It was relatively quiet at the Exedra last Wednesday morning at 10:30 as our Piedmont Recreation Department Walking on Wednesdays group assembled for our weekly walk. There was no sign of the frenzied, first-day-of-school rush that had gone on just two hours before around the center of Piedmont. It was another lovely morning and there was a strong turnout of 31 walkers and two K-9 best friends on hand.
As you know, we have an informal objective of walking every safe street in Piedmont each year. We have already gone to a large percentage of them, but there are still some streets off or near main thoroughfares that we haven’t gotten to yet. These are often streets not taken unless you live on them, are visiting someone, or are a Wednesday walker. We decided to go to some of
these streets with the aptly named Bellevue Avenue our first destination of the day.
This “roads not taken” theme provided a catalyst for Dave DeRoche with his baritone voice to read Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” to the group.
This poem ends with, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” It was noted that
one of the great things about Walking on Wednesdays is that we can take a less traveled Piedmont road one week, and then take the more traveled one the next Wednesday.
We started off for Bellevue, but instead of going straight to it via the often walked Mountain Avenue, we went behind the Exedra and walked through the upper portion of the Piedmont Park. We passed the Community Hall, the Tea House, and a pack of beautiful children in the tot lot who are still too young to have gone to school that morning.
We emerged on Highland Avenue, but instead of taking it, we crossed the street and went up the less traveled Sierra Avenue. On it, we stopped and talked about two Julia Morgan designed homes that architect Will Adams had pointed out on a tour he conducted for the group last year. Walker architect Jim Kellogg said he had been inside one of them and thinks its interior is one of Morgan’s best designs. However, Jim declined a request from the group to ring the house’s doorbell and see if we could take a tour. At the end of Sierra, on its corner with Highland, we also noticed and appreciated the window designs and the detailed carvings on the eves of a house there.
We came out on Highland, but only took a few steps on it and also Caperton Avenue before going up the little traveled Richardson Way. Richardson led us
to the also little traveled Lakeview Avenue, and then the little known Poplar Way. Some members of the group questioned if Poplar is a true Piedmont street, or just a “glorified alley.” It is a lovely roadway with
redwood and other trees, but no poplars that we could see. There is a house with a number on it, but a Zillow check confirmed that this is actually a Lakeview address. Poplar seems to be the backside, garage access for Lakeview and Mountain homes. We walked up Poplar, smiling for a camera as a
sign on a wall suggested, and came out on Mountain. We noted the large redwood tree in the middle of the street where Bellevue starts. There is a story told by some locals that this tree was planted long ago by the Chinese cook who worked at a nearby home. Walker Piedmont historian Meghan Bennett did some research and found in the 1940 Census that Earnest Houdlette, who lived at 335 Mountain, had a cook, Emma Degen, from 1936 to 1942, and that Emma made an annual salary of $960. This may not explain the tree, but it is interesting.
We started up Bellevue and came to the front gate of a beautiful, large home that is down a long driveway. In the front yard there is a majestic oak tree and a great view of San Francisco. Piedmont High alum Sherry Jacobs told the group she had years ago gone to a PHS Bird Callers reunion at the house, and had broken her high heal shoe when the heal got stuck between the driveway pavers. We took the attached group photo in front of the house.
Longtime walkers wanted to check out a home on Bellevue that was just starting to be rebuilt when we walked the street in 2019. It has been beautifully transformed, but work continues on. We continued on too. We went up Pacific and Hagar Avenues, enjoying fabulous, clear views of San Francisco along the way. On Bell Avenue there were more great views. See the also attached photos. From Bell we descended down Scenic Avenue to Alta Avenue and then back on Scenic to a 163 foot set of steep stairs, thankfully with a railing, to the lower portion of Scenic. On Scenic we noted the house where Xavier Martínez, a California artist of the late 19th and early 20th century and a well-known bohemian figure in San Francisco and the East Bay, lived. This section of Piedmont was a bit of an artist colony during that time.
It was then an easy return to town center via Blair, Pacific, Mountain, and Highland Avenues. It had been an exactly two mile walk in 90 minutes with beautiful homes and views enjoyed along many not-often-taken roads.