My Piedmont and Oakland Real Estate Adventures. History, Architecture and Homes

For years, I have driven by what appears to be a concrete monument at the south end of Jackson Park, on which is written the words "In Memory of My Dumb Friends".  I have always wanted to know the back story to this piece of history, so I did some research.  It was designed to provide water and a resting place for animals and their owners in and around the park. Built in 1920 by Isabelle Clark as a memorial to her husband, it orginally had a water trough set in the concrete.  The remains of the bench still stand as a tribute to the efforts of a fine lady who wanted to aid the "dumb" animals in the area.  At the time, the term "dumb" was used to refer to animals who did not have the gift of speech, and did not refer to their mental acuity!

Jackson Park is

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Most Alameda residents drive right past it.  If they notice it, they may raise an eyebrow in amusement, but continue along Broadway to complete their list of errands.

What they may not know, is that the unique house at the corner of Broadway and Crist has an interesting history.  Called the "Spite House', it was built at the turn of the 19th century by Charles Froling.  

The story about the house says that during that time, the city of Alameda had made plans to build a street in the immediate area.  In doing so, it took a very large portion of Froling's land on which he was planning to build a showplace home.  He was left with very little to work with.  To spite the city, and an adjacent neighbor, he proceded to build his house anyway.  

The house is

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One of the undiscovered gems of Oakland is the Union Point park near the Park St. bridge leading to Alameda. Formally a vacant, weed covered lot the area has been transformed into a waterfront park including a Children's play area with a Sailing ship climbing structure, a Bridge to nowhere, a semi-circular pier / art installation and its centerpiece, a bougainvillea covered spiral hill in the middle. On weekends the park is a great place for picnics and gatherings right next to the water. There are BBQ grills and plenty of open space for throwing a Frisbee or football. From the top of the hill you are treated to a beautiful view down the Oakland estuary, with the barges, fishing boats and ships of the adjacent Coast Guard Island. Studded with artwork,…
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I just read an interesting article on the state of home sales in parts of Oakland.  Low priced ($200,000 and less) homes are becoming very attractive to investors. They can buy a home, rent it out, and still have positive cash flow because of the strong rental market. Many investors are coming in with all-cash offers for a smooth transaction with the bank.

The median price of a home in Oakland is now $330,000 which is roughly half of what it was only 18 months ago. What is driving homes sales up and prices down is the amount of REOs (bank-owned) and short-sales being sold. 50% of homes sales last month involved foreclosed homes, but foreclosures only represented 14% in Dec. 2007.

Banks are also starting to list their homes low and let the market

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The other Saturday morning in Alameda, I was waiting for the Main Library to open. Looking around, I was delighted to see the happy faces of toddlers gathering at the front entrance to attend the Mother Goose Storytime event in the Chilren's Section of the library.  The parents were chatting among themselves, and recognizing each other from other events. Once the door opened, they were in in a rush, and heading in for the fun.

After I got my books, I looked around this "new" (2006) library with amazement.  It had truly become a new "Civic Center".  I reflected that while the children are downstairs,  students are often sitting in front of the many computers researching school projects, and sit side by side with older seniors who are downloading recipes,

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On March 31, 1917, a Alameda institution opened its doors to the public.  Named "Neptune Beach", it was to be the home of family fun and recreation for more than two decades, and would come to be called "The Coney Island of the West". alameda_ca_neptune_beach

Located at the intersection of Webster and Central, its entrance was marked by a very tall Moorish style tower that was decorated with colorful tiles.  Behind this entrance, visitors found swimming pools, a very tall high diving platform, a dance hall, a merry-go-round, and a fairway of fun.  Rides in the fairway included, at one time or another, a flying biplane ride, a speedway, a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel.

Additionally, Neptune Beach was the venue for many sporting events, including boxing and wrestling

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Residents of the Fernside District in Alameda owe a great deal to A.A. Cohen.  Most of their homes were built on the site of his property, called Fernside, which was once the largest estate in Alameda.  Built in 1874, on 106 acres, the home, housing his family of a wife and seven children, had 50 rooms. These rooms included a ballroom, a library, a great hall and an atrium.

On the grounds, Cohen installed a bowling alley, a billiard hall as well as a large carriage house and stables.  Sadly, he passed away just 13 years later in 1887.  Although his wife and family stayed on in the home, another serious event struck when the main house was destroyed by fire in 1897.

The wife, Emilie died in 1924, and the land south of Fernside was sold by children to be

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While on my way to meet a friend at the new Alameda Theater I was reflecting on the diversity of retail opportunities on the 3 short blocks of the central Park Street shopping area.  After the movie, we wandered down to Tomatina for an early dinner.  As we walked, I began to take note of which businesses were on Park St. and I was pleasantly surprised.Starting at Lincoln and Park Street, and continuing down just 3 short blocks to Encinal, a shopper can find two antique stores, a large bookstore, four children’s stores selling toys and clothing, your standard Peet’s and Starbucks, a coin dealer, two bicycle shops, a store devoted to dogs, a large shoe store,  a handsome high end clothing store, and restaurants too numerous to list, but with food choices…
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When I first came to Alameda, I was charmed by its home town appeal unlike so many large cities in the Bay Area.  Much of it seemed to be part of an old movie set with tree lined streets, Victorian era homes situated around mossy green parks, and children playing games in the school yard.  While my arrival was more than 15 years ago, I am pleased to say, that the charm is still there–and more.It has rebuilt one of its most attractive Art Deco theaters–the Alameda Theater--into an award winning complex, and yet continues to support a tiny, but mighty, theater in the round at the other end the island-the Altarena Playhouse. It’s Fourth of July parade is one of the largest west of the Mississippi, and children and parents from Cub Scouts, churches, the Boys…
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There are many wonderful places to go on walks in the East Bay. Nature jaunts within the many East Bay Regional Parks, and architectural walks through gorgeous old neighborhoods, will entice you to while away the better half of the day.

When in the mood to get away from it all, I usually head to one of the beautiful East Bay Regional Parks that reside within the Oakland hills. 

One of my favorites is Redwood Regional park, where you can really feel miles away from the urban hubub. Beautiful old Redwoods and grassy meadows make it a perfect place to hike, workout, picnic or just play with your kids in an oxygen rich and car free zone.

Equally as beautiful, is Joaquin Miller park just south of Montclair on Highway 13. This park provides wonderful hiking

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