It was another warm, summer-like day last Wednesday when the Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group met at the Exedra. There was also another strong turn with thirty five walkers and two K-9 best friends on hand.
The walkers hadn’t been to the south side of Piedmont for a few weeks, and it had been over a year since they visited the Davie Tennis Stadium. It's a unique facility with some history in a beautiful setting. It has been described as a place where time stands still. Visitors always enjoy the stadium with its historic clubhouse, so it was selected as the destination for the morning’s walk.
The walkers decided to go to the stadium via Requa Road. They started off going through the top of Piedmont Park past the Community Hall where youth summer camp participants were outside and having fun. One young one asked the large group, “Who are you?” As the walkers approached the hall, frequent walker Christine Calliste, who works with Aaron Katzel and his family, was along the path with eight year old Charles Katzel. Aaron and Christine hadn’t planned on Charles joining the walk, but they quickly decided it was a good idea; so the group’s average age got immediately reduced with Charles’ participation. Additionally, Charles made for a third generation of Katzels being Wednesday walkers, as Arron’s parents, Monika and Lester, walked with the group earlier this spring when they were visiting from New York. Three generations of Wednesday walkers from one family was a happy first for the group.
The walkers made their way up the short hill past to the park’s two tennis courts and on to Guilford Road. They found and took the almost hidden, 153 foot path and steps down to Hazel Lane. At Hazel and Requa, the walkers regrouped and noted the large redwood tree that stands very near, almost in the street. The tree marks the entrance to the Hazel Lane loop. It was shared that this tree also marked the entrance to the first school in Piedmont. Amy Long hired Julia Morgan to design a school building with classroom and dormitory rooms on five acres of land that is now Hazel Lane, and opened the Miss Ransom and Miss Bridges School for Girls in 1913.
The walkers went down Requa Road enjoying its beautiful views of San Francisco, and were pleased that an elaborate gazebo, high above the street in a backyard, which was damaged in one of this past winter’s severe storms has been repaired. The group emerged on Wildwood Avenue and crossed it to go down Prospect Road. On Prospect they noted a vacate lot between two homes. In this hot real estate market they questioned if this might be a real estate opportunity. Unfortunately, Mike Henn had to bring the group back to earth by explaining this land was an EBMUB easement with a water pipe below, and nothing can be built on it. As they continued their walk the walkers looked for similar open spaces and found some.
The group continued on Prospect to Oakmont Avenue and then Oak Road to the entrance of the Davie Tennis Stadium. As they walked through its gates the strong smell of eucalyptus trees that surround the stadium welcomed them. It was noted that Frank C. Havens brought eucalyptus to the area from Australia with the idea that their wood would be a fast growing building material replacement for all the redwoods that were cut down during the area’s late 19th and early 20th Century boom. Unfortunately, the wood proved generally not suitable for lumber as it is quite heavy and shrinks when dry, which can cause splitting and cracking.
Inside the stadium more interesting information was shared. It was told that stone quarries were an important part of Oakland’s growth and development. In Oakland’s earliest days, construction materials like stone blocks or paving stones were often imported as sailing-ship ballast around Cape Horn. However, this was a difficult, highly dangerous, expensive, and slow way to build a town. Oakland’s geologic variability due to its position near the leading edge of a continental plate, which is the same condition which produces earthquakes, meant that a variety of useful construction material was readily obtainable from surface deposits or even outcroppings. Since much of Oakland’s period of most rapid growth occurred prior to the adoption of asphalt in the 1920s, macadam was used extensively in road building. This led to more than a few quarries throughout the area as the city grew.
A quarry was opened in 1878 by the Alameda Macadamizing Company, and reopened as the Piedmont Paving Company in about 1892. Its site is now the Davie Tennis Stadium. The land was given to the City of Oakland in 1931 by former Oakland mayor John L. Davie and his family. Mayor Davie announced this stadium project idea in 1921, though the property was not actually given to Oakland until 10 years later. The facility was finally built in 1936 and 37 as a Depression WPA project. The land is primarily in Piedmont, but Davie giving it to the City of Oakland may explain why the stadium is managed by the City of Oakland.
There are five tennis courts in the bowl that was the quarry. A clubhouse in front of the courts is a throwback to the 1930s. There was a summer youth tennis camp being conducted and more young people questioned who the visitors were. The walkers went into the clubhouse and admired the pictures and vintage wood tennis rackets hanging on the walls. It was like going back in time.
However, time was passing and it was time for the walkers to start their return. They exited the stadium and went up Park Lane and briefly crossed over into Oakland at Lakeshore Avenue before turning up Harvard Road and then Prospect to Wildwood Avenue. It was warming up and walking through the shaded Piedmont Park was welcomed for its cooler temperature and variety. There was a good deal of variety on this walk to the Davie Stadium with interesting sights, history, and young people with especially Charles Katzel, adding to its enjoyment.