Friday, June 18, 2010

Where is this??Real Estate office and Observatory overlooking Montclair c.1920

Crowd of prospective buyers arrive at the Real Estate sales office and observatory in Montclair Hills - 1923 (per license plate)

Sign on the building at the bluff proclaims, "Oakland, the Greatest City on the West Coast" - an Overlook with sweeping panoramic views of Oakland, San Francisco and the Golden Gate

Montclair, Oakland California History

from Wikipedia:
Prior to the Spanish Mission era, native Huchiun and Jalquin tribes of Ohlone Indians populated the general area. The Ohlone by tradition gathered nuts, seeds, roots and fruit, hunted small animals and fished local waterways and the bay.  Later, the Mission system centered around Mission San Jose introduced Christianity, a lifestyle in farming, cattle raising, and unfortunately disease and other problems that led to the native inhabitants being largely eliminated.

In the early 1800's - the hills here had great Redwood forests - among the tallest on Earth - up to 31' in diameter.  The Redwoods were in fact so high they were depicted on the navigation maps of the time to aide ships entering the San Francisco Bay find their bearings. By around 1860 the first growth was gone, many brought down what is not Park Ave to the wharves in the vicinity of 14th, and use to build San Francisco - many via the first steam saw mill owned by a pioneer named Thorn - hence the name "Thornhill"

In 1820, Montclair and Dimond Canyon were part of the land from El Cerrito to San Leandro, which was granted to Luis Maria Peralta. In 1842, Peralta divided his land among his sons and the San Antonio section including Montclair and Dimond Canyon went to his son Antonio Maria Peralta.

Prior to modern development, Montclair was geographically demarcated by two creek valleys, one on the northwest, and one on the southeast end of the Hayward Fault rift. The upper reaches of Temescal Creek ran through the northwest valley, and remains visible above ground today in the upper sections along Thornhill and Pinehaven Roads. The creek has two branches that join at the intersection of Thornhill and Pinehaven. From there, the creek flows down then south side Thornhill Dr. until Thornhill Elementary School were it then undergrounds. Then it flows underground down the remainder of Thornhilll and then down Mountain Blvd. to Broadway Terrace, before draining into Lake Temescal.

In the northern creek valley, Thornhill Road dates back to some of the earliest development history of Montclair. This was an old 19th century logging road built by and named after Hiram Thorn. Thorn's road brought redwood logs to Oakland out of the vast forest known as the Moraga Redwoods, where he ran a lumber mill at Pinehurst Road near Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, west of the community of Canyon. Thornhill later became a toll road to Contra Costa County.

On the southeast end of Montclair, the north fork of Sausal Creek (also called Shepherd Creek) runs down Shepherd Canyon. At the freeway, near the parking lot of the Montclair Golf Course, the north fork of Sausal Creek has its confluence with the south fork (also called Palo Seco Creek) running from the eastern hills (encompassing Joaquin Miller Park). The creek then runs down through Dimond Canyon and across the flatlands (mostly in culverts) to San Francisco Bay.

From Shepherd Canyon extending toward the southeast, the Bayside hills were covered in a vast redwood forest known as the San Antonio Redwoods. Around 1847, Europeans started logging the San Antonio redwood forest. In 1850, the area's first steam sawmill was built on the edge of Montclair, at Palo Seco Creek in the head of Dimond Canyon [1]. A logging road to the mill was built high up along the side of Dimond Canyon, and later became Park Boulevard. This logging road connected to a wharf at the foot of 13th Avenue and was used to transport the logs down Dimond Canyon to the Bay. By 1860, the San Antonio forest was logged completely.

After the logging period, Caspar Hopkins, an early settler of the Fruitvale District, formed the Sausal Creek Water Company and built a dam and reservoir at the upper end of Dimond Canyon near the current Highway 13 at Montclair. The reservoir later became part of the East Bay Water Company and remained until the early 1920s. Early maps show a road passing the reservoir along the current Waterhouse Road, and extending up toward the dam in the direction of Bridgeview Drive along what is currently the Upper Dimond Canyon Trail. In 1867, Hugh Dimond purchased the canyon. [2]
In the first half of the 20th century, the main line of the Sacramento Northern Railroad ran through Montclair. The tracks ran southward from Lake Temescal and crossed into Montclair over a trestle at Moraga Ave. and Thornhill Dr. Thre is now a "pocket park" located at this location in remembrance of this crossing. Then the route ran along a high berm between Montclair Recreation Center and Montclair Elementary School, before crossing Mountain Blvd. and Snake Road via trestle, and continuing up Shepherd Canyon to a tunnel, the west portal of which was located immediately below Saroni Drive. Today, much of the old right-of-way above the village and in Shepherd Canyon is a pedestrian and bicycle path. Although the old railroad trestles throughout Montclair were all removed decades ago, in recent years a pedestrian bridge was built in the same location of one of them, across Snake Road, to connect the two major sections of the pedestrian pathway. The trail was paved as well at the same time.

One of the first schools located in Montclair was at the current site of the now-closed Moraga Avenue firehouse, and was named in honor of John Coffee Hays, one of the founders of the city of Oakland. The Hays school was closed in 1913. Though already sparsely populated since the logging days, major residential subdivision of the village and hills began in the 1920s.



Viewing up  towards Skyline and the new road leading to the Observation To
wer - perhaps the "first Real Estate Sign" in Montclair on the left
The 1927 [3] Montclair firehouse has often been said to have been designed in the Hansel and Gretel style [4] by famed regional architect Julia Morgan, however it was actually designed by Edward E. Edwards of the Oakland Public Works Department.  Following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the Oakland Fire Department built a new station house on Shepherd Canyon Road, and upon completion, vacated the 1927 structure.

In March 1930, the Montclair branch of the Oakland Public Library was opened on Mountain Blvd. near Thornhill Dr. to serve the growing village. The small building was built in the English cottage-style, and remains in use today. After 1965, additions were completed for the children's room and patio at the rear of the original building. [5]
pictures were digitally mastered by Bennett Hall/Business Image Group from source images in the History Room of the Oakland Public Library


Montclair Village Association

Flickr Collection on Alameda-Coco Country History


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great article about Montclair's history! It's fun to imagine trains running through the Village. I wanted to correct one point, though: Although the storybook fire house is often wrongly attributed to Julia Morgan, it was actually designed by Eldred E. Edwards of the Oakland Public Works Department.