The Cataract at Blair's Park
photo from Oakland History Room

Blair's Park (or Blair Park) was an amusement park on the boundary between Mountain View Cemetery and the city of Piedmont. The 75 acre park was created by developer Walter Blair (1830–1888), and featured waterfalls and lakes on Cemetery Creek, as well as views out over the bay. Most of the park was in Piedmont, but it was a common destination for Oakland residents, too. It was renamed Oakland Park by the Oakland Traction Company in 1898, 2 though still frequently referred to as Blair Park after that.

Construction began on the park in 1884. An Oakland Tribune article says "As these grounds are intended to be forever devoted to public use, and become part of Oakland, an agreeable name is an important matter; therefore the proprietor has determined to leave the matter open for six months, awaiting suggestions from the public." 8

Horse-drawn (and later cable-drawn) streetcars (owned by Blair) took people up to the park. At the park people could walk, picnic, sail boats on the lake, ride horses, attend concerts, or watch acrobats perform while hanging from balloons or aeronauts jump by parachute.

The inclusion of acrobats and aeronauts may sound unusual, but it was relatively common at the time. Sadly, accidents with the performers were frequent. 1 It was also common for bystanders to help hold the lines on the balloons as they were inflated. In 1897, a tragic accident took the life of 6 1/2 year old Bertie Hill. When the balloon was released, he failed to let go of his line and rode up on a sandbag. He was carried to a great height, then eventually lost his grip and fell to his death. 3, 4

In 1897, Ira P. Bishop was the president of the Piedmont and Mountain View Railroad Company (Piedmont Cable Company?) which owned the park. M. W. Tiffany was the park superintendent.

The park was relatively remote from Oakland, but easily reached by streetcar. Unfortunately this seems to have made it a popular place for suicides. 6, 7

lithograph from Oakland and Surroundings\lithograph from Oakland and Surroundingsad from 1896 San Francisco Call


Today, there is a small park along Moraga Avenue in Piedmont called Blair Park, but this is only a small fraction of the original park.

The modern Blair Park was the center of a controversy in the 2000s. Land was donated, and some people wanted the city to regrade the site and build a large sports complex, the "support the gift" side. Other people were opposed to losing the existing park and addition of retaining walls, etc., the "save Moraga Canyon" side. The city of Oakland was strongly opposed, as were many Oakland residents.

Links and References

  1. Tree Top Saves Aeronaut's Life San Francisco Call October 8, 1900
  2. Opening of Oakland Park San Francisco Call April 25, 1898
  3. Dropped From the Clouds San Francisco Call July 6, 1897
  4. Death Caused by Severe Shock San Francisco Call August 28, 1898
  5. Picturesque Piedmont San Francisco Call March 22, 1891
  6. Aims Abuse at Family Then Takes Poison at Park Entrance San Francisco Call January 26, 1903
  7. Verdict of Jury is Suicide San Francisco Call November 27, 1904
  8. A New Park for Oakland Oakland Tribune June 6, 1884

Question: What year did it close as a park? It was renamed Oakland Park 1898. It appears on the 1912 map as Blair Park, but is no longer on the 1936 map. -- Gene