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Will Adams’ tour of Piedmont Julia Morgan homes p2

There was another strong showing of old and new participants for the Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays walk last Wednesday. Twenty eight walkers were on hand at the Exedra after group’s record turnout of 58 walkers the week before for Will Adams’ tour of Piedmont Julia Morgan homes.

The walkers had not been to Piedmont’s higher elevation streets to see their beautiful Bay and San Francisco views for a number of weeks, and had not walked some to the lovely streets this year to get to them. The group had thought last Wednesday might be a good day to make this climb. However, there was a thick cloud covering over the Bay Area that might have reduced their viewing, so the group decided to postpone this walk for at least a week. Instead, another part of Piedmont and also Oakland that they had not visited in a couple of years would be their destination for the day. They decided to go to the south side of Piedmont and then south of the Piedmont/Oakland boarder.

The walkers went off down Highland Avenue to Wildwood Avenue and then to Wildwood Gardens. There they recalled that this was the entrance to Frank C. Havens’ “Wildwood” estate in the early 1900s. They appreciated the large redwood tree there. It seems to have been fed for decades by underground water because there is always water on the street in front of it. The group enjoyed the lovely Wildwood Gardens neighborhood and noted a sizable, newly constructed tree house in the backyard of a recently renovated home. Some walkers said they would try to rent it if it comes on our hot real estate market.

When the group came to the end of Wildwood Gardens they decided to walk the hardly ever visited Wistaria Way loop, and then they emerged on to Woodland Way and walked it. At the end of Woodland Way they were at a street that to the left is Lafayette Avenue and to the right is La Salle Avenue. There is no clear explanation why. It’s another one of the street naming mysteries in Piedmont and Oakland. This spot also provided a good view of downtown Oakland and San Francisco, as the cloud covering was starting to clear. A walk to Piedmont’s higher elevations might actually have provided good views this morning, but the walkers were enjoying this walk and continued on.

The group came to another little traveled Piedmont street, Florada Avenue, and went down it past a home with fish ponds and large carp fish in front, and then past Dick Carter’s home. Dick said he didn’t have refreshments ready for the walkers so on they pressed on down the street to the Oakland boarder, where for some reason Florada becomes Portal Avenue. On Portal they appreciated a beautiful cactus garden in a front yard. Some walkers remembered seeing the garden and talking with the homeowner on their last walk of Portal a couple of years before. The garden is now full, complete, and lovely. Down the street was a large, colorful, pink bougainvillea to also be enjoyed. A little further on, the walkers came to a white, plaster, life size statue of a naked woman in a front yard. No one had an explanation for it, so they felt free to make up their own.

The walkers came to Ashmount Avenue and went up it. The street provided some of the uphill climb that they would have experienced going to the peaks of Piedmont for views of San Francisco; but the group showed their mettle and made their way up the street. They were impressed by the lovely, large homes on the street, many of which were built during the 1920s when Piedmont also experienced a building boom. One home had another statue in its front yard. This one is a rhinoceros, also naked, which no one had an explanation for either.

On a normal Wednesday the walkers would have been able to visit and shop the farmers market that is operated out of a garage on Ashmount by a young entrepreneur on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. However, he is on a two week holiday, so there was no produce for the walkers to take home this week. However, the walkers could enjoy a lovely home directly across the street. Some members of the group knew this to be a home designed by Bernard Maybeck. Maybeck was a UC Berkeley architecture professor and Julia Morgan’s teacher in the late nineteenth century. The buildings he designed include the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. The walkers took a group photo in front the Maybeck designed home.

With all the walking, site seeing, and talking, the morning was getting on; and it was time to go up to Mandana Avenue, which also experiences a magical name change to become Crocker Avenue at the Piedmont border. The group took a direct route back to the Exedra, postponing visits to a couple of additional streets off Crocker. They, like the views of San Francisco, would have to wait for another Wednesday walk. When the walkers got back to Community Hall parking lot Mike Henn checked his phone walking app. It had been a three mile walk, with many fun mysteries, over one hour and thirty three minutes at a speed of 2.2 miles per hour on a now sunny day.


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