The drought has created many problems, but it has provided our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group with some lovely, sunny mornings to walk Piedmont streets. Tuesday had been a warm one, but the forecast was for a cooler Wednesday. It was a surprise that there had been some rain in the early hours, and Piedmont's sidewalks were wet that morning. As we assembled at the Exedra there were clouds, and it was cool, but we were confident we would have another great morning for our walk.
The turnout was again excellent with 36 walkers and one K-9 best friend on hand.
Before we got started walking there were some announcements. One was that walker and Piedmont Post cartoonist Phil Witte is featured in the current issue of Piedmont Living magazine. The group was pleased that Phil is getting this recognition and his creative work is being spotlighted.
As you know, we have an informal objective of walking every safe Piedmont street during the calendar year, and we have been to most of them already this year. The unwalked ones are generally towards the city's borders, but there are still some in the central part of Piedmont. If fact, a route was sketched out that could take us to 16 different streets we hadn't been to this year. They would be our "Sweet 16" for the day.
We headed off, crossing Highland Avenue and going up it to Pala Avenue. The plan was to go up and down the parallel streets of Mesa and Monte Avenues via connections with Pala, Park Way, and Moraga Avenue. On Mesa we found our first house surprise, a lovely, classic, vintage home that was built in 1907. On Monte we also enjoyed many shingle exterior homes that have been
beautifully maintained and updated.
We came back down Park Way and crossed Highland, noting the two, large, white columns that marked the entrance to this neighborhood when it was developed in the early 20th Century. We also recognized that going down Park was retracing some of the Key System Number 10 streetcar route of the first half of the last century. As we turned right on Bonita Avenue, a woman
getting out of her car saw us and said, "It must be the Wednesday walkers."
We turned down Estrella Avenue and found two almost identical homes. Walker architect Jim Kellogg described them being of the "California Mission" style. These twins sit side by side, have terracotta roofs over pointed top turret entrances, and share a driveway. A Zillow search revealed they have almost the exact same square footage and were built in 1923. Their broad driveway was great spot to take the attached group photo.
In front of the house next door, we discovered an approximately 10" in diameter, circular tablet that resembled a large coin. On it were Chinese letters that Jim Kuo and Albert Chen translated to say "welcome, good fortune, and money."
We turned up Ramona Avenue and found the 107 foot set of steps that took us down and back to Park Way for a short walk to Dracena Avenue. We walked along the border of Piedmont's wonderful Dracena Park, but resisted the temptation to go into it so we could enjoy the beauty of this street. We quickly came to a house that stopped us in our tracks. It had been recently redesigned and rebuilt. Jim Kellogg described as a "contextually modern" home of a Japanese style. The house is very different from its traditional Piedmont neighbors, but Jim felt it still fits harmoniously with its surroundings. There is a combination of roof levels that provide visual interest, along with appropriate exteriors, colors, and landscaping. Jim said the house is "perfect."
We went down Blair and spotted another house. This one was a large birdhouse attached to a tree along the exterior of Dracena Park. At the street's corner with El Cerrito Avenue. The history of Walker Blair, the first European settler in this area during the second half of the 19th Century, was recalled. What is now Dracena Park was the enterprising Blair's quarry, and at this corner was his dairy farm. Noemi Alvarado asked, "Cows in Piedmont?"
At Oakland Avenue we turned up the hill so that we could walk the one-block Carmel Avenue that took us back to the street named in honor of Walker Blair. Along Carmel we noted the many front yards that have been transformed into water-saving native plants and grasses gardens.
A short walk up Blair took us to Hillside Avenue. Before we crossed Oakland Avenue, we came to another striking, walk-stopping home. We asked Jim Kellogg to characterize it too, but before he could, the homeowners, Alissa and John Welch, saw the assembly in front of their house and came out. Alissa described the design as "Gothic Meets Queen Ann." The Welches said they have been working on the house for ten years. We appreciated the wonderful job they have done.
At Hillside and Oakland we noted the mansion on the corner that was once known as "Gray Gables." The gables are still there, but the gray is gone, and some walkers debated what color would best describe it now. Maybe taupe? There were more beautiful homes on the street with great San Francisco views.
A left on Vista Avenue took us past the Corey Reich Tennis Center where players were banging away. One, who was hitting a ball against the tall wall, was invited to come walk with us any Wednesday. In the next Vista block Havens School kids were having noisy fun in their playground, but the City Hall and Fire Department were summer quiet. Finally, a right turn on Highland had us back at our Exedra starting point.
It had been a wandering three mile walk of a sweet set of 16 different streets, and a few more, in almost exactly 90 minutes. As always, we saw many unique, beautiful homes on lovely streets with old and many new friends. It had indeed been a sweet walk.