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Sharon and Sea View Avenues

Once again our Walking on Wednesdays group had great weather for our weekly walk this Wednesday morning. Rain was forecast for the days before and after, but not on this day. We have had good weather all year long, and this day was no exception. There was a near record turnout of 45 walkers and four K-9 best friends at the Exedra to enjoy it. I will be out for a few weeks for some medical work, and Melba Y organized a schedule for the walks during my absence. Will Adams will lead the first walk on December 14th. Then, on December 21st, Melba and Mike Henn will take the group down the hill to Zachary's for a Holiday group lunch. Harriette Louie, Nancy & Mike Henn, and Charlene Louie will lead the later walks. There is quite a history associated with the street that is Sharon Avenue. A few years ago, Piedmont Historical Society devoted almost an entire issue of the society's Piedmont's History publication to William E. Sharon, his family, and estate. We decided we would walk to Sharon Avenue, discuss its history, and then continue on up to Sea View Avenue for some Holiday fun to see the Christmas decorations in some of the homes' front yards. We crossed Highland Avenue, went up Piedmont Court to a path that took us to Mountain Avenue. At its corner with Dormidera Avenue the Sharon history was shared from the article. William Sharon was born in 1852 and grew up on an Ohio farm. In 1872 he went to San Francisco and then Virginia City, Nevada to work for his uncle, who was a successful banker and silver mine owner. Sharon married Lillian Mygatt there in 1876, and became successful in finance and mining too. He was also elected to the Nevada State Senate in the 1880s. The Sharons initially lived and had the first three of their seven children in Virginia City, but they wanted them to attend better schools, and bought a home in Oakland in 1890. In 1893 the Sharons purchased nine acres in the Piedmont hills on Mountain Avenue. Although Sharon's official residence was in Piedmont, supervising his mines required he spend the greater part of his time in Virginia City, and Lillian and her mother raised the children in Piedmont. In 1897 the Sharons hired Frederic D, Voorhess to design their Piedmont home. It was a magnificent three story house built in the middle of the Sharon's land that they called Casa Montana. The Sharons with their seven children, her mother, a housekeeper, cook, and gardener moved into Casa Montana in 1898. In 1914 the new City of Piedmont imposed a new property tax based on the size of the property, and the Sharons' taxes increased dramatically. So, in 1915 William and Lilian subdivided their land in a development they called Sharon Terrace, which contained twenty lots. The driveway to Casa Montana became Sharon Avenue, and the address changed from 263 Mountain to 37 Sharon Avenue. These lots from the subdivision have frontages on Mountain, Sharon, Dormidera, and Pacific Avenues. There was also an active advertising campaign to sell the land in 1924, and some family members also built homes on the lots. Sharon died at his home in 1926, but Casa Montana continued to as a family home with seven family members and two servant living there. Lillian continued to live in the mansion until 1934 when she moved into a residential Oakland hotel. Developer George Windsor purchased the remaining land and built his own home at 11 Sharon and the house at 7 Sharon on spec. He later also built homes at 40 and 44 Sharon. Sadly, in 1936 Windsor demolished Casa Montana. The grand old mansion was replaced by three homes at 27, 33, and 37 Sharon. Today, only three Sharon family members' houses remain on the former Casa Montana property. They are 235 Mountain (1908), 56 Sharon (1921), and 52 Sharon (1922). We walked up Mountain to Sharon Avenue and climbed up it. We took a side trip up Sharon Court, which according to the Sharon Terrace plot map was not part of the development. As we were regrouping at the top of the hill, John M, who lives there, came out and shared some neighborhood and personal history. We invited John to join us for the rest of the history and the walk, and happily he did. We returned to and went up Sharon Avenue. We noted 27, 33, and 37 Sharon where Casa Montana once stood, and also Windsor's 40 and 44 Sharon. It was recognized that Sharon's estate and the real estate development also included the above homes on Pacific Avenue. After completely the Sharon loop and getting back to Mountain Avenue we walked up its hill to Sea View in search of Christmas house decorations. We soon found some and posed for the attached group photo with the Grinch who stole Christmas in a front yard. We went down Sea View and noted the site where early Piedmont philanthropist Wallace Alexander built this Brown Gables mansion in the early 1900s. It was torn down three years after Casa Montana in 1939, and no longer exists either. We turned down Hampton and then Crocker Avenues for our return to the city center. On the way back we stopped to check on the progress of a new garage that is being built in the front of a home on a Crocker home. We have been watching it take shape during our walks. As we were admiring the progress, Jeremy D, the home owner, came out, introduced himself, and answered our questions. When complete, the building will be a three car garage with a roof top garden and an elevator. Jeremy is a sculptor and he said the addition will be compatible with the work of Albert Farr, the renowned architect, who designed the home in 1906. There are rough walls up now and the slots for three cars, but no Christmas decorations yet. We thanked Jeremy for talking with us about his project. We look forward to continuing to monitor the construction on our walks. There had been more talking than usual on this walk, but it had been full of Piedmont history, holiday fun, and meeting new, welcoming people. It was just another Wednesday walk with great weather, good people, and new friends.


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