Blair Park

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Past and present of Alameda County, California
by Baker, Joseph Eugene, 1914

Blair park at Piedmont was an attractive spot which was sought by picnics and pleasure seekers generally in the late '80s and '90s. There was a dancing pavilion, a bandstand, a fountain, refreshment stands, a merry-go-round, swings, ponies and goats to ride, and generally all the attractions of a modern city park.

From the San Francisco Morning Call -

Sunday, March 22, 1891. Page 8:

PICTURESQUE PIEDMONT.

Glimpses of a Region of Delightful Hollies.

The Piedmont Cable Company and Its Enterprise --

The Attractions at Blair's Park. Views of Surpassing Grandeur.

BLAIR'S PARK.

During the past two years there has been created at Piedmont a park and pleasure ground of such unusual beauty and genuine attraction that it is worthy of especial description. Originally laid out by the late Walter Blair for the purposes to which it is now devoted, it has been taken in hand by the Piedmont Cable Company, and extensive and important improvements have been made or are now under way. The cable company is indebted to Mr. Ira Bishop of the San Francisco Tool Company for the design and laying out of the grounds and the adoption of the principal attractions of the park. The park itself comprises an area of seventy-five acres, but is surrounded on three sides by the rugged heights and the picturesque mountain canyons for which Piedmont Heights are celebrated, thus practically giving a range of vastly larger scope to the limits of the park, while on the fourth side, or front, by which the approach is made, a splendid view is had over the whole of Oakland, the bay, the city of San Francisco and the unequaled water prospect that ranges from the Golden Gate inward to the Contra Costa shore. To gain this view at the best advantage the visitor will climb to Inspiration Point, which, rising at the back to an altitude of some 700 feet, dominates the whole surrounding country and gives the view in panorama of everything from Berkeley to Alameda on this shore and from Mount Tamalpais down along the Coast Range. An easy, graded trail has been constructed to this point, with frequent benches and resting-places on the way, and is a most popular feature. A fact that is always appreciated by the many pilgrims to Inspiration Point is a living spring of fresh, cold water that rises just above the point. An observatory will eventually be erected here.

 

SOME OF THE ATTRACTIONS.

As the cable-car comes swinging down the "gravity curve" and draws up at the entrance to the park there is found a portal which is later to be replaced by a substantial arch, at either side of which is planted a giant wisteria, one blue, the other white, said to he 100 years of age and specially imported from Japan. These will be trained over the arch and in the season will present a solid mass of bloom. One goes directly by broad walks to the bandstand, with its amply-seated oval, to listen for a time to the band. A concert will be given on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the best talent, of Oakland and San Francisco being secured. Just before reaching this place the fountain is passed. The water is abundant and has a fall of several hundred feet, and hence the fountain is of real strength and fullness. To the right is the maze, or labyrinth -- a copy of the celebrated Parisian labyrinth destroyed in the Franco-Prussian war. It Is a very interesting puzzle, having sixty-four paths, and requiring a very perplexing journey to reach the pavilion at the center, whence a view is obtained of the devious ways of those endeavoring to gain the spot. In size it is over 20,000 square feet, and is constructed of lattice work. But, without doubt, one of the greatest novelties is the

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Oakland Tribune - Sun - Mar. 5, 1922

Oakland Tribune - Wed - Jan. 7, 1891:

BLAIR PARK.


New Attractions Provided so That it Will be More Enticing Than Ever.


The foundations and side structures for the Japanese tea house at Blair Park are completed, and as the bamboo frame work has arrived from Japan it will be at once put in position. It is expected that the tea house will be open three weeks from now.

 

Work is progressing rapidly on the Venetian canal, and, according to contract, it will be reads by the 1st of March. The maze which was opened on Christmas day is a great success. It is liberally patronized and furnishes much amusement.


The contract for setting up a merry-go-round and supplying donkeys and goats in the children's park has been let to Murphy, who runs the same class of amusements in the Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. His contract calls for him to start the children's park on the 1st of March.

 

The concerts by the band on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons will begin again in the early spring.

 
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Nor are the children forgotten. While in a sense the whole park is their play ground, there are especial attractions for them. In one locality there has been constructed a Venetian canal over 1000 feet in length, one portion being carried across a ravine on trestle work, and by a circuitous route giving a very novel water ride. In another place is the merry-go-round with adjuncts of swings, seesaws, donkey and goat carts, etc., just as found at Golden Gate Park.

At the entrance to the canyon at the back of the park are found the tables and benches for picnic parties, of which there are a great number. The nooks and corners farther up are popular spots for basket parties, while the paths which are opened for a mile or more up the canyon supply pleasant promenades. Later on it is the intention to erect a capacious and handsome casino which will be surrounded on all sides by broad verandahs and will be In the midst of shrubbery and flower beds. A photograph gallery, refreshment booth (no liquors being sold on the grounds), and every convenience will go to complete the arrangements.

The lower grounds of the park are taken up by a lake of considerable extent, which adds the further charm of variety to the scene. The grounds are clean and tastily kept, there being no brush or rubbish anywhere, and are the resort entirely of the better class, largely family parties who come to spend the day, bringing their luncheon in baskets. Eventually the park will be almost a huge flower garden, many thousands of plants, shrubs, flowers and bulbs being set out. In everything there seems a desire to keep the place choice and select, neither expense nor trouble being spared by the lessees to make and keep Blair's Park one of the most attractive spots on the Oakland side of the bay.

Oakland Tribune - Sat - Jun. 20, 1891:

Attractions:

Blair Park is a spot of which the poets justly might sing, and which would furnish studies for an artist. The location of the park is most favorable in every respect for the purpose to which it is dedicated. It is situated on the brow of the hill, overlooking the entire country for miles around. It might be well here to give a history of its delightful place. A few years ago the late Walter Blair conceived the idea that a park where families could resort to and spend a pleasant day rambling in the country would be of untold benefit to the community. So accordingly he took this section of land and had it laid out for that purpose. Nature has especially fitted this spot with many of its trees and shrubs, and with a few improvements it was made what it now is – the most pleasant outing-place in the bay counties.

 

When the cable road was constructed the heads of the company thought it a good idea to lease these grounds at the at the terminus of their road, so that it passengers could have the benefit of their use. Accordingly the lease was arranged, and all who have ever visited the park know what a vision of loveliness it is. The park comprises an area of seventy-five acres, but is surrounded on three sides by rugged heights and sandy canyons, thus giving a range of a vastly large scope than the limits of the grounds.

 

At the entrance stands a large arch, over which trail two costly wisterias imported from Japan and more than 100 years old. This arch will in time be replaces by a substantial stone one. Passing under the arch and walking over the well-laid walkthrough the lawns, many benches places in a semi-circle are seen.

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Oakland - Tribune -Wed - Aug. 20, 1890

 
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Inspiration point:

The easy grade of the path makes it seem almost incredible to the visitor that he should have attained an altitude of 900 feet above the level of the sea; but the panorama which lies before his assures him of the correctness. All along the path benches are placed for the tired, and a cool mountain spring bubbles forth, inviting the thirsty to partake.

The view from the point is grand. Tamalpais, with its sister peaks, beckon from the distance. The waters of San Francisco bay gleam in the sunlight, and the vessels which dot its surface are plainly discerned passing and repressing, or slowly fading from view as the Golden Gate opens to let them go. San Francisco, “hill-enthroned,” sits fair and stately, awaiting with a serene dignity her royal future; while nearer lies Berkeley, nestled in the foothills, and Alameda, with her water barriers. To the right gleam the shafts of the city of the dead, while directly in front of Oakland stretches forth, with its tall spires and smoking factories plainly visible. The estuary, railroad wharves and mole all lie as if in a puppet of panorama. All this sets in a framework of wooded hills, whose beauty, varying with the changing year, forms a rare picture. Well might the poet say: “’Tis grand, ‘tis grand; and all creation of God.”

An Eastern traveler who recently took the trip remarked that he had traveled all over the world five times and never yet saw more beautiful scenery. Coming down Inspiration point is the Venetian Canal.

JAPANESE TEA-HOUSE:

The San Francisco Call - Sun - Mar. 22, 1891:

An exact copy of the ancient tea-houses of Japan. It was framed in Japan of native woods by native artisans, was sent over complete, and has been put together by Japanese carpenters on this side. Tea in native style will be served by Japanese maidens in national costume, the whole ensemble being a bit of oriental luxury dropped into the practical Occident. A choice collection of roses is being planted about the tea-house, which will eventually embower it in flowers.

Oakland Tribune - Sat - Jun. 20, 1891:

This is one of the most novel attractions in the park. It is an exact copy of the ancient tea-houses of Japan. Which in years back gained much fame. The building is situated on a small knoll and is a curious piece of workmanship. It was framed in Japan, of native wood and by native workmen. The structure was made complete, and every joint fitted. It was then shipped here “knocked down,” and Japanese laborers re-erected it. Not a nail was used in its construction, except in the shingling of the roof, where nails were necessary. Japanese ropes were tied over the neatly fitting music from a machine in the center add an additional charm to the ride. 

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Japanese tea house - The_San_Francisco_E
 

The San Francisco Examiner - Sun - Feb. 28, 1892

The Venetian Canal and Dancing Pavilion:

Lies, surrounded on three sides by hills. This is an interesting feature of amusement. The circular canal is 1000 feet in circumference, and is elevated above the ground to a considerable height. A large wheel run by an engine sends the water running merrily around its course, carrying with it boats laden with children. The little crafts glide noiselessly after the original one which was destroyed in Paris during the Franco-Prussian war. It contains sixty-four intersecting paths, and around the aqueduct, now over babbling brooks, now across small ravines, then up on the hillsides, and finally across a trestle to the starting point. The ride is a great novelty, as all the sights, including the beautiful view, are noticeable.

 

Within the circumference of the canal on the ground beneath stands the dancing pavilion. This has ben but recently constructed and will undoubtedly be a favorite spot. The platformn is of large area and is neatly canopied above with a substantial roof. The sides are left open, so that the dancers may be refreshed by the cooling air. The pavilion was built for the use of the public.

 

Clubs that now are obliged to hire halls in town to give balls in, where the atmosphere soon becomes close and the dancers are literally roasted in trying to enjoy themselves, will find this a great pleasure. Here on the application to the company’s office the pavilion may be engaged any evening, and those who desire to enjoy the pleasures of Terpsichore need only to bring music with them and danced to their hearts content. A large electric light in the center of the pavilion abundantly illuminates the structure. During such evenings as the pavilion is engaged refreshment booths in the park will be kept open for the benefit of the dancers.

 

Passing down the walks to the south, after a perplexing journey the stand in the center is reached where seats are prepared. Those who reach the goal are afforded the opportunity of watching others seek the center. After once being in, the journey must again be taken to get out.

 

At the stand in front all sorts of refreshing goodies are sold. To the right of the maze is the Photography Gallery.

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Blair’s Park offered picnic tables, swin
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Picnic Tables:

Are plentifully disposed for the convenience of picnickers. Some are under the shady trees, where the birds have builded their nests, while others are located in cozy dells. Many visitors avail themselves of the use of the tables and pleasant luncheons are enjoyed in the open air. One good feature about these tables is that they are secluded, although conveniently located. The public is beginning to realize the advantage of the park in which attractions are so numerous. Here is a quiet spot where ladies and children spend a pleasant outing without the fear of being molested or spoken to by any objectionable person. It has been the aim of the company to see that none but a select gathering visit their pretty grounds, and they have carried their intentions into execution most admirably.  In the first place, the park is not such a resort as questionable characters would frequent, for no liquors are sold on the grounds, and a “though” is as much out of the place there as a chicken is in the water. It is unlike some other parks where lady visitors were obliged to be accompanied by escorts for the fear of being insulted by ruffians, for Blair Park is entirely devoid of such characters, and mothers with their children may enjoy the visit without the slightest fear of molestation.  The attendant who looks after the grounds is a deputy constable, but his services as an official are never needed.

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Oakland Tribune - Wed - Jan. 21, 1891

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Oakland Tribune - Tue - May 12, 1891

Oakland  Tribune - Mon - Apr. 27, 1891

Photography Gallery:

Here a cozy structure has been erected where those desiring their pictures taken can, by sitting a few moments, obtain them. In ten minutes they are finished off, and the visitor sees himself and he is – for the camera never lies. Many groups of picnickers often take this occasion to get mementoes of their trip, which in after years are so pleasant to recall. In front of the gallery are many pretty views of the park which are interesting. The photograph gallery is well patronized, as the cost of a tin-type is very small, and is a pleasing way of remembering the visit to the park. Close beside the gallery is the Tea House.

 
 
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San Francisco Chronicle -  Thu - Apr. 30, 1891

Oakland Tribune - Thu - Apr. 30, 1891

The Bronze fountain:

The bronze fountain in Blair Park is an artistic piece of modeling, designed by Frederick Flohr of this city, and it possesses the additional merit of being the largest piece of bronze work ever executed on this coast.

At the solicitation of the Piedmont Cable Company numerous designs for the fountain were submitted by Easter and local sculptors. The design of Frederick Flohr was accepted and he was commissioned to execute the work, which required seven months to complete it.

The fountain is cast in bronze and it weighs about 800 pounds. The basin in which the bronzework stands is of artificial stone and is forty-two feet in diameter. The first or lower section of the fountain is of white bronze, eight feet three inches high and nine feet in diameter. About this four large dolphins spout streams of water. Upon the structure rests a large bowl ten feet six inches in diameter and two feet deep, ornamented with leaves. Three colossal swans surmount this structure and from their mouths flow streams of water to the basin on which they rest. Upon them rests a huge swell.

The work is crowned by a heroic figure of youth, nine feet high, holding in tight embrace a fish, from the mouth of which the water spouts high in the air.

The whole is a very artistic piece of work and forms one of the greatest attractions at Blair Park.

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More on the fountain:

 

This is a costly bronze piece of statuary carved by a celebrated artist. It stands in the middle of a pond and is twenty-nine feet high. At the base is represented the lower order of animal ___ by four dolphins, who continually knit a cool stream of water from their mouths. In the center the second decree of swimming animal life is shown by four swans, who cast a gentle spray from their beaks high in the air. The crown piece is surmounted with a child holding in its arms a fish. The main stream pours out of the throat of the fish, and ascends to a height of sixty feet from the ground, falling into huge basins by the side of the statuary, and gently moistening the leaves of the many pond lilies. Continuing down the walk to the west a beautiful lake stretches out its waters. Benches and settees are conveniently located on its banks where the visitors may watch the dainty fish pop up for food. Ascending along the path at the side of the lake inspiration point is reached.

 

Band Stand:

The is an oval shaped structure, and is over great interest, for here music is furnished. Every Sunday and Saturday afternoon bands of twenty-five pieces discourse the sweetest stains of popular music. To the right of the band stand is the fountain.

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The Spring:

 
Blair Park in Piedmont in the 1880's fro
1898 The oakland Tribune Alameda County.
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The fence to the top right is Moraga Avenue (near Coaches field today)

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Jul. 2, 1967

Balloons:

On July 6, 1897:

Most remembered of all balloon ascensions from Blair's Park was made by aeronaut Charles Conlon on a Fourth of July in the mid-1880s. Just as the balloon left the ground a small lad named Bertram Hills grabbed a dangling rope and was carried aloft. 

The mist factual version of the tradgedy came to The Knave some years ago from Mrs. Edna Olney Hunt, whose mother took her and little Bertram to the park to witness the balloon ascension.

"Bertie became real excited and it became hard to hold onto his hand. Charlie Conlon was a friend of ours and he had been telling Bertie all about the balloon adventures. The boy wanted to go up with Charlie. Suddenly he broke free and ran to the balloon just as it was leaving the ground. He threw a leg over the sandbag and grabbed the rope. Charlie didn't know that Bertie was on the sandbag," Edna Olney Hunt recited.

" ' Ride the balloon down, there's a child on the sandbag,' shouted Charlie's managers, using a megaphone. 

"Charlie called to Bertie and told him to hang on tight and not to be frightened. Bertie answered 'alright'. But when Charlie called again there was no answer. He looked down to see the boy tumbling groundward through the air.

"We think the reason Bertie lost his grip was because he became breathless. He had just recovered from Whopping cough."

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Oakland Tribune - Fri - Jun_19, 1896

 
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San Francisco Chronicle - Tue - Jul. 6, 1897

 

San Francisco - Chronicle - Sun - Jun. 28, 1896:

The Pond:

For years it has borne the name of “Blair’s pond,” and during its existence has sudden beneath its dark surface more human bodies than any similar patch of water of its size in these regions. Indeed, there has not been a Coroner in Alameda county since 1875 until the present time who has not been obliged to record on the death rolls some victim of the weird pond, and strangest of all, each one of the martyrs to the dismal hole has been a good swimmer.

 

It has been known for a certainty that at least twelve unfortunates have entered the water never to emerge from it alive, but for how many more deaths it is responsible will probably never be known, for the fatal hole never voluntarily gives up its dead. A number of bodies have been recovered, but then only after much hard work with grappling irons. However, there are still believed to be others reposing it its depths.

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Blairs pond - mysterious pond in piedmon

San Francisco - Chronicle - Sun - Jun. 28, 1896

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The San Francisco Examiner - Sat - Feb. 8, 1896

History of Alameda County, California
by Merritt, Frank Clinton, 1928:


Many pleasure-seekers were attracted to Piedmont in the days of the cable railway by Piedmont Springs and Blair Park, where balloon ascensions took plape every Sunday. The Parachute drop of the aviators was a never-failing drawing card. Another interesting feature was the band concert; while many a romance had its culmination after a h f' to Inspiration Point, or during a stroll through the shaded lanes of Blair Park. A favorite amusement was to take the gravity car from the point at which it left the cable for a thrilling ride down Highland Avenue and through Blair Ranch to the cable at Oakland Avenue. Piedmont boys had a large swimming hole in the old quarry at the : corner of Dracena and Blair avenues.

Transportation to Blair Park:

Oakland Tribune - Sun – Oct. 9, 1955

 

 “That district around Grand and Linda was called Pleasant Valley in those days. There was an old wooden bridge on Oakland Ave. where the cable cars overpassed Linda Ave.,” Fraser continues. “My fifth and last stop was the home of Isaac Requa on Highland Ave. beyond the old Piedmont Park and Sulfur Springs. The Oakland Ave. cable terminated at what is now Highland Ave. At that point the cars dropped the cable and traveled by gravity, that is, coasted down Highland to the old Blairs Park where Robert Earlston gave an exhibition balloon flight and parachute jump every Sunday afternoon; park admission free. There were no Sunday papers printed then. Earlston would leave the ground dressed in bright red tights and do acrobatic stunts on a trapeze. What a thrill for us kids! From here the cable cars continued on, by gravity, through the grain fields till they picked up the cable again on Oakland Ave. beyond Linda.

blair park transportation - 1960-10 AC T
 

To see more on the trains to Blair park, visit the transportation page

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The end of Blair Park

 
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Oakland Tribune - Sept. 14, 1903

“Oakland’s Deserted Park”

 

Oakland Tribune – Sun - Oct. 15, 1916

By ARTHUR LEWIS

 

Before Oakland had any electric cars, its street railway system consisted of horse-drawn vehicles and two lines of cable roads; one ran from Seventh and Broadway out of San Pablo Avenue to Emeryville.

 

It was built at great expense, was not much faster than horse drawn cars and never paid its upkeep. The other line ran out of Broadway to Twenty-fourth street, out of Oakland Aveue, thence over the hills to Piedmont.

 

This road had more reason for being than its rival, for the cable system had been used in San Francisco for years and had demonstrated perfectly its hill-climbing capabilities, so that was one of the reasons a party of capitalists finances the Piedmont Cable line.

 

But cable roads are expensive to construct, trenches must be dug, steel braces at intervals of twenty feet, the entire length of the road, double-tracked and cemented, a great power house where massive machinery whirred, and miles of steel cable, which had to be replaced at regular intervals as it wore out. All this comes high, so it is obvious that a great number of nickels must be rung up daily to keep the wheels turning.

 

When the Piedmont cable road was built the population of Piedmont was in embryo, but the builders were figuring on the road bringing the population, by making the charming country which it tapped easy of access.

 

They had a cinch, for automobiles were in the chrysalis stage, ad as all the land in Piedmont was owned by the biggest stockholder in the road, there was little worry about an opposition line.

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So for a year or two the road hauled its cargo of passengers out into the fields beyond Oakland, and the owners had the satisfaction of seeing their dream come true, for people began to buy and build and Oakland started to creep up toward Piedmont and the latter place came down the hill to meet Oakland.

 

But still something was needed to bring great numbers of people; something that was velvet, the receipts from the regular travelers on the road would just about cover operating expenses, with very little, if any, left over to divide with the stockholders.

 

Since the residents of the exclusive district as it soon became had put the resort known as the Springs out of business, there was no drawing card that would brig the people with their nickels. So the directors got together and the idea of a park was decided upon.

 

A site was secured on a gentle slope adjacent to the cemetery and separated from it by a small lake. Laborers with picks, shovels and mules got busy grading, building paths and lawns and after some months of labor, Oakland’s first regular park made its debut, and the people were invited to come and make merry.

 

As there was at the time nothing like it in Oakland, and as there was music every Saturday and Sunday, and as the ride to the park was most enjoyable, the people came, and in such numbers that extra cars had to be put on the run, and at last the Piedmont line began to feel the “velvet”.

 

The first improvement erected in the park was a bandstand. This was the typical eight-cornered affair, supported by mill-turned posts, the apex of the roof crowned by a gilt lyre so that it could not be misunderstood for anything but a place where music was dispensed, and here a German picnic band of twelves pieces would render “Annie Rooney.” “She May Have Seen Better Days,” “Two Little Girls in Blue,” “When Her Father Turned Her Picture Toward the Wall” and other classics of the day, interspersed with selections from “Erminie” and “Robbin Hood” or with the intermezzo from “Rusticana.”

 

Around the bandstand, under the shade of the cypress and gum trees would promenade the youth and beauty of the town, aye, even from the metropolis they would come, while on the benches under the long row of trees which bordered the main walk, those who sat, would enjoy the passing throng and pass the comments while eating peanuts and popcorn.

 

To keep the crowd, other improvements were gradually added, but the main one, the Chef d’Oeuvre as it were, was a grand fountain, just back of the bandstand. This was supposed to be the great decorative feature of the park, something that would give it éclat as it were. So local sculptors and artists were invited to submit designs.

 

A plumber and gasfitter’s bid was the lowest so he captured the job. His design was supposedly classic, but was conventional in motif, consisting of an overfed plaster of paris Cupid with a dislocated hip on which he supported a fish of the man-eating shark type. A strangle-hold amidships of the fish and the upturned face of the Cupid, with an expression of extreme bliss gave one the impression that he was well satisfied with his job.

 

From the open mouth of the fish of the unknown species a stream of water about the size made by the ordinary garden horse squirted a few feet upward and fell back with a splash on the Cupid’s nose where it rickled over his dropsical form, until it fell in the basin underneath. A couple of gold fish and a mud turtle made up the piscatorial end of it, much to the delight of the kids, who employed every known means to scoop them in.

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THE LURE OF ART.

 

At the fountain the promenaders would stop and gaze, some with awe and some with merriment, at the wonderful work of art, and the youngsters would sail chip boats and fall in, just as youngsters have been doing and will be doing until the end of time.

 

Around the fountain and the bandstand constituted the promenade and as the area of the park was rather limited, it took about sixty laps to the mile, the whole park could be places within the present auditorium, but small as it was it was considered a gem of its kind and its natural beauty was the drawing card.

The young men wore cutaway coats, a very low cut waistcoat displaying a vast expanse of striped shirt front, a cuff around the throat in place of a collar, and a long thin cravat which had to be pinned to the inside of the waistcoat to keep it from flapping in the wind like a pennant. The trousers, cut very wide, were the same width over the instep, so that about an inch of the boot protruded, while a black silk stripe down the sides gave a touch of elegance.

 

The young women wore no skirts that displayed from the eight to twelve inches of stocking, but just the reverse, it seemed to be immodest to show even the feet, so the skirt trailed behind them on the ground; but the waists were the marvel of the century. The sleeves were large enough to conceal a couple of hams in and to prevent them from being crushed the young ladies had to keep so far away from their escorts that the width of the walk would just about accommodate the couple.

 

As the devotees of fashion promenaded around the walks the trailing skirts of milady stirred up the dust, and several hundred of these animated brooms would create some disturbance in that line, so that everything was seen through a dusty haze.

The young men wore cutaway coats, a very low cut waistcoat displaying a vast expanse of striped shirt front, a cuff around the throat in place of a collar, and a long thin cravat which had to be pinned to the inside of the waistcoat to keep it from flapping in the wind like a pennant. The trousers, cut very wide, were the same width over the instep, so that about an inch of the boot protruded, while a black silk stripe down the sides gave a touch of elegance.

 

The young women wore no skirts that displayed from the eight to twelve inches of stocking, but just the reverse, it seemed to be immodest to show even the feet, so the skirt trailed behind them on the ground; but the waists were the marvel of the century. The sleeves were large enough to conceal a couple of hams in and to prevent them from being crushed the young ladies had to keep so far away from their escorts that the width of the walk would just about accommodate the couple.

 

As the devotees of fashion promenaded around the walks the trailing skirts of milady stirred up the dust, and several hundred of these animated brooms would create some disturbance in that line, so that everything was seen through a dusty haze.

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After the band had blown itself out, the concessions would be visited, the merry-go-around, whose wheezy organ, playing “Down Went McGinty,” mingled with the stains of “Il Trovatore” from the band, was enough to make the inhabitants of the cemetery across the reservoir revolve in their graves.

 

Then the tintype gallery, where the swains and their fair ladies would be waiting in line, to have their tintypes “took,” the meanwhile chewing gum and munching popcorn.

 

Great numbers also took the trail to Inspiration Point, the highest peak of the foothills back of the park. It was a dusty back-breaking path alongside a barbed wire fence which separated the domain of the quick from the dead. At its top was a flagpole indicating the summit, and those who reached it and made the return trip, dusty and perspiring, considered they were in the same class of the greatest climber who ever scaled the Matterhorn.

 

The homeward journey from the park was of the chief delights; after the cable cards left the park they went under gravity; the grade was sufficient to send them under their own momentum around a loop, through flower-studded fields, resembling a huge Oriental rug. The course was winding and the cars went with great speed around the curves and up gentle slopes. It was then that the boys and girls sat close together regardless of voluminous sleeves and thus decorated with ferns and wild flowers and singing “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” would the homeward trip be made.

 

THE RETURN TRIP

 

After the car had made the loop, it would run into the main line, pick up the cable, and slowly drag its way over the hills toward Oakland whose spires and turrets were halftoned in a sea of purple mist.

 

Oakland’s first park today is deserted. The basin of the circular fountain is still there, but is a depository for old hats, cans and other refuse. It is overrun with rank weeds and blackberry vines, and a tight board fence bisects it, to apparently shut out forever the memory of the park from its neighbor, the peaceful city of the dead. Where the bandstand once stood, a forest of eucalyptus stands like great pillars, supporting a green trellised dome, while the ground is covered to a depth of several inches with weathered branches and dead leaves, through which occasional patches of cement walks can be seen. The elephantine Cupid, once the pride of the park, now decorates the lawn of a retired butcher somewhere out on Grand Avenue, while to complete the desolation the wind from the cemetery sighs and moans through the eucalyptus causing long strips of peeling bark to rattle weirdly against their ghost like trunks.

 

Old hats and castoff clothing bestrews the place, and the long walk beneath the arches trees, where twenty years ago the youth and beauty strolled and breathed the fresh air, is hidden from view by layers of dead leaves, which rustle when walked over, as if complaining at the disturbance.

 

The new generation of today now enjoys the velvet lawns and beautiful splashes of color of Oakland’s well-groomed park, while lolling under the shade of some fantastic old oak, the cooling breezes of Lake Merritt temper the atmosphere, while the strains from Steindorff’s well-conducted band bring a sense of peace to the soul.

Oakland_Tribune_Thu__Dec_18__1913_.jpeg

Oakland Tribune - Thu - Dec. 18, 1913

future - Blair park - Oakland_Tribune_Su
future - Blair park - Oakland_Tribune_Su
future - Blair park - Oakland_Tribune_Su

Oakland Tribune - Sun - May 12, 1918

Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Aug_20__1922_.jpeg

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Aug. 20, 1922