Here’s another stunner… the Floral Depot Building at Telegraph and 18th, just across the street from, and in late afternoon literally in the shadow of, the mighty Fox Theater. Also clad in terra cotta – both the cobalt blue tiling and silver ornamentation, comprising Aztec-style trim interjected with periodic “sprays” of silver reputedly designed to resemble waterfalls – this Art Deco beauty is one of Oakland’s finest. The City’s Cultural Heritage Survey cites it as an “outstanding architectural example of extreme historical importance.” I dub her the crown jewel of Oakland, the resemblance unmistakable to me.
Designed by architect Albert Avers and built in 1931, the building takes its name from the old Floral Depot once housed there. See original sign below (image borrowed courtesy of DougPants.org), followed by the renovated sign for my favorite restaurant in all of the East Bay, the incredible Flora, opened in late 2007 by the proprietors of the highly successful Doña Tomas in Temescal.
Thomas Schnetz and Dona Savitsky took a chance on this stretch of Telegraph well before the grand re-opening of the Fox that many hail as the beginning of Uptown’s resurgence. I would argue that the opening of their prohibition-era-inspired Flora marks the beginning instead, becoming a “symbolic anchor” in an area clearly in transition, “much like San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe did when it opened more than 25 years ago on what was then a depressing stretch of Market Street.” (Flora paves the way… by Michael Bauer)
I’ve written about Flora before in my first post on Art Murmur (First Friday Frolic! ~ ART MURMUR), and I’m sure I’ll write about it again because it’s just that good. I don’t care if it makes me sound like an arugula-munching, latte-sipping liberal. The food & drinks here are simply divine… classic American fare with a California-nouveau twist, inspired by the best seasonal & organic ingredients. Make a reservation, or get there early for a seat at the bar… watching the suspendered-bartenders work their magic is half the fun.
But let’s get back to the building… Other early residents of this building include the J.J. Newbury Department Store, a nationwide five-and-dime chain prevalent during the 20th century. Now closed and available for lease, the old logo still remains…
Next door, you’ll see the Uptown Nightclub, also opened in late 2007. Embarrassingly, I have yet to see a show here, but they get great props on Yelp, and I’m planning a visit next week in celebration of Women’s History Month. They’re hosting two nights of The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, a benefit fundraiser for her organization V-Day which, to date, has raised something like $50 million dollars in support of groups working to ending violence against women and girls worldwide. Woah. Please join me, or check out the Uptown’s Calendar for other cool shows…
One of my favourite buildings downtown, thanks for providing some background info on its history.
There’s more to the history… the building was almost demolished in the 80’s (yikes!), but was saved by the efforts of the Oakland Heritage Alliance (OHA) who attempted to have the structure designated a historical landmark, and later efforts by Matthew Fox & Phil Tagami (hero of my Fox Theater post) who first purchased the vacant building. It was later sold to Akol Architects in 2000, who initiated a significant restoration thereafter.
Great post. Lovely pictures, too. My mom used to wander into Flora when it was still a flower depot…and still recalls the fragrant blooms lined up in brilliantly-colored bunches.
I just love how the restaurant has retained the Art Deco look. The only remaining flower essence may be their Chaplin cocktail; one ingredient, amaro liqueur, is made with macerated petals.
Wouldn’t it be nice if someone leased the vacant “Newberrry” space to fill the entire building? Maybe a cool vintage guitar shop or a vintage clothing store or an art gallery…Hmmm
wow, you must’ve really been digging to find those photos, I haven’t updated dougspants.org in years. funny how much of that stuff is gone now…
Incidentally, there was a we-cut-heads barber shop in the floral depot space for awhile in the 90s, maybe into the early 2000s. It had a name like B-Boy Cutz or something like that.
thank you for the link to this archive! she certainly IS the crown jewel of downtown oakland. 🙂