School is out and the weather is good, so the Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group decided it was a good time to visit Beach School and the Linda Playfield next to it. Two dozen walkers and one K-9 best friend were at the Exedra on a lovely morning, July 14, to take a long walk.
A long line of walkers headed down Magnolia Avenue, went on Bonita and caused a minor traffic delay while crossing Oakland Avenue due to the size of the group. Some walkers said they hadn’t recently walked on Bonita and admired the homes and yards.
The group paused at Latham Street, where they were joined for the first time by Rebekah Wild- man and Michael Denning. It was an ideal time for one of the group’s favorite trivia questions: What is the only street in Piedmont? The answer is Latham Street. All other streets are named Avenue, Drive, Road, Way or Boulevard.
They continued on Oakland Avenue to an entry to Linda Playfield on Howard Avenue, but found the gate locked with a chain and a sign saying the field was closed for summer Rec, Department youth activities. On the field were a swarm of young people enjoying themselves. While there they talked about its history, the townhomes recently built replacing a former PG&E substation, as well as the City’s plans for future development of the space.
The walkers went up Howard to Lake Avenue and a half block to the entrance of Beach School where they talked about the school’s history and took a group photo.
The history of Beach School starts with the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Thousands of people fled the city, and many made their new homes in the East Bay. In fact, Piedmont grew ten times over the next year and was incorporated in September 1907. The city’s leaders decided to build two schools to serve the growing community. Piedmont’s first school (Havens) opened in 1911 and was originally named the Bonita Avenue School. It was later renamed Frank C. Havens School after the land donor. It quickly filled to capacity and the Lake Avenue School was built in 1913 to meet the demand for more classrooms. Four teachers taught 100 students in six grades. In 1918 the school was renamed the Egbert W. Beach School in honor of Egbert William Beach, the first Piedmont resident to give his life in World War I.
Beach School’s original build- ing was condemned as a fire and earthquake danger in 1933. It was torn down in 1934 and replaced by two separate WPA projects. The school’s main wing was built in 1936 and the auditorium and class- room wing was added in 1940. The school enjoyed the long-tenured guidance of Piedmonter Nancy McHugh, who served as principal from 1979 to 2007. Later, as part of a set of city- wide school seismic upgrades, Beach hosted part of Havens School’s student body for the 2009-10 school year while aa new Havens School was being built. The following year, Wildwood School students also shared the Beach campus when their school was being reconstructed. In 2011- 12, Beach School was renovated and its students were relocated to Emeryville using school buses daily for the year.
The updated 2012 facilities included two new classrooms, new outdoor/playground facilities, edible garden, and seismic upgrades. The Linda playfield is located next to Beach School along Linda Avenue and has two tennis courts, a soccer and baseball field, a small tots’ play structure, and a sand area with picnic tables.
Upon leaving, the walkers talked with workers installing new padding under a play structure, then crossed Grand Avenue, and noted the location of the original A Mon Chateau beer garden in 1892. They walked up Fairview Avenue, which once was on the route of the early twentieth century Key Route 12 electric streetcar line, and later the home of a wild turkey named Gerald that the group had seen on a 2019 walk. The group emerged on Oakland Avenue, continued to upper San Carlos Avenue, and then made the final climb up Magnolia and back to the Exedra.
It was over three miles and a 1-hour 40-minute walk with local history, some elevation, and a little warmer temperature at the end, but an enjoyable time with new and old walking friends.