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Reservoir Silk Farm Walk

The Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group enjoyed Nancy DeRoche's tour of her upper Oakland Avenue and Scenic Avenue neighborhood the week before, but there wasn’t enough time to go to one of the places Nancy had hoped to visit. She wanted to take the group to the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) reservoir at Scenic and Blair Avenues, but they ran out of time. This past Wednesday was another wonderful day, sunny but not too hot, and it was a second chance to see the reservoir. The walkers could go via a different route to see it, up Mountain and Dudley Avenues, and see some other interesting Piedmont things too.

There was a good turnout of 32 walkers at the Exedra to the walk.

The group started out going across Highland Avenue to Piedmont Court so that they could take the shortcut path to Mountain Avenue. However, as they went up Piedmont Court the walkers were struck by the decorations on one of the houses. It wasn’t Halloween or the Holidays, but one family was certainly celebrating. The front of the house was covered in Golden State Warriors signs, flags, banners, t-shirts, and other memorabilia. The team was playing that night in the NBA Finals, so there was a reason for the excitement. As the walkers were enjoying the sight, homeowner Debbie Lee came out and told the group that her family added to the decorations as the team advanced in the playoffs.

With Warriors’ energy the group continued up this cul-de-sac, passing Nancy and Dave DeRoche’s first Piedmont home to which a miniature, birdhouse replica of the house has been added in its front yard. The walkers took the 89 foot path to Mountain and started their climb up the hill. They passed a front yard with a life-size sculpture of a distinguished looking gentleman in a unique, animal pelt-like coat and then the former home of the late Oakland Raiders owner, Al Davis. Further up the hill was the stately home that was used in the 2006 Will Smith movie, The Pursuit of Happyness (sic).

The walkers turned up Dudley Avenue and stopped at the top of Littlewood Drive, and had a chance to have a short talk about Piedmont’s first and probably only manufacturing industry. A past Piedmont Post article by the Piedmont Historical Society told the surprising history of Piedmont’s “Silk Farm” at the end of the 19th century. In the early 1880s the Ladies’ Silk Culture Society purchased 15 acres of land at the top and eastern side of Mountain Avenue, where Dudley and Littlewood Avenues are today. The society planted mulberry trees, whose leaves are silk worms’ food, and built a two-story, eight-room cocoonery. The trees and this history were the inspiration for the name of today’s Mulberry’s Market in Piedmont. Unfortunately, the Silk Farm didn’t prosper, and it closed in 1895. The group wanted to get to the reservoir, so there wasn’t time to walk down Littlewood on this walk. It would have to wait for another Wednesday.

The walkers continued their climb up Dudley, took a side trip up and back the short Dudley Court cul-de-sac, and then walked on to Blair Avenue with the EBMUD “Reservoir Number 2” on the other side of the street. It was shared with the group that the reservoir is just above Blair Park, and occupies more than nine acres straddling the Oakland-Piedmont border with 8.3 acres of the site in Piedmont. A 22.8 million gallon water storage tank provided water for Piedmont from 1905 to 2003. The facility was decommissioned and drained in 2003 as part of EBMUD’s facility modernization program, and Piedmont’s water now comes from other large tanks in the Oakland Hills. This was all very interesting, but not as exciting as the Lee’s Warriors house decorations, so the walkers didn’t take a group photo at the reservoir.

The group continued up Blair past Scenic Avenue. Nancy DeRoche noted that early 20th Century, California painter Xavier Martinez had his first studio just down Scenic. The walkers continued on to Mountain and Hager Avenues. The views of the Bay and San Francisco as they made their way down the steep hill were spectacular. See the attached photo. The gardens and homes, one of them recently remodeled with a clean, modern design and great view, was noted and especially liked. All of this added to the enjoyment of the return part of the walk, going down, rather than up the hill, to the Community Hall parking lot. Everyone agreed it had been a great walk with the Warriors, worms, water, and wonderful Bay views.


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