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The architecture of Oakland: The Tribune Tower

on January 4, 2013

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.”

We would not be Oakland reporters if we did not include the Tribune Tower in our selection of interesting architecture. Not only is it a historical landmark in downtown Oakland, but it is a beautiful building.

In late 1918, the offices for the Oakland Tribune newspaper were relocated to the site of what was once the Breuner Furniture Company on 13th and Franklin in downtown Oakland. At the time, the building was six stories high.

The earlier model of the building had a square frame with the name “Tribune” centered in each section. The square sat on top of what looked like a radio tower with four clocks positioned under the name in each square.

The 20-story tower we have come to recognize as a symbol of the newspaper was designed by Edward T. Foulkes and added to the building in 1923. Interestingly, Foulkes was born in 1874, the same year the Oakland Tribune was first published.

The high-rise is described by architectural experts as a Renaissance/Baroque style with Spanish and colonial influences, with a steel structure, brick façade and applied masonry. It is considered a replica of the campanile located in Basilica San Marcos (St. Mark’s) in Venice, Italy.

The Garnett Company purchased the company in 1979, which was then sold to Robert and Nancy Maynard in 1983. The building was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and the newspaper staff moved to offices in Jack London Square. The Tribune Tower building remained empty until John Protopappas purchased it in 1995. The newspaper returned to the building in 1999. Protopappas sold the building in 2006 and the news operations once again relocated, this time to an office building near the Oakland International Airport. The clock on the tower had stopped functioning and was repaired in 2006 and the tower relit on December 22, 2006.

Small business owners and a few law firms now occupy the old newspaper offices. On September 20, 2012, the website S.F. Eater reported that a new restaurant, the Tribune Tavern, is under construction on the ground floor of the tower and is set to open in mid-March of 2013.

The black and white photograph is from the files in the Oakland Public Library History Room.

Music used in the audio portion of this article is by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons by Attribution 3.0

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
Oakland North

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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