DeFremery Park is an island. A two-story light blue Victorian sits alone in a massive yard, surrounded by fields of vibrant green grass. It’s quiet in the park on most days, the building’s stoic presence adding a layer of calm to the surrounding West Oakland neighborhood.
The house sits next to a tennis court, a skate park, a swing set, basketball courts, a baseball diamond, and an indoor swimming pool—all of which go consistently underused on Oakland’s many sunny days.
The house has undergone a number of transformations over the years. It was built in the 1860s by James de Fremery, a banker from San Francisco, as a home for his family. In the 1930s, it was turned into a community clubhouse by the federal government, and over the years, the park became a popular spot to hold events for West Oakland’s black community. In the 1960s, it was a hub for meetings and events held by the Black Panther Party, which remains the building’s main claim to fame.
Today, the legacy of the Black Panthers remains at the park, which holds frequent community gatherings promoting African American pride. The annual Little Bobby Hutton Day celebration has been going on since the 1960s, honoring the 17-year-old Black Panther who was killed by Oakland police in 1968.
On a Monday morning in the park, two women in colorful headscarves sit together on a bench in front of the main house, whispering quietly to each other. A middle school kid bikes past, taking one of the multiple cement paths that run the course of the park. A handful of geese aggressively flap their wings at each other. In the nearby skate park, three skaters in caps and bright sweatshirts hang out, while a father teaches his toddler son how to skateboard.
Walls nearby are peppered with graffiti. Swings sit empty, opposite a small play set with three toddlers going up and down the red plastic slide, their mothers observing from a short distance. One man sits alone at a picnic table in the center of the lawn, as two people bike through the park, pulling all of their possessions behind them.