The Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group assembled at the Exedra on Wednesday morning June 2 with 14 walkers and one K-9 best friend.
Drawing on one of Gail Lombardi’s History of Piedmont articles from a recent issue of the Post, the walkers learned that Francis Marion “Borax” Smith developed this streetcar transportation system between 1903 and 1912. There were three lines in Piedmont and the Number 10 was the longest. It went up and down Highland Avenue from Piedmont Avenue all the way to what is now Crocker Park.
On Highland the line didn’t go all the way to Moraga Avenue. Instead, it turned at Park Way and went along it down to Pleasant Valley Road. This is the reason that Highland Avenue is four lanes starting at Park Way, but only two lanes from Park Way to Moraga. There needed to be enough room on Highland for both the trains and cars. When the Key System ceased operations in the 1950s the right-of- way land that was used for the trains became available for usually mid-century modern homes to be built on it. The walkers thought it would be interesting to walk this portion of the Number 10 line and look for the infill homes built on its land. The group headed down Highland to Park Way. Along the way they noticed a TV antenna on the top of one of the homes that is now a bit of history too. At Park Way they also noticed the two large, attractive, white pillars on the uphill side of the street. The group assumed they were built to mark the entrance to that neighborhood when the land was first developed. (And they were correct.)
The walkers went down the Park Way past Dracena Avenue, where Nancy DeRoche peeled off with her dog Chili to give him an off-the-leash run in Dracena Park. Nancy explained that this was important to Chili and that she would find the group a little later during the walk. The group went a short distance further and found a 107-foot set of stairs that took them up to Ramona Avenue, where they took a group photo.
The Number 10 line ran between Park, Ramona, and along Arroyo Avenue. The walkers went down Ramona past Estrella and Monticello Avenues to a 106-foot path that took them up to Arroyo. A little further down Arroyo they noted that at York Drive a C Train once merged there into the Number 10 line. Additionally, the group was surprised to be greeted there by one of its past years’ regular walkers, Charlene Louie. She was doing some gardening outside her home. Charlene pointed out a line of homes along Arroyo that were built on Key system land.
The walkers went up to Pleasant Valley and saw where the trains continued to Piedmont Avenue on undeveloped land along Brandon Street that now has tall pine trees. The group also took the opportunity to walk to and from the seldom visited Parkside Drive, cul-de-sac off Grand Avenue at Arroyo.
On the return to their starting point, the group went up Ronada Avenue to Monticello Avenue. Along the way, Nancy DeRoche and Chili reunited with the group. They noted that the homes along the north side of Moraga by the cemetery were the homes built on the original Blair Park land after it closed in the early twentieth century. From Moraga the group took Bonita Avenue back to the Exedra.
It had been an enjoyable hour and a half walk with interesting history, beautiful streets, hidden paths, usual sites, and, best of all, new and previous walking group friends.