation of SPAGGIA. Up San Pablo a ways took us past various Love Our Neighborhood activities to St. Columba Church, where for many years the congregation has remembered victims of violence in Oakland with a white cross with each individual’s name on it. St. Columba is across the street from Actual Cafe and Victory Burger, two local restaurants owned by neighborhood supporter (and one of the organizers of Love Our Neighborhood Day), Sal Bednarz. We’d seen him earlier on our walk, pedaling away on a bike-powered generator.

Winding around behind St. Columba, past A Place for Sustainable Living, and the headquarters of local non-profits Grid Alternatives and Rebuilding Together Oakland got us to a quieter spot where we heard from Joanne Dickerson Harper, who was born and raised in the neighborhood. She told us about growing up in the neighborhood, St. Columba Church and what its long-time involvement in the neighborhood, and the changes she’s seen over her lifetime in the neighborhood.

Around a few corners, and along the border with Emeryville took us to The Compound Gallery and Studios, where one of the co-founders, Matt Reynoso, told us about the gallery, the studios, and their unique “art in a box” subscription service. Some people looked around the gallery and the studios in back, while others observed a letterpress printing demonstration going on in the street in front. Unfortunately, the sun and breeze were causing the ink to dry out too quickly, but it was still fascinating to observe. (If you stuck around for more of the Love Our Neighborhood activities, you may have seen one a project by one of the artists currently in residence at the studios, a wooden walking suit.)

We were running a bit late, so we skipped going past the Fratellanza Club, a long-time Italian-American social club. Heading west brought us quickly into Emeryville, where we strolled along past more Love Our Neighborhood Day activities.

Our last stop was back in Oakland, at the Stanford Avenue Native Garden. There, environmental educator and semi-retired Merritt College professor Robin Freeman told us about what the area might have looked like before the Spanish came, as well as other bits of area history. Robin and his wife very kindly hosted us for water and watermelon in their backyard. Some people headed back to our starting point at the library, while others went to check out more of Love Our Neighborhood Day and get some lunch.

Many thanks to all the speakers, and thanks to your patience with the lack of a sound system and the difficulties of shepherding such a large group. It was great to have many of the streets closed down so we could walk where we wanted. But we don’t usually get that on Oakland Urban Paths walks, which occur the 2nd Saturday of every month, in various locations around Oakland. Check the calendar for the date and location of upcoming walks.

Lots more pictures from the walk and from Love Our Neighborhood Day:

Saturday about 40 people and half a dozen dogs joined Oakland Urban Paths for a walk starting at the former 16th Street Train Station. Two common threads through the walk were “parks, places and people”, and earthquakes, railroads and freeways. Many forces have shaped Oakland over the years, but the latter are three of the big ones. It didn’t take long into our walk to see evidence of all them.

For many years, Oakland was the terminus of the first transcontinental railroad, and that opened up the way to more immigration from the rest of the U.S., and opened new markets for California products to be shipped elsewhere. The 16th Street station replaced the earlier train station on 7th Street in 1912. But the 16th Street station was badly damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, and Amtrak service moved to Jack London Sqaure and Emeryville in 1994. The 1906 earthquake brought more than 100,000 refugees from San Francisco, many who stayed in Oakland even after San Francisco rebuilt.

After crossing Mandela Parkway, where the Cypress Structure stood until the 1989 earthquake, we stopped at de Fremery House to hear from architects Philip Banta and Norman Hooks. They’ve envisioned a West Oakland Walk (W.O.W.) as as a network of “Parks, Places and People”. It’s an urban design concept to leverage central city assets into a “green social circuit” for walking, biking, organic gardening, exercising and meeting friends, activities that build sustainable communities. We followed about 3.5 miles of their 4.5 mile loop.

A short walk took us past numerous beautiful homes, including the historic Hume-Willcutt House, where Joseph Willcutt, director and secretary of the Southern Pacific Railroad lived. Keeping with the earthquake part of the thread, the house lost an ornate brick chimney in the 1989 earthquake. Then it was to the I-980 freeway. It divides West Oakland from downtown, even though they are a short distance from each other. Historically there was much more interaction between the two because they’re adjacent, but now a large, physical and psychological barrier limits the interaction to a few noisy overpasses.

Looping through Frank Ogawa Plaza downtown, we saw what appeared to be a small press conference. I ran into some of the participants later, and it turns out they were shooting a small scene from an independent movie about the Occupy movement. After stops at the African American Museum and Library of Oakland and the First Unitarian Church (badly damaged in both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes), we crossed back over the freeway.

On our way along 14th Street, we stopped at the Cypress Freeway Memorial Park, which remembers the victims of and first responders to the freeway collapse during the Loma Prieta quake. After the remains of the double-decker freeway were removed, the neighborhood fought to have the new freeway routed elsewhere. Now the parkway is a lovely open space, and the adjacent neighborhoods were rejoined.

A great walk. Thanks to everyone and everywoof who came out for it, and special thanks to Phil Banta and Norman Hooks for sharing information about the West Oakland Walk, and some of Oakland’s parks, places and people. Next month’s walk will be Saturday, July 12, in the Golden Gate district in north Oakland.

To learn more about some of the parks, places and people we talked about, see this list of pages on the Oakland Wiki.

If you enjoyed the walk and want to learn more, or if you missed the walk, the Oakland Heritage Alliance will be covering some of the same route in August. They won’t be doing the full 4.5 mile loop either, but will start at Lake Merritt and end at the 16th Street Station. Besides Oakland Urban Paths and the Oakland Heritage Alliance, the city of Oakland also does downtown walking tours. See a more complete list of Oakland walking tours on the OaklandWiki.

After the walk, if you noticed a couple of people working the soil in front of the train station, they were doing prep work for the WOW Farm. It’s part of an youth entrepreneur program with the Game Theory Academy, whose mission is “to improve the economic decision-making skills and provide opportunities to low-income youth who have experience with juvenile justice, foster care and homelessness.” They’ll be using some of the space in front of the train station to grow cut flowers.

Lots more pictures from the walk:

Here is a map of our (approximate) route (we cut down San Pablo instead of Telegraph.)

Special thanks to Neal Parish for not only leading Saturday’s walk but doing this write up about it afterwards.

This past Saturday, about 70 people and 4 dogs joined Oakland Urban Paths for a fairly strenuous walk through Upper Rockridge. The walk was led by Neal Parish, a local attorney, former chair of Oakland’s Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, and frequent contributor to Oakland Wiki. This was the first time Neal has led an OUP walk, although he and his wife and son have participated in a number of OUP walks in the past few years. On Saturday’s walk, Neal’s son Ross helped ensure that everybody had a map of the route.

Along the walk, participants went on eleven separate paths and stairs — including two unpaved but city-owned pathways. According to the RunKeeper app on Neal’s phone, the group climbed a total of approximately 800 feet during the walk — living up to the warning on the route map that participants should “come ready for an active walk.” The good news is that the air was amazingly clear and the weather temperate, so the views were both outstanding and well worth the effort.

The group met in front of Chabot Elementary School. Before actually starting on the walk, Neal, who noted that he has a fascination with railroads, roads and buildings that no longer exist, showed off some of his favorite print resources for historical research, including Key System Streetcars by Vernon J. Sappers, and Sacramento Northern by Harre Demoro. Neal then shared some maps, pictures and other materials with the group, showing how the neighborhood near the school had changed between 1873 and 1945. The school itself was built in 1927, and was initially known as the Claremont Annex School. Neal noted that the road adjoining Chabot School had been variously known as First Avenue, 59th Street, Vernon Street and Pryal’s Lane, before finally named Chabot Road.

Neal also shared other pictures and maps at later locations during the walk. Many of the pictures were taken from one of Neal’s favorite websites, the East Bay Hills Project, which contains hundreds of historical pictures and allows visitors to take a “photographic journey following the right-of-way of the Sacramento Northern Railroad” from Rockridge to Walnut Creek. The OA&E / Sacramento Northern first began service through Oakland in 1913, and the last freight train ran on February 28, 1957. As participants of prior OUP walks through Shepherd Canyon and the Montclair Stairs had already learned, the tracks for the Sacramento Northern (originally the Oakland, Antioch & Eastern) used to go all the way from San Francisco to Chico, passing through Rockridge, Lake Temescal, Montclair and Shepherd Canyon along the way. Other sources of the information shared along the walk included the historic newspapers available through the California Digital Newspaper Collection (for free!) and (for a fee).

The first part of the walk was definitely the least attractive section, since the group first had to walk on Patton Street underneath the 24 freeway and the BART tracks, and then took a fairly unattractive (but useful!) pedestrian overpass that rises up to the level of the adjacent freeway and allows pedestrians to safely cross Broadway. Once the group finally took the stairway from Broadway up to Margarido Drive, the environment for the walk became much more attractive. At this point, Neal shared a pair of maps from the East Bay Hills Project, showing how this segment of Margarido become a dead end due to the construction of upper Broadway between Patton Street and the Caldecott Tunnel in 1935 and 1936.

The group then walked along Margarido Drive, Ocean View Drive, and down an unnamed set of stairs and N. Rockridge Blvd. to Rockridge Park. While at the park, Neal shared a 1909 ad for the Rockridge Park section of Rockridge, and a 1912 ad for Rockridge Terrace, and the group briefly discussed the impacts of the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire. The group then turned east on Rockridge Blvd. and made the long climb up Prospect Steps and West Lane back up to Ocean View Drive. After a short rest break, the group walked up Alpine Terrace — pausing to enjoy the view of the Bay over two lots that were still vacant due to the fire — down Locarno Path to Cross Road, and then up to the large intersection of Cross Road, Acacia Avenue, and Golden Gate Avenue, where a OFD ladder truck was parked in the intersection with its lights flashing. Apparently a contractor had struck a gas line during construction, and the firemen where there to make sure the situation was safely resolved. Neal told the group that he had seen one old newspaper article mentioning that the intersection used to feature a large cluster of trees in the center, although most had since been removed.

The group then walked along Golden Gate Avenue to the intersection with Romany Road. At this intersection, the group sidewalk stamps indicating this was known as the intersection of Hays and McAdam when the sidewalk was constructed in 1913 — as previously discussed on Gene’s Our Oakland blog. Neal then shared an Assessor’s maps and a series of pictures from the Key System book mentioned above, showing that the wide concrete section of Broadway Terrace from Clarewood Drive to Hermosa Avenue was originally the right-of-way for the Key System’s Rockridge Line – although the line only operated from 1907 to 1928.

After continuing down Golden Gate Avenue and crossing Broadway Terrace, the group headed up Rotondo Path — which despite being nothing but dirt, grass and encroaching vegetation, is an official Oakland path (although the street sign visible in Google Maps was missing from the pole). The group then walked along Florence Avenue and Morpeth Street before climbing Morpeth Path — which is one of Neal’s favorite little paths in Rockridge, because of the very interesting landscaping and art in the yard of the house at the northwest corner where Morpeth Street becomes Morpeth Path. Many of the group members chatted with the homeowners, who were working in the backyard.

Where Morpeth Path met Proctor Avenue, the group again enjoyed the view over a lot that has been vacant since the 1991 fire, and Neal mentioned that Proctor Avenue is a prime example of a Rockridge street that includes an interesting mix of pre- and post-fire architecture. The group then walked down Proctor to Florence Avenue (again), then walked on a short section of Cochrane Avenue before turning on Sheridan Road. Here, Neal mentioned that older maps of the area show Sheridan as being a through road all the way to Broadway Terrace — although a 250 foot section of the road is missing – but a nearby property owner recently discovered that city records show that the road was never built. The group also learned about a project currently underway behind some of the houses on Sheridan near Broadway Terrace, where Caltrans was spending approximately $7 million to repair damage caused by a recent landslide and prevent further slides.

The group then walked down and up the first paved section of Sheridan, continuing past/next to the “No Trespassing” along a pathway within city-owned right-of-way, and up a set of stairs that were apparently built by the homeowners on the other end of the pathway to reach the other paved section of Sheridan. We then walked down to Broadway Terrace, where we carefully crossed the road at a crosswalk with limited sight distances, before walking down Broadway Terrace to Erba Path — where the group did the final climb of the day up to Contra Costa Road.

The group then walked along Contra Costa Road and Buena Vista Avenue along the top of the ridge, passing a lot where Temescal Regional Recreation Area adjoins Contra Costa Road, before going down an unnamed path back to Golden Gate Avenue, which we took down to Chabot Road. Along the way, the group stopped to enjoy an interesting view of the 24 freeway where Broadway passes over Golden Gate Avenue, and looked at a barely visible bridge where Golden Gate Avenue crosses Temescal Creek — a bridge that was described as a “rustic bridge” connecting Rockridge and Claremont in a 1913 pictorial. Finally, the group walked down Chabot Road back to the starting point. At Reata Place, Neal mentioned that the street was built on the former SN right-of-way, and a trestle used to carry the tracks across Chabot Road at this location.

Another great walk! The walk took a bit longer than anticipated – both due to the distance (4.4 miles) and the amount of information Neal wanted to share, but it was worth the effort. Many thanks to Neal for leading the walk and writing it up, and thanks to everyone who came out and those who donated after the walk. The donations will help OUP with our mission of spreading awareness of Oakland’s urban pathways and history (and maybe get that sound system fixed). We hope to see you on future OUP walks!

Here’s a map of our route.

Lots more pictures from Saturday’s walk:

On a foggy Saturday morning, 40 people (plus a record 7 dogs) turned out to explore Jingletown and the Estuary with Oakland Urban Paths. While we gathered at the former Cryer & Sons Boatyard at Union Point Park, we watched some whaleboat races in the channel near Coast Guard Island.

By the time we got underway, the sun was starting to break through the fog and it warmed up quickly. A short walk took us to the controversial Sigame sculpture, which features pieces of different notable women from Oakland’s history. Chris Kidd also told us about the clever approach used to clean up the land for Union Point Park, encapsulating the soil into the spiral mound at the center instead of trucking it off for remediation. At the south end of the park, the Bay Trail leaves the waterfront because the ConAgra Mill still uses its waterfront access (in addition to railroad trains, which we saw evidence of later). That was a recurring theme of outbound walk—while access is getting better, there are still lots of gaps in the Bay Trail.

Along the way, we saw a new mural being painted by Ernest Doty and some other Oakland artists, the Fruitvale and High Street bridges opened to allow a sailboat through, the outflow of Sausal Creek into the estuary, and more. We went as far as High Street; to go further would mean another departure from the waterfront and a walk along a heavily industrial road.

Our return trip wandered through Jingletown to check out the various public works of art: murals, mosaics and sculptures. There are artworks around every corner, and even a few painted on the street. It’s definitely worth visiting Jingletown when there are open studios or other events to see more. Thanks to everyone and everywoof who came out for the walk!

More pictures of the walk from Alan Forkosh can be seen on Alan’s website.

More pictures from the walk:

Last weekend 42 people joined Oakland Urban Paths and Annalee Allen of the Oakland Tours Program for a special Women’s History Walking Tour.

We started in Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall, and wound our way around downtown, finishing at Camron-Stanford House. Rather than recap the entire tour, I’ll simply point to the Oakland Wiki page I prepared about the tour, which has lots of pictures and lots more info.

Thanks to everyone who came out for the walk, and for your patience as we ran longer than expected! A great tour, one I hope we an do every year.

More pictures from Sunday’s walk:

Saturday a surprisingly large group turned out for what was billed as “a strenuous and technically challenging walk.” Led by Stan Dodson of the Friends of Joaquin Miller Park (FOJMP), about 44 people and two dogs explored the park and looked at trail restoration work that’s been done, and some work that still needs to be done.

We met at the bottom of the Palos Colorado Trail, the lowest point in the park, and a section that many people don’t know about. After powering up with some tasty treats from La Farine Bakery (Stan is the manager of the Dimond branch), we walked up the trail that parallels Palos Seco Creek. It’s one of the main tributaries of Sausal Creek, and always has a least a little water. Since we’ve had a few good storms (like the one that postponed the walk from last month) there was a nice flow of water and things were a vibrant green.

The trail took us to the site of the former Sinawik Cabin. It was built in 1949 for the Girl Scouts, but was in disrepair since the 1980s, before burning to the ground on July 4, 2013. From there we headed further up hill, along several trails that have been rerouted by FOJMP and other groups like Volunteers for Outdoor California. Still climbing, we went up the Cinderella Trail, where Stan showed us a unique area that showcases all the major ecosystems contained within Joaquin Miller Park.

We took an alternate route hoping to find some open restrooms, but alas, they were closed. The detour wasn’t all bad, though, as it took us along one of the most beautiful and most-used trails in the park, the Big Trees Trail. After a bathroom break at another set of bathrooms and a bit of rest, we looped back past the Sinawik Cabin, then out of the park onto Castle Drive. A couple of hard-to-find urban paths and side streets took us to Mountain Boulevard, past the tunnel under highway 13 which connects to Dimond canyon, and back to our starting point.

Another great walk! Thanks to Stan for leading the walk, everyone who came out, and to everyone who donated after the walk. The donations were given to the Friends of Joaquin Miller Park to help continue the great work they’ve been doing on improving and maintaining the park.

A map of our route (which was a bit different than what was originally planned).

Lots of pictures from the walk:

Links and References

Saturday about 65-70 people and 3 dogs joined Oakland Urban Paths for a walk around Cleveland Heights and the former “Borax” Smith estate near Park Blvd. It was a good crowd, considering the overcast skies and the threat hope of rain.

We started the walk at the bottom of the Cleveland Cascade, what was once a beautiful fountain. A neighborhood group that cleaned up the stairs and fountain in 2004 has added new railings and lights, and is working to raise funds to restore the fountain, too. Even with no water, the stairs are a popular place for Oaklanders to exercise.

At the top of the stairs, we saw where the right of way for Cleveland Street continues. We walked around the block (keeping an eye out for gnomes, sidewalk stamps, and other interesting things) and met up with Barbara Newcombe at the end of Cleveland Street. She was one of the original neighbors that re-discovered and cleaned up the cascade. One of her current projects is working with other neighbors to make a path through the right of way, so people can go directly from Cleveland Street to the top of the cascade and then to Lake Merritt, instead of going around the block like we did.

We walked up and down the hills, past beautiful houses, to Park Blvd. As we walked, people spotted the distinctive row of palm trees across the way. These trees mark the edge of Arbor Villa, the once palatial estate of “Borax” Smith. The trees are one of the last signs of the estate that featured numerous gardens, a deer paddock, a 5-story observation tower, a cattery, and the amazing Oak Hall. Oak Hall had at least 42 rooms including 15 bedrooms, a ballroom, a bowling alley, an attached conservatory, a huge pipe organ, and more.

In Oakland, “Borax” Smith is best remembered for creating the Key System and the Realty Syndicate, which created destinations like the Claremont Hotel and streetcar lines to get people out to see and purchase their real estate. Unfortunately the Key System is gone, just as Arbor Villa is.

Something that still survives in part are the cottages of the Mary Smith Home for Friendless Girls. Smith’s first wife, Mary “Mollie” Smith started an orphanage for girls. On land north of Park Blvd., the trust built a number of cottages. Each was lead by a house mother, and had between 8 and 12 girls of varying ages. A number of the cottages are still there, including Evelyn Cottage, which was designed by noted architect Julia Morgan. Also still standing is “The Lodge”, which served as the office for the orphanage. The house is privately owned, but still contains the built-in desk and other features left from its days as an office.

We meandered back towards the Cleveland Cascade, through the Haddon Hill neighborhood. There we saw a stairway that has been fenced in and overgrown, and a nearby home once owned by Henry J. Kaiser. Nearby, a beautiful flight of stairs took us to the street behind Our Lady of Lourdes church, and then a short walk took us back to our starting point.

Thanks to everyone and everywoof that came out for the walk. Hope to see you on the next OUP walk, on Saturday, February 8th!

More pictures:

Special thanks to Robert Perricone for the use of some of his photos from the walk.

Saturday several dozen people and 1 dog joined us for the fourth annual “Walk and Shop” walk with Oakland Urban Paths. We took the same basic route as previous years, except that we reversed the path. Even if you’re not into holiday shopping, it’s a great walk.

As before, we started at Mandana Plaza along Lakeshore Avenue. We headed behind the Grand Lake Theatre, across Grand Avenue and over I-580 and up some stairs into Adams Point. From there we walked on more stairs down past Harrison and Oakland Avenues to Glen Echo Creek.

We paralleled the creek under I-580 to MacArthur Blvd., where we then headed up to Piedmont Avenue. People were given the option of starting their shopping explorations, or a brief jaunt back over to Glen Echo Creek to see where it is above ground again. Most people opted for the latter, then returned to Piedmont Avenue. After a brief pause for shopping, food, or whatever people wanted to do, the group re-gathered at the Key Route Plaza for our return walk.

We crossed back over Harrison and Oakland Avenue, and into the Morcom Rose Garden. Then we walked up Jean Street (and that’s a long way up) so that we could walk down some newly paved stairs on Bonham Way then cross Grand Avenue. We stopped for a bit outside the office of Ruth Stroup. She owns the building adjacent to the bottom of the Davidson stairs, and had it fixed up, and stepped out to say hello.

Then we had a special OUP treat. One of the Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (OUP’s parent organization) board members invited us to his home nearby. We climbed part of the Davidson steps, walked a few blocks, and were welcomed into a sunny back yard and a table spread with tasty treats for us. After lounging about for a while, we returned to our starting point by climbing the rest of the Davidson stairs. They’ve been recently repaired by the city of Oakland, so after many years of hazardous stepping, they’re in great shape.

Thanks to Wade and Lisa for hosting us, and thanks to everyone who came out for the walk. Hope to see you on the next walk, Saturday, January 11th!

Lots more pictures from the walk:

Saturday we had a record turnout for an Oakland Urban Paths walk, led by local historian Dennis Evanosky. About 125 people showed up to explore the traces of the Hayward Fault. We were joined by Andrew Alden, who has led geology-based OUP walks before, including an exploration of another part of the Hayward Fault last year.

We started the walk at the Redwood Heights Recreation Center, then headed down to 39th Avenue. One of the few residents in the area in 1868 lived nearby, but the great earthquake of 1868 was felt all over the East Bay and beyond. It was estimated to have been between 6.8 and 7.0 magnitude, and the shaking last 42 seconds. The worst damage was in Hayward, and there were 30 deaths including four in San Francisco.

Along 39th is an EBMUD reservoir, which was originally a “sag pond” formed by a depression along the fault. From there we headed north across 35th Avenue where Dennis told us more about local history. Many of the streets in the area are named for veterans of WWI.

Then it was up to Rettig Avenue along Peralta Creek. Part of Rettig is closed to automobile traffic because the effects of a landslide. A neighbor from the area told us about the slide and subsequent efforts to stabilize the hillside. A little further down the creek we heard from another neighbor about the efforts to clean up the area around the creek and make it into a park.

Up the hill, we came to the Kitchener Court landslide. After heavy rains in 1970, the entire area slid. First it damaged 14 houses, and eventually expanded to 22 houses. An even bigger concern was a fuel line carrying jet fuel from refineries to the Oakland Airport. A similar accident in 1969(?) in Canyon, CA, (just east of Oakland) raised serious concerns about a repeat on a larger scale in Oakland.

Then it was up hill past the Mormon Temple. We’d been there before on the Oakmore Highlands walk back in March, but approached from the other direction.

After a long downhill (and losing a few people to an estate sale in an interesting house), we returned to our starting point. Thanks to Dennis for leading the walk, and to everyone and everywoof who came out for it. And thank you for your patience as we worked out the bumps with the new sound system. Your donations are what made that possible, and help us with the mission of educating people about the urban paths, stairways and walkways around Oakland.

On a related note, did you know that Oakland was ranked the 9th most walkable large city in the U.S.? The hills definitely bring down Oakland’s score, but our beloved city is still a pretty darn walkable place. Oakland Urban Paths and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland are working to make it even more walkable and more livable. Thank you for your support in helping make that happen!

Additional Links:

map of our route (PDF)
Google Earth Tour of the Hayward Fault

Lots more pictures from the walk:

A special thank-you to Robert Perricone and Fran Estrada for the use of their photos. For a variety of reasons, OUP was short-handed for Saturday’s walk, and I’ve found it difficult to lead a walk and take pictures of it at the same time, so I’m very grateful to them for the use of some of their photos.

These days it’s easy to think of Old Oakland and West Oakland as separate areas of Oakland because of the freeways, but in the past they were connected into one continuous neighborhood. Saturday about 35 people and two dogs joined Oakland Urban Paths for a walk exploring these areas.

Tina Tamale
photo by Robert Perricone

We started the walk in front of La Borinqueña Mex-icatessen, where Tina “Tamale” Ramos told us about some of the changes in the area. Tina is a 3rd generation Oaklander and 3rd generation running a business in Oakland, so she and her family have seen a lot of the changes over the years. Her mom, “Mama Tamale”, is retired from running the business, but still comes in on Saturdays and for special events, to give tamale advice and talk about the old days.

In front of Tina’s tamale shop is a marker for the 10,000 Steps Project. It’s an art project highlighting the historic parks of downtown Oakland. We passed by a number of other markers on the walk, including ones at Lafayette Square Park, the Pardee Home, and Jefferson Square Park. There are 37 markers total, and more than half of them have an associated audio segment, including interview clips with Tina and her mother.

We headed up to Lafayette Square Park, which was the original location of the Chabot Observatory. It was a gift of Anthony Chabot, who is probably best known as the founder of the water company that eventually became EBMUD. The observatory was in downtown Oakland from 1883 until 1915, when increasing light pollution from the growing city required a move to the hills.

A short walk from the park took us to the Pardee Home Museum. It was the home of Enoch Pardee, who was mayor of Oakland from 1876–1878, and later the home of his son, George Pardee, who was mayor of Oakland and later governor of California. Besides preserving the historic house, it also serves as a museum. George and Helen Pardee’s daughters, Madeline and Helen, lived in the house their entire lives, changing very little over the years, so it is well-preserved. George Pardee was also involved in the creation of EBMUD and somewhat indirectly the creation of the East Bay Regional Park District.

Across the street is Preservation Park. There are 16 historic buildings there, but 11 were moved from elsewhere to save them from the wrecking ball when the freeways were built. The park is now run by a private company and houses offices for different non-profits as well as a small restaurant. Unfortunately there was an event so the park was closed, preventing us from getting a closer look at the homes and at the Latham-Ducel fountain in the middle of the park.

First Unitarian Church
photo by Fran Estrada

Around the corner from Preservation Park is the First Unitarian Church. The lovely brick structure was damaged in the 1906 earthquake and again in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The church was started when Presbyterian pastor Laurentine Hamilton was charged with heresy for his teachings. He left the Presbyterian church, and much of the congregation went with him.

Our next stop was further away, on the other side of I-980. Blocks and blocks of homes and businesses were destroyed for the construction of the freeway, but some of the homes were saved and moved to Preservation Park. A block or so south of our route was the original location of Oakland High School, but it was gone long before the freeways came through.

We eventually came to de Fremery Park. The park is a hub of West Oakland, with a recreation center, picnic tables, tennis courts, and a skateboard park. It hosts a variety of events, including the annual Black Cowboy Parade, which has been around almost 40 years. Even more years ago than that, the Black Panther Party held rallies and food giveaways at the park. But originally it was the grounds of the de Fremery family house known as “The Grove”. James and Virginie de Fremery were a wealthy couple and had numerous descendants in Oakland. But what is less well-known is that Viginie was the child of a Dutch merchant and a former slave he purchased then later married.

We discussed gentrification and the broader sweep of West Oakland’s history. Although there were exceptions like William Shorey, the largest number of African Americans came to Oakland during WWI and WWII. Some had found work as Pullman Porters, and Oakland was the end of the line for the transcontinental railroad. Many settled in West Oakland, not necessarily because they wanted to, but housing covenants as well as unspoken rules made it so West Oakland was the only place they could live.

From there, we walked past the former site of the Miller home. Keeping with our earlier utilities theme, Albert Miller and his son C.O.G. Miller were involved in the creation of Pacific Gas & Electric. There were questions about the food mill across the street. Although there are no signs, it’s still an active business. It began back in 1915 as the Pacific Coast Shredded Wheat Company; now it produces organic rice flour, crisp rice, and corn flakes, most of which goes to Japan.

Cypress Freeway Memorial Park

To the west we came to the Cypress Freeway Memorial Park. More recent arrivals to Oakland may not know that where Mandela Parkway is now was originally the location of the Cypress Structure which collapsed in the 1989 earthquake. The park is a memorial to those who died, and features a sculpture recalling the twisted wreckage of the freeway, the dust rising from the debris, and the ladders that people in the neighborhood brought to help reach the victims. There is also a mural called “15 seconds” which is a trace of the seismograph of the main temblor of the earthquake. Unfortunately part of it has been damaged and painted over.

We headed down Mandela to 7th Street. We didn’t have time to walk there, but I pointed out where Esther’s Orbit Room and other music clubs in West Oakland made up what was once known as the “Harlem of the West“. Noted jazz and blues musicians from all the U.S. came to Oakland to perform, and some even got their start here.

We walked past The Crucible and talked about its art programs, as well as the Oakland Running Festival that passes through the area. Then it was down to Linden Street Brewery. The brewery itself is in a building that was originally cable manufacturing plant. But we were there to see the former location of the nearby Moore Dry Dock Company, which built ships including ferryboats for the Key System, as well as structural steel for projects like The Paramount Theatre, the High Street Bridge, and caissons for the Bay Bridge.

Our return journey took us past Urban Legend Cellars, one of Oakland’s wineries. Turns out one of the people on the walk works for a winery in Alameda [ sorry, don’t remember name ]. Both of them are members of the East Bay Vinter’s Alliance, which holds a number of fun wine events in Oakland and Alameda. Then it was through Jefferson Square Park and back to La Borinqueña. A number of us stayed for lunch and for a sneak peek of the new garden space behind the restaurant. It was featured the next day at the Viva Tamales! fundraising event.

Thanks to Tina for her hospitality, special thanks to Robert Perricone and Fran Estrada for the photos, and thanks to everyone and everywoof that came out for the walk.

October’s walk will be on the second Saturday, October 12th, and will feature the new Bay Bridge Trail and pathway.

Lots more photos from the walk:

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