It was a cool, overcast morning on June 30 when the Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walk- ing on Wednesday group assembled at the Exedra. The weather was great for walking and helped bring out a strong showing of 29 walkers and two special guests. Piedmont Recreation Director Chelle Putzer was there to introduce new Recreation Supervisor Eva Phalen to the group. Chelle and Eva worked together at the Albany Recreation Department, and Eva told the group a little more about her background and desires for programing in Piedmont.
Drawing on Gail Lombardi’s Piedmont Historical Society articles in the Post, the walkers learned about the commercial his- tory of Grand Avenue. In 1929 the Piedmont City Council adopted an ordinance that allowed businesses on the west side of the street from the Oakland city line at Wildwood Avenue to Linda Avenue, and also on the east side of the street to Fairview Avenue. Seven months later, voters rejected extending the business district to Oakland Avenue, and it remains the same to this day.
Going down Magnolia Avenue, the group took a side trip on Jerome Avenue to see Keefer Court, a cul-de-sac that has homes with wonderfully unique, cactus front yard gardens. Dick Carter introduced himself to a resident, only to discover it was Ginny Hart Wright, a Piedmont High classmate of Dick’s. Ginny told the group that a number of years back the son of one of the homeowners replaced his parents’ front yard plants with what is now a beautiful cactus garden.
The walkers went to Grand Avenue, and at the corner of Grand and Linda, the history of the city’s earliest businesses at the site was told from Gail Lombardi’s article. In 1892 Axel R. Gruggel built a restaurant at this corner and called it A Mon Chateau (My Castle). He also had a beer garden in the back on the Linda Avenue side of the restaurant. From 1903 on, the restaurant had a series of owners and issues. In 1907 three bachelors operated it and lived on the second floor. They sold wine, liquor, and cigars in addition to dinners, and the neighbors didn’t like all the noise. In 1907 the new City of Piedmont passed liquor licensing regulations, and when the bachelors applied for a license they were denied. However, they continued to sell liquor and in 1908 they were arrested and their liquor was confiscated.
In 1911 a new owner changed the restaurant into “The Piedmont Casino.” In two rooms upstairs patrons played poker and faro, but gambling was illegal. The casino was raided in 1912 and nine card-players were arrested and each fined $55. Not surprisingly, the casino closed soon after. In 1914 the restaurant’s building become the Grand Avenue Grocery Company, and in 1922 the Del Monte Market. They did well, but later Piggly Wiggly opened a supermarket just down the street at Sunnyside and Grand. It was tough competition and the Del Monte Market closed in 1935. The old A Mon Chateau building was torn down in 1936 and the Richfield Oil Company built a gas station on the site. Other gas station companies later owned the site. In 1987 Chevron sold the property, and the current two-story Piedmont Financial Center was built there.
The large group crossed Grand Avenue at Ace Hardware, stopping a good number of cars in the process. They went up Wild- wood Avenue to Palm Drive, where Sherry Jacobs pointed out a home on Magnolia Avenue that was once a summer home of the Coit family of San Francisco tower fame. It had been an almost three-mile walk in an hour and a half with interesting history and friends on a pleasant morning. The group invited Phalen to join them on future walks.