Keep Oakland Beautiful Points of Interest remind us of how interesting and beautiful Oakland is and why we should care about protecting it.
For the first quarter of the 20th century, the neighborhood between Telegraph and Shattuck, 56th and 58th Streets in North Oakland was the place to be. Built in 1903 and known as Idora Park, this ‘pleasure park’ included an opera house, a zoo, an ostrich farm, and other forms of early 20th century entertainment. Don’t rides like the Social Whirl, Barrel of Fun, the Haunted Swings, Trip Through Hades, sound like fun? The park also offered a roller coaster, an auto race course, and the West’s first radio theater. You could also get crispy sour milk waffles, beer, whiskey or eat at the park’s restaurant. If that’s not enough, the park had a dance hall, a bear grotto, and the largest roller skating rink in California. Want more? How about a 3,000 seat baseball park, once the home of the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League?
In August 1904, Thomas Baldwin, a pioneer balloonist, offered demonstrations of his lighter than air dirigible, the California Arrow, at Idora Park. In so doing, the California Arrow became the first dirigible in the US to successfully complete a controlled round trip. Later that year, Mr. Baldwin took his airship to the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. Unfortunately, the California Arrow’s success was fleeting. It was at Baldwin’s San Francisco manufacturing site when it fell victim to the 1906 earthquake that destroyed much of our sister-city across the Bay.
Idora Park provided shelter to over 2,000 people who were displaced in the aftermath of that terrible earthquake.
The park continued to evolve and entertain until 1929. In that year of the Great Depression, Idora Park was razed. Subsequently, a residential neighborhood was built in the footprint of the park, including apartment houses and storybook-style homes. It was the first neighborhood in the west to feature underground utilities.
The storybook homes, also known as Hansel and Gretel and Fairy Tale homes, are technically a form of Provincial Revivalism architecture. They are characterized by fanciful features, such as cylindrical turrets, gingerbread molding, and oddly-shaped roofs, windows, and doors. This style of home became popular in California in the 1920s. A number of beautiful storybook homes can be found in the Oakland area.
Today, you’d never know that all the excitement and history of Idora Park had once occurred in this now quiet, residential neighborhood. Idora Park must have been a magical place in its day. The ground beneath the storybook homes in the neighborhood bounded by Telegraph and Shattuck Avenues, 56th and 58th Streets may, one day, disclose some fascinating artifacts from that bygone era.
Keeping Oakland Beautiful is everybody’s business.
We encourage you to share your thoughts in the reply section. We welcome the dialogue and learning of others’ perspectives.