The Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group tries to walk all Piedmont streets during the year. Last Wednesday morning, July 7, they decided that it would it a good day to tackle a long walk.
A strong turnout of 27 walkers and one K-9 best friend were at the Exedra, and they ready for a long, mostly flat walk down and back the .8 mile length of St. James Drive.
One of the last walks the group had before Covid restrictions In March 2020 was on St. James, so there was some added pleasure to be able to walk as a group on the street again. In November 2019 the walkers visited Cavendish Lane to see the repair of the block-long hillside street after it was undermined. It is a half block from where St. James ends at Park Blvd., so the walkers added it to their planned excursion.
Due to the large number of walkers, it looked more like a parade down Highland Avenue to Sheridan and Wildwood, along the Hall Fenway to Crocker and Hampton Avenues. Along the way they enjoyed the fragrant, flowering jasmine plants and especially what was almost like a field of them in a Hampton Avenue yard.
The group walked to the corner of St. James and La Salle Avenue, where two tall columns mark the entrance in the early 1900s to St. James Woods, part of the Upper Piedmont Estates neighborhood development. Originally there were lights on top of these columns, but they were removed at some point. The St. James’ homeowners later asked the City to install new light fixtures, but the cost exceeded the City’s budget.
Post cartoonist and Wednesday walker Phil Witte lives on St. James and told the group about the street. The homes were built over time during the first half of the 20th century by different builders, so the architectural styles are varied. The sidewalks on both sides of the street the length of St. James have a distinctive tile design. The group enjoyed the long, winding street and appreciated the old streetlights, a very old cactus with a very large trunk, a curious dragon wood sculpture that guards one home, and other wonderful homes and gardens. The walkers also saw two pedestrian stairways, one that climbs up to Cambrian Avenue and the other that leads to Sandringham Road. A little further on, they also saw the top of another set of stairs that goes down to Trestle Glen Road The walkers finally made it to the end of St. James where Corpus Christi Church stands at Park Blvd. It had been a long walk, but the group was still up for a walk several hundred feet to Cavendish Lane to see its condition.
This is a narrow street, truly a lane, which was damaged in February 2017 after it was under- mined by heavy rains and a Trestle Glen neighbor’s home construction project below. This an Oakland street, but there are four Piedmont homeowners at its end. They were unable to access their homes by car for six weeks. The City of Piedmont took action to make temporary repairs until a permanent fix was made, which turned out to be two and a half years later in October 2019.
They went up the lane and though the roadway was gully repaired, they were surprised to see that the area below the street still looks like a construction zone. The walkers were glad this situation was not in their backyards.
Some members of this energetic group wanted to go down Trestle Glen, find the stairs that lead up to St. James and climb them, which is exactly what they did. Once back on St. James they retraced their many steps back to the Exedra. It had been well over four miles and a two- hour walk. However, everyone seemed to enjoy the extra walk- ing and talking with their walking friends.