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Indian Gulch Walk


It was another wonderful fall morning last Wednesday for our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group. There was another large turnout at the Exedra with 48 walkers and three K-9 best friends on hand ready to enjoy our weekly walk.


There were a couple of announcements. First, Mary H shared that the League of Women Voters of Piedmont is having its Holiday Lunch and Program on December 2nd at the Piedmont Community Hall. Those interested should register by November 20th. Second, on our Thanksgiving Eve walk next Wednesday, we will do the Piedmont Turkey Trot's 5K route, as is our tradition, and be the first to cross the finish line once again this year.


As you know, we have an informal objective of walking every traffic-safe Piedmont street during the year, and at this point in the year there are only few we haven't gotten to. One street we have held off on is Indian Gulch Road off of Glen Alpine Road. It's a steep cul-de-sac that descends

down the hill you have just ascended. But during some our recent walks we had walked streets with some significant climbs (like Sylvan Way), and it seemed the group was ready for another challenge. There are also many beautiful homes to see on Glen Alpine, so Indian Gulch was the destination for the morning.


Off we went up Highland Avenue to Sheridan, Wildwood and Crocker Avenues. We went all the way up Crocker because we wanted to check the construction being done on Crocker house. This is an Albert Farr designed home that was built in 1906 when a garage was not considered necessary. Now, the house is getting one. We have been watching the progress. The front yard has been deeply carved out, concrete retaining walls have been built, and now walls are being erected. We stopped across the street to inspect, and asked one of the workers how much longer it will take to complete the project. The answer was another three months. Matt G was skeptical, and we intend to monitor the progress on future walks.


We continued up Hampton Road and stopped where Glen Alpine runs into it. Drawing on the Piedmont Historical Society's research, it was shared that in 1911 Louis Titus, a successful Berkeley real estate developer bought 50 acres in these Piedmont hills. He intended to build a Spanish-Italian mansion to be called "Greenacres." However, in 1912 Mayor Hugh Craig and the city's Board of Trustees, now called the City Council, decided that new property taxes were needed to pay for the new city's police, fire, street paving, and other public services. They passed new taxes based on the amount of land owned, and Titus' taxes were increased to a reported $200,000. He decided Piedmont was not such a great place for this mansion and moved on. Greenacres was never built.


During our last walk to the Glen Alpine/Sotelo Avenues loop in August, we had looked at three beautiful homes that were for sale. Three months later the walkers were interested if they sold. One of them, 395 Hampton, was right there where we had stopped. It is a 1928 Albert Farr-designed, 8 bedroom/9 bath, 11,150 square foot mansion on .93 acres and has a permitted

ADU next door at 1 Glen Alpine Road. It was listed in August at $18.5 million. It is still for sale, and now priced at $16.8 million.


We continued up Glen Alpine and soon came to Indian Gulch. The walkers had their choice of either going down the hill, or staying up top; and everyone was ready to go. But before we did, walker Jim Kellogg, who served on the Piedmont Planning Commission, told the story of the approval process for a home being built at the end of the street years ago. It got complicated and

eventually the City Public Works and Fire Department required the road to be enlarged to insure fire safety. We went looking for the home. It's secluded, back off the street with lots of tall vegetation hiding it. Only a small piece of the house could be seen, but the greenery provided a lovely background for a group photo. We then retraced our steps up Indian Gulch and proclaimed the climb wasn't that hard after all.


Next up was the story of James Tyson. He was a wealthy lumber and shipping businessman. In 1914 Tyson purchased 30 acres from Titus' tract to build his estate, which he named "Oakmont," at what is now 70 Sotelo. He also build a carriage house as a garage and servant quarters where he and his wife could live temporarily while supervising the construction of their new home. This

carriage house is now a lovely home at 45 Glen Alpine. It has 11 bedrooms and 9 baths in 8,692 square feet.


Near the top of Glen Alpine we came upon a new, large, modern house whose construction progress we have watched on past walks. It now seems complete, and is the latest addition to this neighborhood of beautiful homes.


At the very top of Glen Alpine is another very large, beautiful mansion. 75 Glen Alpine is a 5 bedroom/8 bath, 11,938 square foot, French revival chateau built in 1926 on 1.62 acres. It was listed for $11.5 million in August, but has been taken off the market. Just to its left are Tyson's

original, two sandstone pillars with the words, "Oakmont" and "70 Sotelo" on them. However, the Oakmont mansion, which he completed in 1916, no longer exists, as it was demolished in 1964. The pillars formerly marked the entrance and long driveway to Tyson's now-gone home. A gated driveway now leads to new homes built on the former Oakmont site.


We turned down Sotelo, and as we went we were able to get a peak of Tyson Lake through the backyards of homes along the way. This lake was another Tyson creation. After he build Oakmont he dammed the creek that ran through his property and created a reservoir for his sons to swim. The lake is now owned and managed by a neighborhood association.


The final stop was another home that was for sale in August. 7 Sotelo is a smaller, but lovely home built in 1948. It has three bedroom and three baths in 2,945 square feet and a newer design. It was listed at $2.75 million, and sold for $2.595 million.


All the hill climbing and home admiring had taken more than our target of 90 minutes for our walks, and it was time to make a direct return to the Exedra. It had been almost a four mile walk, but we had handled it well. We seem ready for the Piedmont Turkey Trot next week.


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