Tag Archives: piedmont avenue

Key Route Plaza Mural

Here’s another mural by artist Rocky Rische-Baird commemorating the history of the Bay Area’s Key Route Train System…

Key Route Plaza, piedmont avenue plaza

Located at Key Route Plaza at the intersection of Piedmont Ave and 41st, the spot marks the site where the first key route electric train arrived in 1904 from a new ferry pier on the bay off Emeryville.  Later in 1937,  a new train station was built here to accommodate new streamlined trains which would run across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, transporting passengers downtown (1st and Mission) in just 27 minutes. (historic plaque)

The mural is full of symbolism, and as guest commenter Oakland Daily Photo pointed out, this one is significantly more political that the downtown version featured yesterday.  In just one section of the mural we can see figures representing Black Power, Women’s Suffrage, and our country’s military might linked to our need for petroleum.

rocky rische-baird, key route plaza, key route station piedmont ave

The primary figure in the upper right-hand corner, Francis Marion Smith
(known as “Borax” Smith for the riches he acquired in mining borax in Nevada), was the visionary behind the Key Route System.  The key he is holding “has three rings at its handle to symbolize the three lines to Berkeley, Oakland and Piedmont. The long stem represents the Key Pier, which carried trains about 3 miles over the bay, and the teeth represent the ferry slip.”

Borax Smith, Key Route System visionary

Artist Rische-Baird raised money for the production of the mural by literally selling the seats on the train.  Passengers portrayed in the windows are real live residents who contributed funds, some who actually rode the train system before its last run in 1958.

Borax Smith, Francis Marion Smith, key route mural

Much of this information and more about the artist and the production of the mural can be found in this article:  Key to the Past / A Piedmont mural captures the glory of a bygone transit system by Sam Whiting.

rocky rische-baird, key route mural

key route plaza, key route station history

CougarHorse & 5733 – piedmont ave’s cool factor soars

A couple additions to Piedmont Avenue have me thinking that this little stretch of Oaktown has gotten way cooler…

The first is the funky little vintage & artisan clothing store CougarHorse. The name alone gives insight into what you can expect to find here… items that are interesting, beautiful, and even hilarious.

cougarhorse piedmont ave, cougar horse oakland

A tiny storefront, barely visible from street (I only noticed it because it’s close to the cemetery I like to walk in), makes way to a tiny shop consisting of three even tinier rooms. Despite its limited size, however, a ton of style is packed in by its owners – brother sister duo Dana & Reed. Oakland natives, in fact their family goes back 4 generations in Oaktown, it seemed the logical place to set up shop.

trucker caps, cougarhorse oakland

Brother Reed is the artist in the family… self-taught, he finds his inspiration in the daily experiences he takes in. All the designs are his and there’s a collection of custom hand-dyed and screen-printed T’s prominently displayed amidst all the other eclectic offerings… vintage shoes and scarves, interesting accessories, wonderful jewelry (both new and old), and a crazy cool record collection, all at really reasonable prices.

cougarhorse oakland, cougarhorse vintage

Everything is displayed in creative and artful ways… items pour out of old suitcases… or drape from ladders… or are framed by funky cowboy paintings. It’s like a supercool garage sale where every single thing is a real treasure.

hipster clothing, plaid shirts, cougarhorse oakland

I asked how they source their vintage finds… Here’s what they had to say:

The vintage pieces are a labor of love. We really enjoy the hunt – taking a day and driving to out of the way places in search of treasures is fantastic. Saturday morning estate sales are tons of fun too. Honestly, we do not have the time to be fully in the vintage game, like the ladies at Mercy Vintage (also on Piedmont Avenue)… they are fantastic curators. The artwork and vintage is just another small piece of what is inspiring to us and something we want to share with others.

Guess I’ll have to do another post on Mercy Vintage!

vintage clothing oakland, custom T's oakland, cougarhorse oakland

Next up is 5733… You know ’em right? Street artist Eddie Colla‘s clothing company – they make just about the coolest T-shirts around. And they’re made right here in Oaktown with eco-ink, no sweatshop labor, and a tag-line you gotta love… “We hope our clothing makes you look good, feel good, get laid… Whatever makes you happy.”

5733 is opening a new retail store and gallery space on Piedmont Ave and the Grand Opening is this Saturday May 1st.  Here’s their plug…

To celebrate our new opening, and as a way to say thanks to all of our supporters, 5733 will be giving away a brand-new, event-exclusive colorway of a new t-shirt in addition to various prints, posters, and stickers to the first fifty guests, additionally, all apparel will be marked down 25% for our grand opening.

Hear that? First fifty guests get a FREE t-shirt. Better get there early!

5733 Apparel and Art – Grand Opening
May 1st – International Worker’s Day
4125 Piedmont Ave, Oakland CA.
Store opens at noon, party begins at 7PM.
Beats by Tibbs and Lankston
Food and drink compliments of Chez Simone and friends

5733 gallery, 5733 clothing store, 5733 retail opening

photo courtesy of 5733

Mountain View Cemetery…

One of my favorite things to do, and an appropriately spooky outing for this Halloween, is to visit Mountain View Cemetery at the end of Piedmont Avenue. It’s a gorgeous piece of prime Oakland real estate, nestled against and stretching into the hills with stunning views of the entire Bay Area… nevermind that it’s full of dead people.

Because it’s also chock full of incredible art & architecture, not to mention a ton of local history.  It’s here that you can read about the Merritts (former mayor of Oakland Samuel Merritt, after whom Lake Merritt was named) and the Crockers (railroad builder Charles Crocker, namesake to Crocker Highlands) and a slew of other politicians, philanthropists, shipmasters, and businesspersons who helped shape this city.

The cemetery comprises over 220 acres containing, chapels, columbariums, crematoriums, mausoleums, and traditional graves, all amidst a breathtaking park-like setting that frequently draws hikers, bikers, a picnickers alike.  It always makes me smile to see a family stretched out, enjoying an afternoon lunch in the midst of the graves.

Founded in 1863, the park was designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, known as the father of American landscape design, and designer of many urban parks including Central Park in New York City. Part of what makes Mountain View unique from other cemeteries is this park-like design, which grew out of his integrated “vision of man and nature and their relationship to each other.”

Mountain View Cemetery Statues

Mountain View Cemetery Sculpture

There are fantastic examples of sculptural work in stone, concrete, and metal. I love this bronze angel…

Bronze Angel

Mountain View Cemetery

Bronze Sculpture

These next two crypts are from “Millionaires’ Row”… The one on the right is the Crocker crypt – I like to call it the giant penis. I’m sure he didn’t have a complex… um, right.

Millionaires' Row

Mountain View Cemetery Sphynx

Mountain View Cemetery

Mountain View Cemetery Lambs

Lots of angels…

Mountain View Cemetery Angels

Mountain View Cemetery Angel

Gravestones at Sunset

Mountain View Cemetery

Below is the view of San Francisco from the top…

View of San Francisco

The cemetery is open to the public everyday during daylight hours. Run by a nonsectarian, non-profit association, free docent tours are available the second and fourth Saturdays of each month starting at 10am.