It was another record day on July 10 for the Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group. The largest number ever of walkers turned out on a typical day, not a special event. A total of 31 walkers and three K-9 best friends arrived at the Exedra on an overcast morning on July 10 at the usual start time.
The group was pleased to welcome Elene with them. She participated in the group's historical walk in Mountain View Cemetery in June, but this was her first regular Wednesday walk. Nancy brought a visiting friend who was also welcomed.
Before they got started, the group was reminded that on the coming Wednesday, July 17th, Piedmont Fire Chief Bret Black will lead a special walk of Piedmont streets. Chief Black will identify ways for homeowners to reduce the threat of damage from fires, and better protect their homes. Everyone was encouraged to come on this special walking tour.
The previous week, July 3, the group had been inspired by an article in the Piedmont Post to walk the northern portion of the historic route of the Key Route streetcar Number 10. This is the section that ran during the first half of the 20th century from Piedmont's city center down Highland Avenue to Pleasant Valley Road, and on to Piedmont Avenue. However, the Number 10 line's route also continued north through Piedmont to what is now Crocker Park.
Last week the group decided to complete walking the Number 10 line by following its route to Crocker Park. The purpose was to focus on the homes that had been built on the right-of-way land after the streetcar line was disbanded in 1948. Some walkers explained that the original street- car line is evident when looking at the different architecture of the houses and the construction of streets and parks.
One week earlier they noticed that Highland Avenue is only two in the first block from Moraga Avenue to Park Way. But Highland then becomes a 4-lane street all the way to Vista Avenue. The street was widened when the streetcars stopped running and the Key Route land became available.
A similar change happened to Highland Avenue south of the city center. The right-of-way land in front of the Piedmont Community Hall became what is now the parking lot. The land on Highland across from Guilford Avenue became the present large, open lawn at the corner of Sheridan Avenue. As the group started off they had a new understanding of them.
The group's destinations for the day included five homes that were built on the old Number 10 streetcar route: 129 and 120 Caperton Avenue, 322 and 321 Sheridan Avenue, and 463 Wildwood Avenue. Michael Gardner provided some history for the group on the small pocket park at the corner of Sheridan and Caperton Avenues. The Licht/Bloch family who built the home next to the park took care of the Park, however, when Sam Bloch, the last family member to live in the house, sold it, the City took over the park's maintenance and continues to maintain it.
As the group stopped for a group photo, they wondered why there were stones on the roof of the Caperton home. Some walkers noted that they had seen something similar on homes in Arizona. Mike Henn said rocks on roofs have an insulation benefit from the sun's heat, and larger rocks may also have an aesthetic appeal.
The group then walked across the street to see the second Caperton home built on Key Route end. The architectural style of the three homes is very different from most of the surrounding homes, and clearly they were built later. What surprised the group was to realize how close to the older homes the streetcars ran.
From Caperton the walkers went back up to Sheridan Avenue and then on to Wildwood Avenue to see other homes built on Key Route land. Nancy DeRoche noticed that the home on Wildwood is next to the large home that Frank C. Havens originally planned for his home, but changed his mind, and built his mansion in Wildwood Gardens.
The group crossed Wildwood Avenue and walked through the Hall Fenway that was near the end of the No. 10 route. It was easy to imagine streetcars rolling through on their way to the end of the line in Crocker Park.
Michael Gardner informed the walkers that the home on the corner of Wildwood and Crocker was once a station house for the streetcar line. He also explained that the turnaround for the trains was further up Hampton Avenue where the landscaped triangle at the corner of Indian Road is now seen.
With the tour of the Number 10 route complete, the group walked on Sea View Avenue to Farragut Avenue to see the beautiful, historic homes on it. Nancy DeRoche shared some more history behind one of the large homes at top of the hill, and Michael Gardner also told the group that the founder of the Oakland Raiders, Wayne Valley, lived across the street in a more modern home. Most walkers knew that Piedmont was the home of Al Davis, the former Raiders head coach and later owner, but Michael shared that the Raiders' ownership was deep in Piedmont.
After walking down Farragut it was time to head back to the Exedra via Crocker, Lincoln, Sheridan, and Highland Avenues. The informal walking tour was a little over two miles and about 90 minutes. By the time the walkers got back to the Exedra the sun had burned through the morning overcast. Everyone felt it had been an enlightening day with much Piedmont history shared and enjoyed with friends.