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Pathways of the Past: Walking and Remember Juneteenth

Our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group had another special walk this Wednesday on a cool spring morning. Architect Jim K researched and presented an architectural history tour for our weekly walk. A great turnout of 54 walkers and two K-9 best friends were on hand at the Exedra ready to enjoy it. By the way, Jim wrote most of this report. I wrote the part complimenting him on what a great job he did.

Before we got started it was recognized and appreciated that it was the Juneteenth holiday. On this day in 1865 at the end of the Civil War the federal government arrived in Galveston, Texas, to declare that all enslaved people must be freed. The enslaved people in Texas were the last ones in the Confederacy to learn they were freed. June 19, now known as Juneteenth, has become the symbolic holiday to celebrate Black history, culture and unity. It was also noted that the Wednesday walkers will walk together in Piedmont's 4th of July Parade.

The focus of Jim's tour was the distinctive architectural character of early Piedmont, beginning in 1907, when Piedmont was incorporated. At that time, Piedmont was thought of as "The Queen of the Hills". Piedmont was a beautiful place to live and included homes with exceptional architectural character that are still appreciated today. The city's character was influenced by many families from around the country who moved to Piedmont in early 1900 and wanted their new homes to recall the architectural style from where they came. Piedmont's city center provides the opportunity to see examples of: French Colonial, Victorian, English Tutor, Colonial Revival, American Foursquare, Bungalow, and Craftsman.

The walk was a little less than 2 miles long, and focused on the historic city center starting and ending at The Exedra and including Vista, Hillside, and Bonita Avenues, which gave us time to pause and talk about the architectural styles of many homes and the history of early Piedmont

families along the way.

We stopped at 225 Hillside to talk about the beautiful Queen Anne Shingle Style house, then gathered at the front porch and posed for the attached group photo. As we were getting ready to move on, the homeowner Alissa Welch came out and graciously told us about her family's work on the house.

Further down Hillside, we noted one of the last remaining original street lamps in Piedmont, and studied homes designed by well-known bay area architects at that time, including: Albert Farr, Charles Dickey, and the firm Bakewell and Brown. Interesting stories about the people who shaped the character of early Piedmont were also shared by Jim with the walkers. For example, the famous architect Albert Farr's favorite carpenter, who built many of the homes on Hillside Avenue, was well known as "One-Nail" MacGregor because as a Scotsman he was known to have said "build homes quickly and efficiently, and don't use two nails when one nail will do".

All of the homes were beautiful and appreciated by the walkers. So was Jim's preparation and the knowledge he shared with us. Jim didn't have time to point out all the homes he wanted to share on this walk, which was great news because Jim will to have come back soon for another tour with us.

Jim suggested that people who want to learn more about the early history and architecture of Piedmont can purchase a copy of "Cottages and Castles, The Centennial Houses of the City of Piedmont", by Ann Swift. This was published in 2007 and a limited number of copies are still available at Piedmont City Hall for $30.


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