Last Wednesday was another walking-perfect morning for our Piedmont
Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group. Morning overcast make
it just a little cool, but the temperature very quickly became just right
The Tuesday walk reminder/preview email that was sent to the group said this
week's walk would be "relatively flat." Many members of the group remembered
the 1950s Groucho Marx television program You Bet Your Life. It was a comedy
quiz show where Groucho interviewed contestants, and if they said "the magic
word" a Groucho-look-alike duck prop with a cigar in its mouth would come
down and award them a cash prize. We agreed that "a flat walk" are magic
words for some walkers to come down to the Exedra. Thirty-two walkers and
two K-9 best friends were ready for some fun too.
Three weeks before, Charlene Louie had taken us on a tour of the Piedmont
streets that were once on the lower portion of the Key System Number 10
line. This system provided local transportation for Piedmont and the rest of
the Bay Area in the first half of the 20th Century. The 10 route went from
Piedmont Avenue to the center of Piedmont and continued on to what is now
Crocker Park at Crocker Avenue and Hampton Road.
While we have walked this upper section of the 10 line from the Exedra to
Crocker Park many times, we hadn't done it recently looking for historical
telltale signs of the route's former presence. There are also some
interesting streets and fun sights to see in the area, and the 10 line's
upper route was decided on for the morning's walk.
We headed out, going up Highland Avenue, and the first reminder of the old
10 route was quickly seen. The parking lot in front of the Piedmont
Community Hall was once Key System right-of-way land. A little further up
Highland, the large, open lawn across from Guilford Avenue at the corner of
Sheridan Avenue was also part of the 10's route.
We crossed Highland and went up Sheridan to the small pocket park at the
corner of Sheridan and Caperton Avenues. It has its own history. The
Licht/Bloch family who built the home next to the park took care of the park
for many years. However, when Sam Bloch, the last member of the family to
live in the house, sold it, the City took over the park's maintenance. A
plaque on a bench in the park commemorated in 1997 Bev and Sam Block's "50
It was shared that there are five, infill homes in the immediate area that
were built on land from the 10 route. The first is right next to the park,
and was built in 1949. Architect walkers Bob Wong and Jim Kellogg talked
about the homes' designs and told the group that in the years soon after
World War II there was a need for housing. This home and some of the others
were probably built to address it. Across the street is another house that
was on the 10 route.
Interestingly, it was built later in 1967, and is larger. Susan Tornlof
shared that she grew up in Piedmont during this period and there was
considerable Piedmont home construction on empty lots at that time. We gave
the two houses a good look over, and noted that the architectural styles of
these homes are very different from the surrounding, older homes that were
built in the 1910s and 20s. We were also surprised how close the older homes
were to where the streetcars ran. We took the attached group photo there on
From Caperton we went back to Sheridan and Wildwood to see three other homes
built on Key System land. These homes were also built in 1949 and 1950. It
was noted that the home on Wildwood is next to the large home that Frank C.
Havens built in 1915, and originally planned for his residence. However, his
wife didn't like how the house turned out, and Havens built another mansion
in what is now Wildwood Gardens. The infill home next to Havens' originally
intended home is long and narrow to fit on the land where the trains ran.
We crossed Wildwood Avenue and walked through the Hall Fenway. The trains
once ran here too. A plaque in the fenway says it was created in memory of
San G. and Herbert E. Hall. The fenway has been beautifully landscaped and
maintained by the Piedmont Beautification Foundation since 1964. It was easy
to imagine streetcars rolling through this spot on their way to the end of
the line at what is now Crocker Park. It was reported that the home just
above the fenway, on the corner of Wildwood and Crocker, was the site of a
stationhouse for the streetcar line.
We emerged on to Crocker, crossed it, and went up Hampton Road past Crocker
Park. This park is also known as "Bear Park" because of the Benny Bufano
granite sculpture of a mother bear and her twin cubs in the park's center.
We walked up Hampton to the landscaped triangle at the corner with Indian
Road. It was shared that it is believed this is where the trains' turnaround
and overnight parking spot once were.
We turned down Indian to an interesting, short section of road between the
upper and lower portions of LaSalle Avenue. This short part of the street is
only about 100 feet long, but few people realize it actually bisects LaSalle
before LaSalle continues on to the southern portion of Crocker Avenue, while
Indian Road continues on to the Oakland/Piedmont city border. We had a fun
discussion about whether this section of road is LaSalle Avenue or Indian
Road. A couple of addresses on homes voted for Indian. However, it was not
completely clear as the names on the street signs overlap, and it seemed
curious that either LaSalle or Indian would have a gap in it. Maybe this
little portion of road is both LaSalle Avenue and Indian Road.
We went up to the corner where LaSalle clearly resumes and went up it to
Crocker. All the historical talk had taken most of our normal 90 minutes
walking time, and going back Crocker would have been the fastest way to the
town center. However, a group of walkers decided that they didn't want to
walk the same streets. They took possession of the group's imaginary
leader's flag and continued on LaSalle to Muir Avenue, Lafayette Avenue,
Woodland Way, Wildwood Gardens, Wildwood Avenue, Highland Avenue, and
returned to the Community Hall parking lot; which again was once on the Key
System's 10 route. We had made our full loop, covering the Number 10 upper
route with lots of interesting sights and history along the way in a little
over 90 fun minutes.