The Architecture of Oakland: Floral Depot building

Many of the reporters at Oakland North are new to the Bay Area, and one of the first things we noticed while touring the city was its beautiful and sometimes unusual architecture. On the reporting team for this series, one of us is from Brazil and one is from Southern California. We decided it would be great to learn more about some of the structures that represent Oakland’s beautiful landscape.

With a great deal of assistance from the representatives at the Oakland Library History Room, Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey and Oakland Heritage Alliance, we were able look at a wide array of old city maps, photographs and drawings to learn more about how Oakland’s most notable buildings once appeared. You can scroll the photo at the top of the screen from left to right to toggle between the older photo of the building and the one from today.

For the next six weeks we will showcase some of the buildings we liked the most—both as they used to look, and what each is like today. Some are more familiar to Oakland residents than others. Each has helped enhance the city’s reputation and some are considered the “crown jewels of Oakland.”

This week there is blue everywhere, in the sky and blue on the walls, specifically on exterior tiles of the Floral Depot building on 18th Street and Telegraph Avenue.

Designed by architect Albert J. Evers, the building was constructed in 1931 by G.P.W. Jensen. Its facing is covered in cobalt blue terra cotta tiles and sprays of silver said to be designed to resemble waterfalls. Fans of the sleek structures, rich colors and bold geometric patterns that are indicative of Art Deco design describe this building as “glorious” and the corner tower as “stunning.”

In the past the building operated as a flower shop. Later J.J. Newberry, the popular five-and-dime store, occupied a portion of the building. That space in the building is now vacant, but the sign remains. The building was almost demolished in the early 1980s and was added to the National Register of Historic places in 1983. As of 2008, the landmark building is the home of Flora, a restaurant and bar that retains the building’s original Art Deco style.

The images shown here are of the project drawing from the Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey book located in the Oakland Public Library and a photograph recently taken of the building.

Music used in the audio portion of this article is by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons by Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

3 Comments

  1. Francisco

    Quite interesting series.
    You had reviewed already two of my favorites buildings in Oakland –Mutual Stores and this one, the Floral depot.
    Please, keep going with it.
    Saludos.

  2. JR

    As a youth growing up in Oakland, I never appreciated this unique architecture. Great series and keep it coming!

  3. Due credit should be given to local developer Richard Weinstein who undertook the facade restoration bringing the building back to it’s former glory after horendous destructive modernizing by JJ Newberry in the 60′s. Replacement terra cotta tiles were hand cast by Gladding McBean in Lincoln CA, the original supplier of the terra cotta facade.

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