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The Key to Fairview

There was great weather and a great turnout of 49 walkers and four K-9 best friends at the Exedra last Wednesday for our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays walk.

The Key System provided transportation for the Bay Area from the start of the 20th Century until the 1950s. There were three numbered lines in Piedmont. One was the No. 12 line that ran up Fairview Avenue. This was one of the historic streets we hadn't gotten to this year, and it was the

morning's destination.

In the 1890s the area that would become Piedmont was largely dairy farms and open space. As the East Bay population grew in the last years of the 19th Century, land developer Frank C. Havens and his partner Francis Marion Borax" Smith created "The Realty Syndicate." It acquired large tracts of undeveloped land throughout the East Bay for homes. Buyers needed transportation to get to work in Oakland and San Francisco. The Key System was conceived by Borax Smith as a way to sell the land. It began service in 1903 in Berkeley and in 1904 in what was to become the City of Piedmont.

Before starting off, there were some announcements. Piedmont students started school this day, and this year is the 100th anniversary of Wildwood School. On our way back from visiting Fairview, we could return to the Exedra with a pass by of the school.

We head off down Magnolia Avenue past the quiet high school where all the students were inside studying hard. We went to and down Jerome Avenue, but couldn't pass up walking the charming Keefer Court cul-de-sac. This street has a home at its end with a marvelous, cactus garden front yard. Karin F shared that the owner worked at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, which houses a unique collection of cacti, succulents and drought-tolerant plants from around the world. The owner obviously brought his work home with him. The house next door has taken on a similar look to give the street a Southwest feel.

After enjoying Keefer, we also couldn't resist walking up and back Hill Lane, which is really a back alley for garages of Arbor and Nova Drive homes. Then it was on to Fairview. We stopped next to a small, street island grove of about a dozen beautiful redwood trees, and some No. 12 Line history

was shared. It was originally called the "Grand Avenue & Hollis Street Line," which began as a shuttle on Grand Avenue from Wildwood Avenue, at the city limits, to Perry Street near where Oakland Avenue and the MacArthur Freeway are today. The line connected there with cars of the Lakeshore Avenue line. In 1915 the end of the line was extended from Grand Avenue up Fairview Avenue. The route had a few name changes over the years, but in 1928 it was finalized as the "No. 12" line." However, on June 27, 1948 the No. 12 Grand Avenue streetcar service was abandoned, and buses replaced it.

We walked down Fairview to its high point at Arbor Drive where there is a home built in 1912 with a long set of steps in front. We were sure the owners wouldn't mind us using the steps as terraces for the attached group photo.

We continued down Fairview to Grand Avenue. We saw the long stretch of land that separates the upper and lower portions of the street. This was once Key System right of way land where the trains ran. We saw and admired another lovely, old home. This one is a classic Victorian built in 1896. We went down Grand to Wildwood Avenue and made our way up it visit to Wildwood School. As we passed the front of the school, educators Donalda S and Mary C were bringing students out to its patio for lunch, and they and the students greeted us. The timing was perfect. It was almost as if their welcome was planned. We then entered Piedmont Park and made our way back to the Community Hall.


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