Keep Oakland Beautiful Point Of Interest: Tallest Building in Oakland.

Keep Oakland Beautiful Points of Interest remind us of how interesting and beautiful Oakland is and why we should care about protecting it. Please click on the photos to enlarge and clarify them.

Do you have any idea which building in Oakland is the tallest? It’s not the Bank of America Building (although it was) and it’s not Oakland City Hall (although it was). The distinction of tallest building in Oakland falls to the Ordway Building, corporate headquarters of Kaiser Permanente, located near the northwest corner of Lake Merritt.


The Ordway Building is just left of center in this photo of the downtown Oakland skyline.

At a height of 404 feet, the 28-story Ordway Building has been Oakland’s tallest landmark since 1970, out-topping its next door neighbor, The Kaiser Center (now the second tallest building in Oakland), by a mere 14 feet. The Ordway is constructed of steel and faced with anodized silver aluminum sheeting and full-floor panels of glass. While appearing tall and rectangular from a distance, the structure is really H-shaped, allowing for eight corner offices on each floor.

The building stands back a bit from the northwest ‘arm’ of Lake Merritt, near the intersection of Harrison and West Grand.


The Ordway Building seen from The Gardens at Lake Merritt.

The major tenant of the Ordway Building is Kaiser Permanente, a leading healthcare insurer and provider, which has considered the building as its corporate home for the past 45 years. In fact, the building receives its name from Alonzo B. Ordway, Henry J. Kaiser’s first employee and long-time operations manager, hired in 1912 when Mr. Kaiser worked for the Canadian Mineral Rubber Company.

The Ordway Building cuts a clean image when seen from outside, but its best feature is represented by the incredible views it offers from its upper floors.


View of downtown Oakland, San Francisco Bay, and peninsula hills from the Ordway Building.

On a clear day, the Ordway Building is a great place for its occupants to view downtown Oakland, Berkeley and the Berkeley Hills, the San Francisco skyline, the hills of Marin County, and of course, San Francisco Bay and Lake Merritt. Oh, and did I neglect to mention views of the bridges that span the bay?

From the top floor of the Ordway Building, I had the good fortune one time to watch the sun set right behind the TransAmerica Building across the bay. The swollen sun appeared as if it was being skewered by this ‘pyramid-shaped’ San Francisco skyscraper and served up as the ultimate hot appetizer. Since the point where the sun sets moves every day, I had to be at the right place, on the right date, at the right time, with the right weather conditions, in order to experience this phenomenon (and, of course, I did not have my camera…).

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.

One Response to Keep Oakland Beautiful Point Of Interest: Tallest Building in Oakland.

  1. anthony marrujo February 28, 2016 at 2:54 am #

    Nice story. I have always loved architecture and Oakland and have waited most of my life (born in 1964) for a new “tallest” building in Oakland to emerge. But with the focus of high rise plans entirely on residential towers, it seems as though that dream may not happen in my lifetime. The most I can hope for is density rather than a building taller than the Ordway building. Especially with local opposition that always arises when anything gets proposed downtown. They complain about heights that block the sun or murals being covered or the affordable component. It’s a wonder we have what we have already. Oh well, I will take what we can get.

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