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“Rock Ridge is designed for people who will appreciate a high class residence district,” read a 1905 promotional brochure for Oak Park Homes. “It is only one block from the College Avenue Carline on the West,” the ad continued. “Rock Ridge, where poppies bloom in November, where meadow larks and quail announce the coming of day, and the air has a woodsy odor. With the charm of it all around him, one forgets that the heart of the city is twelve minutes away. Yet such is the case.”
“Rock Ridge” eventually became known as “Rockridge”—the neighborhood that encompasses a large portion of North Oakland from Broadway Terrace to the city’s border with Berkeley, and from the area surrounding 51st and Telegraph to Lake Temescal. The neighborhood has changed over the years, especially with the addition of Highway 24 and a BART station after the 1960s, but remains a stable and affluent area.
Oakland North is taking a look at the history of Rockridge. We have stories on its early beginnings as a home for Oakland’s upper class by Ryan Phillips, a profile of one of Rockridge’s founding fathers by Amna Hassan, as well as what the area used to look like, in the words of some of its earliest settlers, by Megan Molteni. 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.
Do you have a story about Rockridge’s history you’d like to share? E-mail Ryan Phillips at If you want more, check out our first two editions of the series, on Temescal and Golden Gate.
Hills covered in beautiful homes
Rockridge has been a coveted residential neighborhood since its early days, thanks especially to an Oakland real estate company that developed the area in the early 1900s.
Voices from Rockridge’s Early Days
Oakland’s Rockridge district was founded 133 years ago and to this day remains one of the only areas in the city to have kept much of its historical character. Residents during the neighborhood’s early days remember it for picnics on “Big Rock” and getting around on horses or foot before mechanized transportation became available. In 1954, local historian Frank X. Flood interviewed many of Rockridge’s first settlers about what it was like back in the “good old days”. These are their reminiscences in their own words.
Rockridge is scandalized by pagan love cult
The sleepy Rockridge district was an unlikely home for scandal. But in 1927 it came to light that the Great White Brotherhood—a mystical society incorporating Eastern Religion, ideas of racial harmony, and notions of free love—had set up its international headquarters in the Rockridge home of Ms. Gertrude Wright at 468 Forest St. Wright served as the group’s high priestess and taught about “sacred phallic laws” as a way to attune to god. When a concerned mother found out that her daughter was taking classes at Wright’s “Sacred School” a media circus broke out and Oakland police intervened.
The Livermores: Rockridge’s Founding Family
The Livermores were one of the earliest families to settle in Rockridge, and contributed significantly to its development in the early twentieth century. In addition to turning the large tracts of land above Broadway into residential areas, they were also involved in the establishment of public utilities and lumbering in California. Read on for more on Rockridge’s founding family.
Rockridge: Then and Now
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Compare historical photos of Rockridge to those taken in 2012. The number of houses has increased significantly since development began in 1910, and Rockridge remains an affluent neighborhood. See full project here.