The rain had come and gone, and last Wednesday was a beautiful day for the Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays walkers to explore more Piedmont streets. There was another strong turnout of 25 walkers at the Exedra. I
As the walkers assembled, Priscilla Wanerus saw a couple standing near the Exedra and watching the group. In a welcoming manner that is common for the walkers, Priscilla went over and asked them if they would like to join the group. It turned out that Jill and Ron Day had arrived the day before from Great Britain. Covid travel restrictions had kept them from coming to see their son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters, who now live in Piedmont, for two years and they were in town for three weeks. Jill and Ron are walkers and had heard about Walking on Wednesdays. They said they had been fully “jabbed,” and the walkers were delighted to have them on the walk.
The Wednesday walkers try to walk every safe Piedmont street during the year. It is getting near the end of 2021, so they were interested in going to streets that they hadn’t visited recently. Rose Avenue and other nearby streets are on the southwest edge of Piedmont at the Oakland border, and the group hadn’t gone to them for well over a year. It was a bit of a hike, but it was a beautiful day and the group was up for it.
Additionally, Alicia Rivera knew that her longtime friends, the Hardys, had once lived on Nace. Alicia reached out to Greg Hardy, who provide some historical information about his old neighborhood that Alicia shared. This section of Piedmont goes back to the city’s early days, shortly after its founding in 1907. The streets, Nace, Howard, and Lake, were are built around 1908. The oldest houses on Nace are the “Gibson House” at 46 Nace, built in 1910, and the “Govan House” at 18 Nace, built in 1911. Walker Pat Keller, who lives on Nace, knew her home was built in 1914. Greg also shared that his family’s old neighbor, Mrs. Gibson, grew up at 46 Nace. She once told Greg that her father was the original owner of the house. Greg said there is currently a giant tree in front of the house that Mrs. Gibson remembered planting with her father sometime in the 1920s.
These streets with all the information that put them into an historical context were an inviting destination, and off the walkers went. They passed the new Piedmont High School, which looks nearly complete, and continued down Magnolia Avenue to the lower section of the divided San Carlos Avenue. This was another street the group had not recently walked, and they found it charming. Roses were still in bloom in neatly cared for front yards. The group always enjoys finding new pathways, and mid-street they noticed a set of stairs to the upper portion of San Carlos.
The walkers emerged on Oakland Avenue and crossed it at Latham Street. Stopping there provided the opportunity to share a curious bit of Piedmont trivia with their English visitors. The walkers told the Days that Latham is the only “street” in Piedmont. All the other streets are called “drives,” “ways,” “courts,” “places,” etc. The walkers went down Greenbank Avenue, another street not recently walked, crossed Oakland Avenue, and continued up the steep Greenbank. The trees had bright, fall colors; and one large, tree has a long swing on it next to the sidewalk. It was enticing, but none of the walkers tried it out.
The group went all the way up Greenbank to Rose Avenue and then down it. As they went they admired the beautiful, old, gingerbread Victorian homes. One has a fun, rooster weathervane. The homes are beautifully maintained, colorful, and rival those in San Francisco. At the end of Rose, a few steps on Linda Avenue took the walkers to Kingston Avenue. They went up it, back to Greenbank and retraced some steps to Lake Avenue, and then up it to Nace. The group climbed up its hill, past the 1911 home at 18 Nace, and found the 1910 Gibson House at 46 Nace.
As luck would have it, and it seems the Wednesday walkers are often lucky this way, the current homeowner, David Yam, was coming out of his house and shared more of its history. He bought the house 30 years ago from Warren Gibson, whose family had lived in it for 70 years. Warren was the wood work teacher at Oakland Tech High School, and had done incredible wood work inside the house. The tree that Mrs. Gibson and her father planted in the 1920s is now huge. It is a catalpa tree. These trees have broad, heart-shaped leaves that make them great shade trees. This 100 year old tree was also good for the walkers to take the attached group photo in front of it with the house in the background.
All the walking and talking consumed all too quickly the group’s normal 90 minutes for being together. It was time to return to the Exedra. The walkers went via Cambridge Way, which our English visitors appreciated. Two very old, large palm trees on Cambridge were also noted and enjoyed. The group went up Greenbank and then the upper portion of San Carlos to Magnolia. As the walkers went past the Piedmont Recreation Center, preschoolers in front of it waved to welcome them. When the walkers finally got back to the Exedra they invited their new English friends, the Days, to join future Wednesday walks while they are here. It had been an almost four mile exploration with new and old friends, some unexpected Piedmont history, and lots of interesting things to see on a beautiful day. So, in many ways, it was a typical Walking on Wednesdays walk.