After the Paramount, we still had two more sites to visit in downtown Oakland before hitting the road to San Leandro. Little did we know that we would find one Historical Landmark that wasn’t in the book and one place that should be in there.
In its heyday, downtown Oakland was a commercial and residential center. As a result, the downtown has a number of large churches that used to serve the local residents. One such church, which is right next to Interstate 980, is the First Unitarian Church of Oakland (Historical Landmark # 896).
I have worked in downtown Oakland for 21 years and I could not for the life of me remember this church, although I am sure I have driven past it a bunch of times. It is a beauty. The book describes it best:
“Designed in 1889 by Walter J. Mathews, this solid masonary Romanesque church departed radically from California’s traditional Gothic wood frame construction. Noted for its world famous stained glass windows produced by Goodhue of Boston, and for arching redwood spans, the widest at that time west of the Rockies, the church remains a significant cultural and architectural landmark.”
Unfortunately for us, it was President’s Day and the sanctuary was closed. We will certainly go back again to see those redwood spans and stained glass windows. And, as the picture above notes, there is in fact a Historical Marker here. Booya!
Gail said that she had seen one of the ubiquitous highway signs announcing this particular Historical Landmark. So, we did a little exploring to try to find it (so we could take a photo). No such luck. Instead, we found the Pardee Home Museum, which is on the corner of Castro and 11th (also next to I-980). This place wasn’t in our book of Historical Landmarks but it sure had all of the trappings of one: lovely grounds, locked gate, tours. No sign here but, after a bit of sleuthing, we discovered that the Pardee House was added to the list of Historical Landmarks in 1997 (i.e., after the printing of our book, the Pardee House became Historical Landmark # 1027)! Gail and I are still discussing how this might change our plans for this adventure (e.g., Do we just do the sites in the book or do we get an updated list for completeness? What do we “mark off” if we visit a site not in the book?). We never saw a sign for this place, although I assume that one exists, unless it was stolen (more on that in a later post).
From here, we tooled over to 12th and Franklin to check out the initial home of the College of California and the original campus of the University of California (Historical Landmark # 45). After seeing the spectacular Paramount Theatre, the Unitarian Church, and the Pardee House, we were somewhat let down by the initial home of my alma mater. The picture to the left doesn’t do this site justice: the place is a parking ramp! Located kittycorner from the Oakland Tribune tower, there is not much to say about the site other than it took us a little while to find the plaque, since we were expecting some sort of grand structure. Interestingly, .the administrative offices of the University of California are just up the street, having bailed out of Berkeley a few years ago. This site was the first example where the plaque was more impressive than the site itself. I suspect that there will be others that fall into that category as well.
All of the “Dora the Explorer” activity makes one hungry, so before we headed south to San Leandro, we needed food. Where to eat on President’s Day? Most places were closed and those that were open appeared a little shady. Thinking that we were going to have to tough it out and find food on the road, we headed toward Jack London Square when, to our delight, we saw that the Oakland Grill was open! Now, I hate to admit that I have lived in the SF Bay Area for almost 55 years and had never actually eaten at the Oakland Grill. However, they used to have the funniest ads in the local free paper, so Gail and I always talked up the idea of dining there. Well, here was our chance. In summary, the waitstaff was really nice, the food was good, and the mural on the outside wall was great (if you look closely, you can see Oakland luminaries such as Jerry Brown, Ron Dellums, and Jack London, along with a husky that has its eye on a pelican). Now that I think about it, the waitstaff was terrific: they noticed that I had left my wallet on the table and our server came sprinting out of the restaurant with it, catching us as we started to pull away on the tandem. For that reason alone, they deserve another visit as well as designation as a Historical Landmark!
On to San Leandro…
For more photos, go to my Picasa site.