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Grand Avenue Heights

Our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group had a large turnout of 45 walkers and two K-9 best friends at the Exedra last Wednesday for our weekly walk. Before we got started it was shared that because of a mix-up with the Piedmont Post its usual Walking on Wednesdays article was not in this week's paper, so the walkers would not have their pictures in it. The group did not seem overly concerned and took the news in stride, literally and


There were at least two good reasons for the large number of walkers on hand. First, it was a sunny, mild day and rain was forecast for Thursday. Second, the planned route was to take us to previously unexplored heights. Jane Holland had shared information about an early Oakland and Piedmont "Grand Avenue Heights" neighborhood that most of us didn't know about. It was development in 1907 and bordered on Grand Avenue with lots on Boulevard Way, Crofton, Fairbanks, Walker, and Weldon Avenues.

In 1910 the Oakland Tribune wrote, "Grand Avenue Heights is situated on Grand Avenue between the head of Lake Merritt and Piedmont. At one time, this area was called Pleasant Valley. Grand Avenue Heights enjoys the finest climate in Oakland (and that means the best in the State). It is the greatest place in the world for children who can sleep out upon the sleeping porches 365 nights in the year. It is free from fog and heavy winds. It is between the two most fashionable residential districts in the county - Adams Point and Piedmont." The advertisements also referred to the development as "Grand Avenue Heights (By The Parks)," and it was in fact between Piedmont Park and Lake Merritt.

We had never walked some of these Grand Avenue Heights streets, or talked about the development, so the plan for the morning was to learn about it and see some of its homes. Some research told that the Frank K. Mott Company was the development's sales agent and it proclaimed, "Soon to be the center of Oakland's most exclusive residence district . it overlooks Piedmont Park. part of the development is in Piedmont." On Oct 21, 1908 the Oakland Tribune reported, "Over 3,000 people attended the opening day sale, and they sold between $50,000 and $79,000 in lots that first day. The average lot was about $2,000 with $300 down and $25 a month."

Fittingly, we started off for the streets of Grand Avenue Heights by going through the Piedmont Park. We emerged on Wildwood Avenue and stopped to view the new artificial turf below that has been laid on Witter Field. The football field markings are done and PHS sports are being played on it.

However, the surrounding track has not been resurfaced because its curing process takes about a month and the surface can't be walked on during that time. So, the field will be closed during this summer while the track work is being done.

We went to the "Five Way Stop" on Wildwood, up Warfield Avenue, and down it to Boulevard Way. On Boulevard a unique, portable, little home on wheels was parked. It was obviously not part of the Grand Avenue Heights development. We could tell when we were leaving Piedmont and crossing the border into Oakland by a license plate reader pole, the change in house numbers, and the Oakland streets signs with little oak trees on them.

We went up Crofton and took the attached group photo at its corner with Walker in front of a Grand Avenue Heights home that was built in 1914. I'm also attaching a historical photo of the area that Meghan Bennett shared. On Walker we inspected two neighboring homes that were built in 1910 and 1914.

We went down Weldon to Grand and up it. We passed a building that will be soon be a new cannabis shop, and a One Medical center that was once a Silver Screen movie rental store, and a home that the Oakland Tribune reported in 1911 cost $10,000.

We made our return to the Exedra going up Boulevard past homes build in 1912 to Warfield and the Five Way Stop. For route variety and a change of pace we went across Winsor Avenue to Park View and Magnolia Avenue. The temperature was rising and it had turned out to be a noticeably warm morning so extra layers were no longer necessary. It was also a little longer walk than usual, but no one seemed to mind. We had been to the heights.


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