The Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group decided to take a long walk to the beautiful streets of Glen Alpine Road and Sotelo Avenue last Wednesday, December 4, an area with a rich history. Though it was a cold, fall morning with clouds and occasional showers, and the potential for more rain, the majority of the 14 walkers chose the Glen Alpine-Sotelo loop as the day's destination.
Before starting, they were happy to welcome new, first-time walkers Rhonda and Scott to the group.
The walkers headed out on Highland Avenue and quickly were discussing Piedmont his- tory. They stopped in the small park at the corner of Sheridan and Caperton Avenues to discuss its Key System train line heritage. The small park is land that was once part of the long Number 10 line that, in the first half of the 20th Century, ran from Piedmont Avenue to Crocker Park.
Looking back from this park to the center of Piedmont, the group noted that the large lawn along Highland Avenue opposite to Guilford Road is more of the old Key System right of way. With the understanding that the train line once ran through these streets, it was easy to recognize that the homes on Caperton, Sheridan, and Wildwood Avenues with long, lean footprints were built on land that was made available when the trains stopped running in the middle of the last century.
It was also noted how many lovely lovely homes once had train tracks. in their backyards, but most likely relatively quiet electric trains.
The walkers continued up Wildwood Avenue through the Hall Fenway and Crocker Park, both of which were once Key System land too. They enjoyed seeing the landscaped triangle at Hampton and Indian Roads, once the site of the Number 10 train turnaround.
The walkers continued up Hampton past the huge eucalyptus trees at its intersection with St. James Drive, and on to the beginning of Glen Alpine Road. The drizzle had increased and under the protection of some tree branches the history of this neighborhood was shared from an article that had appeared in an issue of the Piedmont Historical Society's Piedmont History magazine. It was suggested that those who enjoy knowing about the history of Piedmont should consider joining the Historical Society.
The walkers went the length of Glen Alpine, with a short walk down and back on Indian Gulch Road. This cul-de-sac still had many trees with beautiful, red. fall color. The walkers learned that the Glen. Alpine-Sotelo neighborhood was once going to be the grand estate of Louis Titus. In 1911 he purchased 50 acres of this land and was preparing to build a magnificent two-story mansion that was to be named "Greenacres. 99 However, it was never built.
The new City of Piedmont needed money and established property taxes based on the size of land that the residents owned. Titus' taxes on his 50 acres were to increase to the equivalent of $200,000 in 1913. He decided that Piedmont was not such a great place to live after all and left the city. The land was developed as the Piedmont Acres Tract, and is now the Glen Alpine-Sotelo neighborhood. In 1914 James Tyson, a wealthy lumber and shipping businessman, bought about 30 acres of this land to build a two-story, ten-room house. He also built a two-story carriage house that is now 45 Glen Alpine. When Tyson's main home was completed in 1916 he erected two sandstone pillars to mark his estate's entrance. They are still there with the words "Oakmont" and «70 Sotelo" on them. The home was demolished in 1964 and a new home on the site was constructed. The gate with its road to the home beyond was open, and Mike and Scott were too curious to pass, up the opportunity to see the property. They returned with a photo of a lovely home that could not be seen from the street.
By then it was time to get back to the Exedra. The 3-mile exploration was done in two hours in less than ideal weather. However, everyone agreed it had been a great walk and excellent way to spend a rainy morning.