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Oakland history — a look back in words and photos

on July 28, 2012

Oakland has a long and fascinating history. Come along with Oakland North as we explore some of the city’s most interesting old stories in text and photos.

First, check out our Temescal history project. Temescal today is a vibrant neighborhood, famous for the restaurants centered around Telegraph Avenue and 51st Street, and a burgeoning art scene. But back in 1890, Temescal was a small town still independent from Oakland, and the foundation was just being set for the vibrant area to come. In this project, we unearth old photos of Temescal as it used to be, including the days when it had its own amusement park and an aboveground creek. (Temescal Creek, of course!)

Then, we take a look back at the Golden Gate neighborhood. The area north of Emeryville, centered around San Pablo Avenue and 59th Street, has had many faces over the years. A thriving commercial strip. Open country, with dairy farms, cottages and ranches. A small town created by an eccentric showman remembered for his multi-colored jackasses. A tavern haven. We explore them all in this special project.

Next, take a historical tour of Rockridge. We have stories on its early beginnings as a home for Oakland’s upper class, a profile of one of Rockridge’s founding fathers, as well as what the area used to look like, in the words of some of its earliest settlers. We also have photos of what the area looked like at the turn of the century compared to what it looks like now and a map of the area’s historical homes. (Plus, did you know that in the 1920s Rockridge had a pagan love cult?)

We did a walking tour of Oakland’s historic churches, as well as a special project on Oakland’s Buddhist Church, one of the last remaining physical structures from Oakland’s Japanese-American community that lived in Chinatown before World War II. If you’re interested in Oakland’s most historic cemetery, try Mountain View: A tour for the living as well as our profile of Mountain View’s tombstone engravers. We also did a story on the installation of a memorial in an Oakland cemetery for the Peoples Temple members who died in 1978 in the mass suicide at Jonestown.

Remember the Bay Area’s original mass transit system, the Key Car system? Check out Forgotten Trains of the Bay Area. And while you’re at it, you might like our interactive history of the Bay Bridge: Bridge to Nowhere. And don’t forget one of the Bay Area’s original forms of transportation — the horse! We made a video about the Oakland Black Cowboys’ Association and their role in the development of the American West.

Don’t forget to try our special interactive history project with the game So You Think You Know Lake Merritt? Take the quiz and test your knowledge!

We dove down deep to cover the history of one very special Oakland intersection: 51st and Telegraph.

We also did a special project on the protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s, looking at the history of the Black Panthers and the Native American, Asian and Chicano Power Movements: Many Movements, One Struggle.

And while we’re talking about the 1960s, you should definitely take a stop at Oakland’s historic tiki lounges.

We move into the more modern era with our special news package documenting the 1991 Oakland Hills fire, and the changes it wrought on the area 20 years later. Learn about some of the special possessions fire survivors saved, about the changing architecture of the area after homes were rebuilt, and about how fire gear and environmental policies have changed since the fire.

Can you farm in a city like Oakland? We put together a special multimedia package on the history of growing and producing food in Oakland — check it out at Regrowing Oakland: The Future of Urban Food.

And how about a (less healthy) Oakland classic? A tribute to Kasper’s: History, in hot dogs. Or the beloved Neldam’s Danish bakery, which was reopened in 2010 as a collective bakery with the new name, A Taste of Denmark.

Here’s a classic of another kind: Everything Old is New Again: Dec-O-Win at the Paramount Theatre. And another beloved movie theater: The Parkway’s Last Hurrah. And here are some people who are bringing a classic back: Top Hat and Tails, a Vintage Base Ball Story.

OK, you may be wondering, are any of these historical buildings haunted? Well,some people say Mills College is. (Then again, some people say there is a monster in Lake Merritt.)

And finally, it wouldn’t be a historical celebration without mentioning some of the great — and absurd — inventions that have been attributed to Oaklanders. See our project that sorts the factual from the fictious with Invented in Oakland.

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  1. Len Raphael on July 29, 2012 at 9:00 am

    My list of favorite Oakland history books:

    American Babylon – Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland by Robert Self
    (a thick volume, not for the faint of heart. both academic and biased, but upfront about it’s bias)

    Second Gold Rush: Oakland and the Eastbay in WWII by Marilyn Johnson

    Rehab Right by Prentice and Prentice
    (guide to rehabbing Oakland older homes)

    Temescal Memories by Jeff Norman

    Oakland (Postcard History) by Annalee Allen

    Historic Photos of Oakland by Stephen Lavoie
    (no addresses but great selection)

    Oakland: Story of a City by Beth Bagwell
    (somewhat breezy and also somewhat biased)

  2. Timothy Chapman on July 31, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Dimond History page on the Dimond site

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Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to:

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