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Little Pocket of Streets -

Our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group continued

to live our charmed weather life last Wednesday. It was a beautiful, mild,

sunny morning, but the forecast was for needed, heavy rain on Thursday.

Timing is everything and we seem to have it when it comes to the weather.

A solid turnout of 35 veteran walkers and three K-9 best friends were at the

Retired Piedmont High teacher Mike Humphries, who showed us his

garage-filling model trains earlier in the year, had called to tell us if

our kids or grandkids would like to see his holiday Polar Bear Express train

setup, he would be happy to have us visit.

Lastly, I shared that I am going to have some skin surgery next week that

unfortunately has a four to six week do-nothing period after it. I'm going

to be fine, but probably not going to be able to lead walks until

mid-January. Melba Y. and others are organizing a plan where walkers will

lead individual walks during this period.

As you know, we have an informal objective of walking every safe-walking

street in Piedmont each year. It was almost December and there are only a

few we haven't gotten to. One little pocket of streets was Cambrian Way and

parts of Jerome and Howard Avenues. We wanted to check them off, and along

the way we could also go up and down the short Hillside Court off Magnolia

Avenue, which we have passed many times on walks, but hadn't gone to in a

couple of years. So this was the suggested plan sent to the group the night


When Piedmont Historical Society president Gail Lombardi read about the

walk, she responded with some excitement, "You are in for a treat. The house

at the bottom of Hillside Court (415) is a real gem with a river rock base.

The designer was Verb Strang who designed a handful of distinct houses in

Piedmont." Gail went on, "Also, if you walk Jerome north of Oakland Avenue,

you'll see a cluster of Queen Anne houses, some of the oldest houses in

Piedmont dating back to the 1890s. Lots of choices."

We headed off, going down Magnolia Avenue past the high school, to the top

of Hillside Court. We went down its steep hill to 415. Zillow research had

revealed that the house was built in 1904. It is a charming home with, as

Gail said, a base made up of large river rocks. As we were admiring it, John

Randolph, the long-time owner, came out and talked with us about his home.

Not only did Verb Strang design the home, he also lived in it. He designed

some other homes in Piedmont, but many more in Alameda. John said the house

is beautiful, but like most old homes it is a "maintenance sink." We

appreciated John's hospitality and posed with him in front of his house for

the attached group photo.

As we started back up the hill, a neighbor, Mike C, was there to

share with us more neighborhood history. First, he pointed out that the

telephone pole at the bottom on the street does not have a cell phone signal

booster, as was once proposed. That's because Mike was able to show the pole

is curiously on the private property of one of the residents, not on public

land. Mike also shared more history of the street, including how the City

bought the land, which went all the way down to what is now Witter Field,

for one piece of gold.

We learned more about Hillside Court from John and Mike than we had

expected. Thanks were expressed and we continued on to Jerome and its own

unique, old homes. We walked down Jerome, passing a Frosty the Snowman along

the way, and crossed Oakland Avenue looking for a set of the homes. When we

came to 31 Jerome a dog on its front porched served territorial notice with

prolonged barking, and architects Jim Kellogg and Bob Wong provided

background on Queen Anne homes. They are Victorian-style houses that have

specific features, like dynamic, asymmetrical facades, wraparound porches,

towers and turrets, multicolored palettes, steep roofs with cross gables or

large dormers, and expansive porches with decorative wood trim.

31 Jerome seems to be the oldest on the street and was built in 1894. Jim

Kellogg shared more history from his and Mike Henn's time on the Piedmont

Planning Commission. Some years back the new owner took on the significant

job of restoring the home with its brick foundation. There was also a

dilapidated horse stable in the back that was falling down. They were saved

and restored. Jim described the house as a storybook, Queen Anne "cutie."

Next door is 29 Jerome, a home built in 1895, which we enjoyed too.

The group went on to Cambridge Way. We went down it, crossed Grand Avenue

and continued up it, passing some very old palm trees in front yards.

Cambridge ends at Howard Avenue, and we started our return to the Exedra,

going down and then up Oakland Avenue to Arbor Drive, Fairview Avenue,

Oakland Avenue again, upper San Carlos Avenue, and finally Magnolia Avenue.

It was a little over a two mile walk in 90 minutes with interesting, old

Piedmont homes and history, welcoming people, and walking friends.

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