Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Calling all you history buffs

By awoodall
Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 at 1:26 pm in Oakland nightlife.

Here’s another e-mail from a reader to share a tip:

Dear Ms. Woodall;
As a long time Oakland resident, I enjoyed your recent piece about the FOX Oakland theatre restoration, along with other interesting Oakland theater information. Via my interests in Oakland’s history and preservation, I attended the FOX auction in 1978; my kitchen clock (large neon advertisement for ‘4 Wheel Brake Oakland’) came from my winning bid at the
late T & D Theatre’s auction circa 1976.
(The T&D was a super swank place that opened in 1916 on 429 11th St. with a Pompeian Room and ladies’ tea parlor where tipping the help was forbidden, according to Theatres of Oakland. Originally the initials stood for the owners, Turner and Dahnken. Later T&D was short for “Tough and Dirty,” a nickname that should tell you something about the theaters fate.)

I’m currently engaged in a personal project documenting and researching
small town movie theaters throughout the US. I’m combining my professional
past in the local film industry with a passion for photography: http://www.rushcreekgallery.com/lfop/index.html

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4 Responses to “Calling all you history buffs”

  1. Rebekah Says:

    There is another old building joining the long list of downtown Oakland landmarks that are being renovated including the Cathedral Building on Broadway, the Fox Oakland Theater on Telegraph Avenue — mentioned in Angela’s earlier post — and the old Southern Pacific railroad station on 16th Street.

    There is a 13,000-square-foot climbing gym, Great Western Power Company, that recently opened at 520 20th St. in downtown Oakland. Housed in a historic power plant, its one of the businesses striving to put new life in classic Oakland buildings.

    The gym is a place for nearby residents to play, climb, work out and socialize without having to get in a car and drive somewhere.

    New condos, stores and restaurants have been sprouting within a mile of the gym, and already several nearby schools have brought kids to climb at Great Western on a weekly basis. Many of them had never had the opportunity to see rock climbing before.

    The commitment to the community shows in the revitalization of the building, chosen for its striking architecture and history. The gym’s name comes from the electric utility that built the building in 1924 as a steam-powered generation plant. Great Western Power Co. was one of many independent power companies in the early years of the 20th century. It grew to become a rival for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Press reports of the time tell of a race by the two utilities to electrify California’s coastal cities. Eventually, PG&E dominated and bought out Great Western Power in 1930. The old power plant on 20th street was decommissioned and put to other uses.

    In renovating the building, the gym respected the facade and architecture, leaving intact the cornices and two-story stone arch over the front door. No funky glass or steel additions here, no garish paint job, just a great place for people to work out and climb – in a building that connects the past with the present. A landmark feature is the 150-foot smokestack that begins on the climbing floor inside and extends 100-feet above the roofline.

    Please visit and comment!

  2. Angela Woodall Says:

    Hey, thanks for the word. I’ll definitely check it out and I love the energy that’s bubbling up around such a renovation esp when I read the books about all the demolished and nearly-demolished (like the Fox) structures. When I read about the lost ones I’m torn between “Let’s make way for…” and “Oh, what we’ve lost….” I’d rather err on the side of “Thank goodness we had the foresight not to tear that building down.” Otherwise, the Fox, the floral depot, the Paramount and so many other beauties would be lost replaced by such grotesque things like the Smith Building, 18 stories of glass and steel that replaced one of the old-time beaux-arts structures and was about as exciting as a flat Budweiser, as I’ve said before (http://www.insidebayarea.com/ci_8074673?source=most_viewed).

  3. Rebekah Says:

    Amen to that.

    Finally old buildings have become hipper than steel and glass ones. I wonder about cause vs effect of shows like HGTV’s… what is it called… Generation Renovation?

    My family recently moved from a 1913 bungalow near a very mediocre school to a 2001 home (of no particular era or style) near a superb school. So much for being hip.

  4. Angela Woodall Says:

    Well, hopefully the hip bungalows of the world will still be there when schools don’t trump personal aesthetics. Ideally, of course, we wouldn’t have to choose between the two, but things being what they are…I ended up living in Berkeley for years so my daughters would have a decent school, so I feel for you.

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