Can you name Oakland’s National Historic Landmarks?
on August 18, 2011
There are about 2,500 National Historic Landmarks in the country, 136 in California, and five in Oakland. But they aren’t the buildings you might expect – not the Tribune tower, not the Sears building, not City Hall nor even Mountain View Cemetery. Two of the landmarks aren’t even buildings in Oakland, they’re ships floating in the Oakland Estuary.
National Historic Landmarks are historical “resources that have national significance with the highest level of integrity,” said Michael Crowe, an architectural historian who served on the National Historic Landmark program before retiring. The landmarks are designated by the Secretary of the Interior, and they have to be nominated.
There hasn’t been a new one named in Oakland since 1990, and Crowe said that since landmarks don’t receive much publicity, many people in Oakland may not know where—or what—they are. “They’re pretty much not aware of the program,” Crowe said.
Here are the five Oakland spots that made it onto the national register:
The Lightship Relief is basically a floating lighthouse, and was built in 1950. Originally, it was used off the Delaware coast before it was moved to west to Washington and Oregon, and eventually, California, where it served as a replacement vessel for all Pacific Coast stations.
From 1820 to 1983, there were 116 lighthouse stations around the country, but now there are only 12, all of which have been retired. The ship is now located in Jack London Square, and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
THE JOAQUIN MILLER HOME “ABBEY”
Joaquin Miller, who became known as “the poet of the Sierras,” built the white house right off what is now Joaquin Miller Boulevard, in Joaquin Miller Park, in the late 19th Century as an artist’s retreat. Miller bought 70 acres in the area and led the planting of 75,000 trees in the hills, including Monterey Pine, Monterey cypress, olive and eucalyptus trees.
In the late 1800s, Miller hosted parties at the house with a famous guest list, including authors Mark Twain and Jack London, and statesmen and actors of the time.
The Joaquin Miller Home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962.
The Potomac was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “floating White House” from 1936 until his death in 1945. “He used it as a retreat from the White House, and supposedly met with [Winston] Churchill during the second World War, on the Potomac,” Crowe said.
The vessel has been restored to its 1939 appearance, and now serves as a museum at Jack London Square. It was named to the list of National Historic Landmarks in 1990.
The Paramount Theatre is “a supreme example of the Art Deco style,” Crowe said. It was designed by Timothy Pflueger, a prominent Bay Area architect, and opened in 1931.
The theater served as a “movie palace” in the 30s, but was falling apart after years of neglect when the Directors of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra Association purchased and restored the building in 1972. The theatre was named to the list of National Historic Landmarks in 1977.
LAKE MERRITT WILD DUCK REFUGE
(pictured at top)
Lake Merritt, a 160-acre salt-water lagoon in downtown Oakland, was created by real estate developers to “provide a nice setting to houses that were built around the lake,” Crowe said. It was also the first official wildlife refuge in the country, and the borders of the landmark are the centerline of the sidewalk around the lake.
The lake was established in 1870 and serves as a refuge for thousands of migratory birds every winter. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963. (It’s pictured at the top of this story.)
What other Oakland places or buildings do you think should be officially designated historic landmarks? Vote in our poll at the top of the page, or suggest other landmark-worthy spots in the comments section!
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