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Tyson, Titus and Tudors

Our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group had more great weather for our weekly walk this Wednesday. It was clear and warm, perfect for a long walk. Forty walkers and three K-9 best friends were at the Exedra at our regular start time ready to go.

It had been a while since we walked Crest Road, which is just past Hampton Park. Crest is a long, slow climb. It's a bit of a challenge, so we thought we would go down it, rather than up it. We would go up Hampton Road, make our way to Estates Drive and come down Somerset Road to Crest. The ascent would be longer, slower, and maybe easier. And if anyone wanted a shorter,

flatter walk they could return to the city center from Hampton Park where some history would be shared.

We went up Highland, Sheridan, and Wildwood Avenues, through the Hall Fenway, past beautiful spring flowers in front yards, to Crocker Avenue. We also noted the now completed new garage addition to the previously garage-less, 1906 Albert Farr-designed Crocker home of Jeremy and his wife, Marie-Elise. Their draught-tolerant landscaping is done and everything is lovely.

We then continued on to Hampton Road, past Crocker Park with some very recently poured concrete sidewalks, to Hampton Park. We regrouped at the park and were surprised to find the park buzzing with students playing baseball and other games. Turned out it was Oakland's Crocker Highlands fifth graders having a fun, end-of-year field day.

The kids weren't having class, but drawing on Piedmont Historical Society's research, the park's history was shared with the walkers. This land is part of 50 acres that Louis Titus, a Berkeley real

estate developer purchased in 1911. Titus intended to build a mansion, but the new City of Piedmont raised property taxes dramatically in 1912, and he left town.

In 1914 James Tyson, a lumber and shipping businessman bought 30 acres of the land for his home. He was a strong supporter of Piedmont Boy Scouts, which began in 1910, and in 1921 Tyson made the land that is now Hampton Park available to the scouts for an outdoor camp. During the Great Depression in 1938 the Tysons also make the land available to the Piedmont

schools. A WPA project leveled the land, which was intended to be the site of a future "East Piedmont" school. However, it was never built. In the 1950s and 60s the space was a dusty, sometimes muddy little league baseball field. Later, youth soccer was played there often on a soggy field, as underground water was an on-going problem.

In 2000 the Piedmont Play School building was constructed at the back of the park. Dramatic improvements to the park were made during 2017 in a $2 million public/private partnership. Drainage and artificial turf were installed that made the field much more serviceable.

Some walkers were going to head back to the Exedra, so the park's front steps provided tiers for a group photo of everyone. Then it was then time for the rest of us to start our climb. We went up Hampton and the lower portion of Inverleith Terrace to Estates Drive, and crossed the Oakland/Piedmont city line, past a license plate reader that identified it, to Somerset Road. Rob Smith's phone said the elevation was 657 feet, and there were the views of Oakland and the Bay in the distance. Going down Somerset we crossed into and out of Piedmont three times. Somerset's hillsides showed signs of recent slides with large, blue tarps trying to protect the soil. One very large home was high above the street with an outside elevator to get up to it, and a new garage with roman numerals proclaiming it was built in MMXXIII.

We finally came to Crest with its many beautiful Tudor Style homes, and made the long decent of it. It wasn't clear if going down Crest is easier than the longer climb to it, but we did it. When we got back to the Exedra we had had a longer than usual four mile walk with great weather, some good exercise with friends, and lots to see.


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