It was an overcast morning with the temperature only in the high 50s when the Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group gathered for their regular walk last Wednesday at the Exedra. It was a comfortable morning for a walk, and twenty six walkers and one K-9 best friend were ready to enjoy a walk and being together.
After the group assembled, the news of a special, future walk was shared. Priscilla Wanerus had suggested a fall return to the Mt. View Cemetery. Unfortunately, Ron Backman, who has conducted tours for the group in the past is not available. However, Jane Leroe, a retired lawyer and longtime Mt. View docent, is able to take the group on a special Halloween week tour of the cemetery on October 27th. The cemetery’s famed "Millionaires' Row" will be one of the morning’s destinations.
The group has an informal goal of visiting every safe Piedmont street during the year. This sometimes means going to a corner of the city and some streets that the walkers and others rarely go to. This type of exploration and discovery is one of the many fun aspects of Walking on Wednesdays. The group decided to target the little-traveled streets below Wildwood School in the southwest section of Piedmont.
The walker headed off going through Piedmont Park. It is October, but the park’s foliage didn’t have much fall color. The drought may be muting the trees’ colors, but the walkers always enjoy in this Piedmont treasure. They emerged from the park onto Wildwood Avenue and walked down to the crosswalk at Wildwood School. There weren’t any young people in the school’s upper playground, but happy, playful sounds in its lower playground were loud and clear.
The walkers crossed the street and started down their first, little traveled street. It was the one-way, lower part of Wildwood Avenue. It is one-way, but its upper street is two way, so Wildwood is very strange here. It is a one-way and two-way street. The group walked past Nancy and Mike Henn’s home. Nancy said they bought it 43 years ago when they were first married. They raised their family there and have lived in it ever since. It’s like all Piedmont homes. They have their own wonderful, personal histories.
The group came to the “Five Way Stop” which brings Wildwood, Windsor, Warfield Avenues, and Wallace Road all together. A fair question is why do all of these streets’ names start with “W?” It’s another Piedmont street curiosity. The walkers continued on up Warfield. As they went, they noticed Black Lives Matter signs in windows and many homes that had gotten a head start on becoming Halloween haunted houses. There were ghosts, headstones, spiders, cobwebs, and skeletons all over many front yards.
At Boulevard Way the walkers turned right and went all the way down it, crossing the Piedmont/Oakland city line as they did. Towards the end of the street with Grand Avenue almost in sight, the group came upon a yard that they had seen a couple of years before. It is an expansive, beautiful garden covered with cactus and other drought resistant plants. There is also a very large, old palm tree at the top of the yard. Priscilla Wanerus remembered from the group’s last visit that the homeowner, who was gardening at the time, told the walkers that she almost had the palm tree removed, but was very happy that she decided not to. Since the group’s last visit, the garden has matured beautifully. Seeing changes to the streets and homes over time has been another reward for long-time walkers. The yard also has a set of steps that provided tiers for the walkers to stand on for the attached group photo.
At the end of Boulevard, the group turned up the narrow, almost invisible Sylvan Way. The street was a new one for many of the walkers. They passed a newly remodeled, very lovely, now modern home, and more Halloween decorations. The group could also hear more young people playing at a pre-school down below. However, toward the street’s end it presented a challenge. It takes an almost 90 degree left turn to a very, very steep hill that goes down to Wildwood Avenue. Walkers went arm in arm down it, but at the bottom they greed there was nothing to it. Wildwood quickly became Palm Drive. This street is named for the palm trees that early 19th Century Piedmont developer Frank C. Havens planted well over a hundred years ago as the entrance to his Piedmont Park. A number of palms still line the street, but nearby resident Sherry Jacobs said four of them were removed in the recent past. Their maintenance is a challenge and expensive.
The group went up Palm to Wallace Road, which is a one-way, all-the-way street. At its bottom are two street signs. One says, “One Way” and the other says, “Do Not Enter.” The walkers ignored both and made their way up the street. At the top of it, Sherry Jacobs also pointed out a house on the left that has a string of small camels painted high along its side. Sherry said that when a past owner sold the house he made it a requirement for the new owners that they keep the camels when they painted the house. The camels had been painted by his late wife, and he wanted them to always remain. It is known as “The Camel House” in the neighborhood, and another home with a warm, personal history.
The walkers then went down Windsor to Park View Avenue. It was another new street for the group. There were many more ghosts, spiders, and skeletons on the homes; as well as Black Lives Matter reminders and a “Stop Asian Hate” sign too. Park View ends at Magnolia Avenue, and the group was faced with the fact that what goes down must come up. It was time for the climb up Magnolia back to the Exedra.
However, there was one more opportunity to visit a seldom visited street, Larmer Court. This short cul-de-sac off of Magnolia only has three homes with Larmer addresses. Do any Piedmont streets have fewer? The stop at Larmer also provided a short rest for the walkers before they continued up Magnolia. The group gave a quick, passing inspection to the almost complete high school construction, and then the walkers were back at the Exedra slightly before noon. It had been a fun, three-mile walk in less than 90 minutes; filled with seldom seen streets, unique homes and gardens, Halloween house decorations, social equity reminders, sounds of happy children, and good conversations with new and old Wednesday walking friends.