It was another great weather morning for our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group last Wednesday. It was cloudy and cool, and there was a strong turnout of 44 walkers at the Exedra at our usual start time to enjoy it.
The group likes to walk Piedmont streets in all directions, but we had not been to the south side of town for a while. It was suggested we could walk to Prospect Avenue, Oakmont Avenue, and Oak Road, and go to Davie Tennis Stadium to see this part of the city.
However, the nearby Yulan Magnolia tree in front of the Community Hall was blooming beautifully. This tree is one of the Piedmont Parks Department's "Heritage Trees." The goals of this program are to recognize distinctive trees in Piedmont's parks, encourage residents to visit City parks and open spaces, and for them to study nature. These are naturals for us.
This Yulan Magnolia is one of 19 current Heritage Trees in the city that the Parks Department started to designate 2018, and they ask for new nominations each year in March. Checking the program's City website, we could visit eight of the current trees on our way to Davie Stadium. Later, we could walk to the other 11 trees, and submit our own candidate afterwards. As we were gathering, Parks Department Manager Nancy Kent walked by on her way to a meeting. She was happy we were going to see the trees, and said we should suggest a tree next month. It seemed a Walking on Wednesdays Heritage Tree was destined.
All we needed to do to get started was look up at the trees that surround the Exedra Plaza. This grove of ten Highland poplars are Heritage Trees. They are a hybrid of two North American plain poplars native to the northern hemisphere. We then walked behind the Exedra to the path that goes to the Community Hall. Along the way was our second Heritage Tree, a large, twisting Coast live oak that some walkers have used in family photos. It's a Piedmont treasure, and native to California's central valleys, as far north as Mendocino County, and as far south as northern Baja California in Mexico.
Further along, in front of the Community Hall, was the Yulan Magnolia. It is native to central and eastern China, is deciduous, and produces stunning white flowers this time of year before its leaves emerge. This tree was planted by arborist and former Piedmont Public Works superintendent Dave Frankel. We thought it was beautiful, and we took the attached group photo
in front of it. Another Heritage Tree, the Coast redwood that serves as Piedmont's lighted holiday tree, was right behind it. This species is native to the fog belt from southwest Oregon to the central California coast. There are two other Heritage Trees in the immediate area, Japanese maples that are native to Japan, Korea, China, eastern Mongolia, and southeast Russia, and
also a group of Akebono cherries, near the Tea House, that are native to Japan. These trees were still hibernating, but their beauty will be visible very soon.
We continued on through the top of the park and made our way up the short hill to Guilford Road. We found the almost hidden, 153 foot path and steps down to Hazel Lane. At Hazel and Requa Road, we regrouped and noted another large Coast redwood tree that is also a Heritage Tree. It stands almost in the street in front of 71 Hazel Lane. This spot was once the entrance to the
first school in Piedmont, the Miss Ransom and Miss Bridges School for Girls. It was opened in 1913 by Amy Long, who hired Julia Morgan to design the school building on five acres that is now Hazel Lane.
We went down Requa, enjoying its beautiful views of San Francisco, and emerged on Wildwood Avenue. We went to the top of the steps that go down to Witter Field and saw our last Heritage Trees for the morning. These Eastern redbuds are native to the eastern United States, and were also still sleeping. Now it was on to the Davie Stadium. We crossed Wildwood Avenue and went down Prospect Road to Oakmont Avenue. Before entering the stadium, we took a short side trip to Lois Price's home on Oak Road. Lois showed us the decorative metalwork on the front gate and entrance to her house that her builder, Daryl Rush, had created for her.
The stadium was just a short walk away. The smell of Eucalyptus trees that surround the stadium was very present. These trees are not native. Frank C. Havens brought them here from Australia with the idea that their wood would be a fast growing material replacement for the redwoods that were cut down during the area's late 19th and early 20th Century boom. Unfortunately, Eucalyptus wood proved generally not suitable for lumber. It is heavy and shrinks when dry, which can cause splitting and cracking.
Stone quarries were an important part of Oakland's growth and development. In the area'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, 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 a variety of useful construction material was readily obtainable from surface deposits or even outcroppings. This led a number of quarries in the area.
On the site that is now the Davie Stadium, a quarry was opened in 1878 by the Alameda Macadamizing Company, and reopened as the Piedmont Paving Company in about 1892. The land was given to the City of Oakland in 1931 by former Oakland mayor John L. Davie and his family. The facility was 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 probably explains why the stadium is managed by 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. Some walkers went in 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 we had to start our return. We exited the stadium, went up Park Lane, briefly crossed into Oakland at Lakeshore Avenue, before going up Harvard Road, Prospect, Wildwood Avenues, and then walking through Piedmont Park to the Community Hall. It had been about a three mile walk filled with Heritage Trees and history, and with more to come on future Wednesday walks.