RBMS 2015 Blog

Oakland and Berkeley Welcome You: Part 3

Image Credit: Pardee Home, Pardee Home Museum


Oakland Trails

From the sophisticated Beaux-Arts Oakland City Hall to the modern restraint of the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse it is easy to see downtown Oakland as a political and judicial hub.  Take a walk around adjoining areas to learn about the layers of history and culture the downtown Oakland vicinity also has to offer.

But first, should you wish to learn more about Oakland’s earliest residents – the Ohlone people and the family of Luis Maria Peralta, a Spanish soldier who was awarded a land grant from Spain in 1820 to over 40,000 acres (named Rancho San Antonio) encompassing what is now Oakland, Berkeley, and adjoining East Bay locales – take BART to the Fruitvale District to visit the Peralta Hacienda. Luis Maria arrived in California while a teen in 1775-1776 as part of the Anza Expedition.

Now, back to downtown. Oakland’s existence as a city dates back to the early 1850s when the utility of the waterfront was first exploited. Waterfront Action, with a mission to promote public access to the Oakland-Alameda Estuary and Lake Merritt, provides an interactive map showing the location of historic waterfront sites (many clustering around Jack London Square), waterfront history marker locations, as well as the route of the Bay Trail. Waterfront Action notes: “It was to Oakland’s first mayor, Horace Carpentier, that the newly-founded Oakland in 1852 granted exclusive control of the Estuary waterfront in return for promises to build a school-house and a long-wharf to deep water. That grant set off decades of bitter legal and social strife. It resulted, among other things, in the location of the transcontinental railroad terminus in Oakland in 1869 and the creation of the Port of Oakland in 1926. One historian has characterized Horace Carpentier as the ‘most-hated man’ in the early years of Oakland. We are still living out the implications of his questionable legacy.” There are more details about Carpentier’s activities on the site.

The Port of Oakland provides information about recreational opportunities along Oakland’s 19 miles of waterfront, including Port View Park, which offers “spectacular views of San Francisco Bay, the San Francisco skyline and Port of Oakland maritime operations at the Seventh Street Terminal,” and Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, where “visitors can see the direct loading and unloading of a ship, and observe the different pieces of equipment it takes to move cargo.” Middle Harbor Park was formerly a naval ship basin.

Oakland’s commercial past is celebrated by two Jack London Square districts: the Waterfront Warehouse District (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) and the adjoining Oakland Produce District (designated an area of primary importance by the Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey). An interactive map of the Warehouse District provides details about former building uses in the area extending from 3rd to 5th Streets and Jackson to Webster Streets. On the streets, you will find markers  with historical photos and text. In addition, you may use this interactive map to navigate the nearby Produce District. As you will see, some of the buildings still do serve their original functions.

Jack London Square would not be complete without some recognition of its namesake. Start at Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon (a reputed London hangout) and follow the “Wolf Tracks” to discover the history of the area listed on diamond-shaped historic markers highlighting facts about Jack London, the Port of Oakland, the waterfront and the City of Oakland. Stops along the way include the reconstructed Klondike cabin near the saloon and a sculpture of London.

Oakland’s Preservation Park, situated in what was in the 1870s an upscale residential neighborhood made up of elaborate Victorian homes, is now a small enclave with a unique collection of 16 historic residences (some were moved into the area) that have been transformed into an innovative workplace and event center. The Pardee Home Museum, located next to the park was built in 1868-1869 by Enoch H. Pardee, a Gold Rush immigrant to California, who became mayor of Oakland, state assemblyman, and state senator. Enoch’s son George C. Pardee, also became mayor of Oakland and was governor of California at the time of the 1906 earthquake.

Oakland’s Chinatown dates back to the 1850s, though what you will find here now is much more modern. Visit the Oakland Asian Cultural Center to learn more about this organization that aims to build “vibrant communities through Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) arts and culture programs that foster intergenerational and cross-cultural dialogue, cultural identity, collaborations, and social justice.” The site also provides an online exhibit about how in the 1860s, before downtown development reached north of 14th Street, early Oakland Chinese pioneers created Chinatown communities in the area of Telegraph and San Pablo Avenue. The Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project features a Chinatown Memory Map with images and words about the many Asian communities now in the area.

Oakland’s African American Museum & Library “is dedicated to the discovery, preservation, interpretation, and sharing of historical and cultural experiences of African Americans in California and the West for present and future generations.” The museum hosts traveling and original exhibitions that highlight the art, history and culture of African Americans.

The 10000 Steps project “includes 37 etched conversational sidewalk markers that encourage walkers to explore downtown Oakland and some of its oldest parks. Oakland’s first city plan, drawn in 1853 by Julius Kellersberger, was framed by seven oak-filled squares. Today, five of these squares continue to support the diverse communities who live nearby. Walking the Invisible City will lead you to these historic parks and vibrant neighborhoods. You can take a virtual tour the area through this interactive map.”

– Maria C. Brandt, Local Arrangements Committee Adjunct