Our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group knows that Piedmont has lots of wonderful roadways. But there is only one named a"street," that is Latham Street, and there is only one Grand Avenue. We hadn't walked the entire length of Grand Avenue, both its upper and lower parts, for over a year, and we thought it was time to do it again.
There was a strong, first week of summer vacation turnout of 42 walkers and two K-9 best friend on hand at the Exedra.
We headed off, going down Magnolia Avenue past the summer vacation quiet high school, and the not so quiet work being done on the site for the new Aquatics Center. A large earth mover was creating big mounds of earth. A tall deodar cedar on Magnolia at Hillside Avenue was noted and appreciated. We continue to San Carlos Avenue, which might also be called Rose Avenue for
all the beautiful flowers in its front yards, and we took its lower portion to Oakland Avenue. We crossed Oakland at Latham, and explained to young Lucia why it is the only street in Piedmont.
We went down Jerome and Cambridge Avenues to a traffic island at the bottom of Lower Grand Avenue. We posed for a group photo in front of two pillars that marked the entrance to the Piedmont Manor real estate neighborhood whose first home was sold in 1906. We made our way up Lower Grand and stopped at its end on Arroyo Avenue. There the history of Grand Avenue from
Piedmont Historical Society President Gail Lombardi's past Post articles was shared.
Back in the 1870s, today's Grand Avenue was known as Pleasant Valley Road. It ran from Lake Merritt to the Piedmont hills. Today, the street in Piedmont is Grand Avenue until it crosses the Oakland city line where it becomes Pleasant Valley again. At what is now Grand and Linda Avenues a restaurant named "A Mon Chateau" (My Castle) was built in 1892. Over time, it had a number of owners and a troubled history with the police because of owner and patron behaviors, which included having no liquor licenses and gambling. In 1914 the building became the Grand Avenue Grocery Company and the Del Monte Market in 1922.
In 1929 the Piedmont City Council adopted an ordinance that allowed businesses from the city line to Linda Avenue on the west side of Grand Avenue, and to Fairview Avenue on the east side. Seven months later voters rejected another zoning ordinance to extend the business district to Oakland Avenue. Today, the business district on Grand Avenue remains the same as it was in 1929.
In the 1930's Piggly Wiggly, a division of Safeway, opened a second grocery store up the street at the corner of Sunnyside and Grand. The competition was stiff for the Del Monte Market. It floundered and closed, and the A Mon Chateau building was torn down. A series of gas stations later occupied the site. Finally, in 1987 the block-long, current Piedmont Financial Center
was built there. Further down the street was a not very successful "Big T" grocery store, which eventually became today's Ace Hardware.
We safely crossed the busy Grand Avenue and made our way down Grand. We were impressed by a modern, new home on an uphill lot that had once been vacant for decades. We had seen it when it was under construction over a year ago and the finished product is beautiful.
We came to Linda Avenue and noted the site of the former A Mon Chateau restaurant. We continued to the cross walk at Ace Hardware. On the other side of Grand we could see an Oakland City Limits sign that confirmed we had walked the entire Piedmont length of Grand Avenue.
We made the long, uphill walk back to the Exedra via Wildwood and Magnolia Avenues, and completed our Grand three mile walk. Along the way, young Lucia alternated doing cart wheels and being carried by her mother. It was great to be young, or in our case young at heart, on a June morning in Piedmont.
Attached is the group photo, and I'm also attaching some historical photos of the Grand Avenue area that Meghan Bennett sent.