What the heck is that …

23rd Ave shrine-thing? | Old-Timey Alien Object? | 1880 Oakland school? | “Oakland Park”?12th Street and Southerly? | Infrastructure building on 2nd and MLK? | AT&T Buildings | Downtown mystery building

  • This page’s inspiration came while driving through an unfamiliar Oakland neighborhood, when something off to one side caused a “What it do?” moment. Plus, often while researching for Oakland Wiki, things come up to make one wonder “Where it did?” but how does one post and ask the group?
  • This is meant as an easy way to share questions and answers in one location, such as old photos, local sightings, etc.
  • Is there already such a page on Oakland Wiki? After searching, it appears the computer says no …
  • Also wanted to include on this page “Where Should This Go?” things, such as photos, when it’s unclear on which page the thing belongs … if there is more than one, or even several pages, a particular picture could be added.

UW Co.?

UW Co. CC SA-BY Our Oakland
Water historians know People's Water Company, Contra Costa Water Company, East Bay Water Company, and the Oakland Water Company. Was 'UW Co.' yet another of the many predecessors of East Bay MUD, or was it the foundry that made the cover, or what? There are still a few covers from People's and the others about, so it could have been there a long time.

This was spotted on Colton Blvd. in Montclair.

This would be the Union Water Company, which operated in the 1900-oughts. They are very uncommon. - ala


CC SA-BY Our Oakland
The building at 303 10th Street in Chinatown has 1999-8-18 and some Chinese characters above the main doorway. The building appears to be a lot older than that (guessing 20s or 30s). The only thing I could find about the date was that it was the date that "The Amazing Criswell" predicted the world would end in his 1968 book.

Interesting. Title records say this building (identified as 307 10th Street) was built in 1925, matching your guess, and the current owner (Susan Lam, widow of Woon Lam, who apparently died on January 3, 2009) has owned it since December of 1994. Note that some late 20s directories say that the Philadelphia Temple (Pentecostal) was at 307 10th Street, but the 1912-1951 Sanborn map just shows stores at the ground floor, and photo engraving on the second floor.

"12th Street and Southerly" sign?

23rd Ave. shrine-thing?

  • On 23rd Ave, near E. 21st there’s an empty lot on the north side across from a liquor store with a shrine-looking thing behind a chain link fence. There are some American flags strung across some PVC pipe Any idea?
    • I figure you’re talking about this lot at 2057 23rd Avenue. The property was purchased by the current owner (with a mailing address in Alameda) in 2005 for $20,000. I have no clue what the “shrine” really is, but an old real estate listing for this property includes a photo showing a handwritten sign on the E. 21st Street site, and my guess is that this is some sort of protest against un-American restrictions on development. Of course it could also be something completely different.
      • Yes! That’s the lot and you can see the thing with the American flags! -gk


Morse Canyon

Found this antique photo, and the only information is "At Morse's Canyon, East Oakland" but can find nothing on a Google search, or on Oakland Wiki.  Does anyone know where this was and what is currently there? 


This is probably the reach of Shepard Creek just above Scout Road, where Morse's ranch used to be. The huge boulders are familiar. It could also, by the same logic, be the lower end of Cobbledick Creek, but I haven't poked around there and the area is totally transformed since the 1800s. - ala







Old-Timey Alien Object?

  • Once in the 80’s I found myself having to wait on an old streetcorner in E. Oakland (probably somewhere along Foothill or E. 14th). I leaned against an odd-looking metal pole that was tucked inconspicuously away there in the sidewalk, and eventually started wondering what it once might’ve been. Whatever it was, by now it was thoroughly rusty and camouflaged under about 8K layers of faded, peeling city-of-Oakland municipal green paint. I thought it might be some kind of … lamp or something, yet something seemed … off. It took awhile to grok possibilities, but I eventually recognized it as a (far more) trashed version of what you see at left. Anyone know if it’s still there? That type of mechanism went obsolete by the 1930s. – Mike
    • That’s an old-timey gas pump. There’s one like it still in use at the King’s Canyon Lodge gas station in King’s Canyon NP. - Gene
      • D-oh! Well, if you answer directly, it obviates the need for anyone else to spend even a moment wondering. We should be fostering ontology here! (This is sort of a perennial problem with the internet – or, it will be once the next generation totally switches off its critical faculties in favor of Google Answers …)
      • So Mike, I guess you don’t want me to tell you that your antique gas pump appears to the #176 manufactured sometime in the 20’s or 30’s probably by the Gilbert & Barker Co., of Springfield, MA. The glass cylinder at the top filled with gasoline prior to being pumped was so customers could rest easy that they were really getting the gas they purchased. In excellent condition with all its original parts and decals, which the one at the left is not, the value would be approximately $5,000 to $8,000, depending on the market (city) in which it was sold. But I guess you would prefer to send the entire day doing extensive research in the local library rather than reaching out to your online Oakland Wiki friends who are an untapped fount of information … ;~).
        • Gulp! Well, that’s awesome … but since what I described happened years before digital cameras, the photo is just a sample pulled from Flickr (chosen mostly for its open CC licensing). The one I saw was missing its hose, pump handle, and glass, had a thinner, more solid body not unlike a streetlamp, and had about 100 layers of Oakland-municipal green paint on it. Are you into old gas pumps, to know such detail offhand?
        • I've seen this place too -- somewhere around 50th Avenue maybe? - ala


1880 Oakland school?

  • Found this wonderful old photo with children from the UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library collection. The only caption is “Oakland school, 1880’s” Does anyone recognize the building?
    • No — but what a great picture! Love the hats the kids are wearing!
    • The building is replete with Augustus Laver Flava™ … but what are those kids up to? Crack-the-whip, or tug-o’-war? (… Or maybe even mumblety-peg?)

Name and address of this Oakland building from 1892?When I originally asked about this building in the photo above, it was in the context of believing it to be an old Oakland High School from 1892. However, NAParish makes an excellent point, that perhaps the photo, which was included in an entire series of Oakland photos from back in 1892, had simply been mislabeled. So the new question is, does anyone know what this building was and where was it located?

  • Mike here. What other facts are known about the photo? Location maybe? Where did you find the photo? That’s an interesting-looking building, like nothing I recall seeing before. Was it in Oakland then, or someplace that might’ve later been annexed by Oakland? Sorry I have too little info to even guess at an answer yet.
    • Hi Mike! The description from the Oakland Library reads “An album of photogravures reproducing photographs by Adolph Witteman depicting municipal, commercial (chiefly hotels) and religious buildings (chiefly churches) in Oakland, with some street scenes, views of boating, bird’s-eye views and educational institutions.” [including “(Oakland) High School,”] The 1892 photo above was simply captioned “High School” and my trusty 1887 Oakland City Directory only lists one high school. However, after searching through the Oakland Library for other images of Oakland High School in the late 1800’s [see “Oakland High School, June, 1888”], they all look like the opposing building Gene pointed out earlier doesn’t look anything like this building. ~ JL
  • JL — The 1893 Annual Report of the Public Schools of the City of Oakland only lists a single school, and I agree that the above pic does not match the images of the then-current Oakland High School. My guess is that the pic is mislabeled. On a completely unrelated note, check out these sources related to August Schilling and the boulevard around Lake Merritt: No. 1 33994740.pdf and No. 2. — NAParish
    • Only one public high school. Could it have been private? I did check for crosses or virgin mary statues but didn’t see any, so gave up on the idea. But it looks like a substantial, single-purpose building, so … ??
  • Check out the series of four photos from the 1895 Pacific Education Journal on the Oakland High School page.


Which “Oakland Park”?

  • The October 22, 1900 SF Call refers to ”Oakland Park” … Anybody know which park this referred to? — Gene
    • The 1910 Oakland Directory lists the following references to “Oakland Park” … appears there were two possibilities … perhaps one of them is the park referenced in the 1900 article:
      1. West Oakland Park — Between Peralta and Wood, Eighteenth and Twenty-second Streets.
      2. BLAIR PARK, Piedmont (including Oakland Park) north of Vernal Avenue on Moraga Road east of Mountain View Cemetery
      3. OAKLAND PARK, see West Oakland
      4. OAKLAND PARK. Piedmont, (former Blair Park) north of Vernal Avenue at northern terminus of Blair Avenue.
      5. WEST OAKLAND PARK, between 18th and 20th Streets from Campbell to Wood Streets.
    • Survey says…Blair Park. Though people still frequently referred to it as Blair Park even after the name change. — Gene
    • The April 25, 1898 S.F. Call (9/2) corroborates Gene’s finding and is quoted in full below:
    • Opening of Oakland Park.
      OAKLAND, April 24—Oakland Park was formally opened to-day by the Oakland Transit Company, and each succeeding Sunday there will be a first-class entertainment presented for its patrons. This is the old Blair Park, which has been fitted up. Thousands visited the place to-day, and besides listening to Ritzau’s Orchestra and witnessing Professor Leopoldi in his perilous and daring performance with wild leopards, roamed over the hills.



Vacant Building in Jack London Square?

there is a vacant building that looks a restaurant- similar to the dim sum place at the emeryville marina- right before the estuary channel park in jack london square. anyone know what this is?

Jewel Box Area?

Where/What is the Jewel Box Area? I've seen a a few articles making reference to this term.

  • according to this article it's the area in Mosswood where the street names are jewels- Opal, Ruby and Emerald...

Art or random (or something else) on MLK?

There are some bottle caps (maybe?) that appear to be pressed into the tar on the West side of MLK just south of 40th? Anyone know what the story is?

Infrastructure building on 2nd and MLK?

It has pampas grass growing on the west side of it. The roots of the grass are pushing through the plastic paint, and the paint is molding into the shape of the roots underneath!

It's across the street from what looks like a PG&E electrical substation and other PG&E equipment, so it may be a PG&E building?

Answer --> It used to be a PG&E Building.  This is PG&E's former Oakland Power Plant, which burns oil to generate up to 165 MW (megawatts) of electricity. The address is 50 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, formerly 50 Grove Street. The plant was originally constructed in 1888, and was purchased by PG&E in 1905.

The plant was sold to Dynegy in 1998, and is listed on their site as Dynegy's Oakland Energy Facility. It is used to provide electricity only during peak demand periods, but I do not know how often it is used. The site was found to be contaminated with hazardous materials, including lead, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, diesel, motor oil and cyanide, and cleanup of the facility started in 2003. In late 2013, PG&E conducted an intensive 4-month cleanup of the site, as described here.

Amplification: This may have been a Great Western Power Co. facility. - ala

Part of the building! CC-BY Britta Gustafson

AT&T Buildings in Oakland

There's an AT&T building on Fruitvale Ave right above Foothill. Does anyone know what purpose this building serves? I've only been able to find info about the AT&T building downtown (but I also don't know what the purpose of this building is). According to Wikipedia, there is an AT&T switching center in Oakland, but there isn't more info about it. More info about these two AT&T buildings (and any other AT&T buildings in Oakland would be appreciated.

I've seen that building on Fruitvale, but I don't know what is is. I started a page on another AT&T building in Temescal, and encourage you to start pages for the others. - Gene

Downtown mystery building

It's at 17th and Franklin and appears to have no doors on the ground level (that I could see). It also doesn't have windows for big stretches of the building. Anyone know what this is?

It's an AT&T building, likely full of telephone equipment and computers. See the entry above this one. - Gene

photo by mk30


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