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old picture of park blvd.

Before it was known as Park Boulevard, the Glenview's main drag was known as Walker Street and an extension of 4th Avenue.

How well do you know your neighborhood? Before Mandela Parkway grew flowers, the Cypress Freeway threw shadows over West Oakland. Pre-dating the Uptown swing in fine downtown dining, dives like the Hof Brau hung signs with blinking lights on Broadway. And who would’ve known that the Fruitvale, a mecca for Hispanic foods and festivals, was lined with cherry orchards?

City history rests just below the concrete surface in our lovely, multi-layered Oakland. This summer, the Oakland Heritage Alliance continues its walking tour series. Inspired by the architecture, landscapes and people that have characterized the Town, a few armchair historians continue to lead the curious on several strolls through time.

image of park blvd. apartment building

Today, Park Boulevard has a mix of single-family and multi-unit homes.

Tomorrow, I invite you to join me on a stroll through the Glenview. Oakland History Room historian Kathleen DiGiovanni and I will traverse a hillside neighborhood and share the stories of a growing Oakland. Before the gourmet restaurants opened, ranchers raised cows and crops along Park Boulevard. A train carried passengers up Trestle Glen and loggers hauled redwood trunks down Park from the hills.

When the “Glenview Heights” subdivision, as it was called in 1925, took shape, settling space ran for $150 a foot. Some scrambled for homogeneity while others welcomed diversity with the Key Route streetcars that rambled up Park to Leimert. As one property owner put it, “Just picture another Oakland built almost entirely around the outside of the present city. That will give you some idea of the coming importance of Park Boulevard. It is going to be Oakland’s great north and south artery, and it cannot be paralleled.”

1925 map of "Glenview Heights"

The Oakland Tribune ran this map of "Glenview Heights" in 1925.

Saturday’s route will start at Glenview Elementary School, wind through Dimond Canyon and head up E. 38th toward Hampel, ending on Park’s business district. The tour lasts from 10 a.m. to noon.

For histories and poems from all corners of our city, check out Erika Mailman’s compilation “Oakland’s Neighborhoods.” You’ll find a complete listing of the Oakland Heritage Alliance tours here.


My article on a rare, East Bay hills plant posted today in Oakland Local. I originally fell in love with the pallid manzanita as a kid, while playing at my best friend’s house on Manzanita Drive. The red bark was smooth to the touch and bushy leaves would yield pink blooms in the winter. In the spring, the fertilized flowers would grow into what poet Gary Snyder called “little apples”:

What I didn’t realize then was that the migration of the human species has largely displaced the pallid manzanitas. As Oaklanders built their homes, they’d raze whole colonies, or chop stray plants down for fear of fire. The pallids that remain—some 1,200 total in the East Bay hills and also the world—struggle in an increasingly shaded landscape. What residents may not realize is that the Oakland hills have not always grown into a green jungle, but frequently burned and regenerated as a largely sun-lit region.

In the article, I mention the efforts of the Friends of Sausal Creek, who have ventured into the far reaches of Joaquin Miller Park to find and restore this rare chaparral. They regularly host events where volunteers tend to Oakland’s many ecosystems, improving trails, tracking trout, monitor birds, collecting seeds and caring for native plants. Their work cultivating pallid manzanita at Big Trees has been a successful experiment so far. It also requires constant maintenance. A FOSC map shows the status of the Big Trees pallids as of April, 2010:

Oakland’s backyard needs weeding and trimming just like any green space. Future plans to propagate pallid manzanitas is underway at Chabot Space & Science Center, in partnership with the City of Oakland and the Wildfire Prevention District. They have plans to begin carving a sunny place for pallids very soon.

If you’d like to check out a thriving patch of the endangered chaparral, check out the Huckleberry Trail off Grizzly Peak. You’ll find them a few yards down the path. Take a left up a small incline and you’ll find yourself bathed in sunlight and surrounded in pallid manzanita splendor.

Temperatures dipped into the 30s in Oakland last night, causing snow to drop in the hills. It sprinkled over much of the East Bay, from Danville to Mount Diablo. No storms to report; just a dusting, like a layer of powdered sugar. Below is a photo taken this morning just blocks from Skyline High School:

Mayor Ron Dellums, who lives on this street, was undoubtedly as surprised as other Oaklanders; snow is a rarity here. Whether his limo (reportedly seen by a neighbor on occasion) carries chains is unknown.

Tonight, Oakland lows will dip down to freezing. Time to bust out the winter blankets and sip on White Christmas Dream cocktails.