Keep Oakland Beautiful Points of Interest remind us of how interesting and beautiful Oakland is and why we should care about protecting it.
One of our most distinguished landmarks is the Tribune Tower, at the corner of 13th and Franklin Streets, in downtown Oakland. Standing 305 feet tall, the 22-story building is reminiscent of the University of California Berkeley’s Sather Tower (the clock tower) and St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice.
The building was opened 90 years ago as the home of the Oakland Tribune. Initially, the building was a scant six-stories, when built in 1906. The tower was added later, being completed in 1923. The tower’s architecture is a mixture of French and Italian classical. To my untrained eye, the tower would appear at home on the Grand Canal, but I do see the French influence in the green copper mansard roof.
When the tower was built, it was intended to serve as a zeppelin mooring. The dirigible was to be tied to the flagpole at the top of the tower and the passengers were to climb down a rope ladder to the 20th floor walkway. Maybe Harry Houdini would attempt such a thing, but not me.
Speaking of Houdini (nice segue, huh?), did you know that the illusionist had himself suspended upside down, in a straitjacket, from the ninth floor of the Tribune Tower, just prior to its opening (the tower, not the straitjacket)? Houdini escaped from the jacket in five seconds, without plunging to his death.
March 27, 1923. Harry Houdini being strapped into a straitjacket in Oakland.
Photo by Edward ‘Doc’ Rogers, Oakland Tribune
March 27, 2023. Houdini hangs like a bat from the ninth floor of the Tribune Tower.
Photo by Edward ‘Doc’ Rogers, Oakland Tribune.
The Oakland Tribune and the Tribune Tower were sold to the Gannett Company in 1979. The Tribune was subsequently sold to its editor and publisher, Robert Maynard, and his wife Nancy Hicks Maynard. Through this transaction, the Maynards became the first African-Americans to own a major daily newspaper in the US.
The tower was damaged by the Loma Preita earthquake in 1989 and the Tribune moved to a new Oakland location. Tribune Tower was renovated and sold again in 2011, this time to a call center, CallSocket. Today, the building, now the 11th-tallest in Oakland, serves as an office tower for a variety of businesses.
Tribune Tower today.
Photo by E. Saltmarsh
Tribune Tower is on the list of City of Oakland landmarks. While Tribune Tower no longer houses the city’s newspaper, it still proudly displays the paper’s name, high above the city skyline.
Keeping Oakland Beautiful is everybody’s business.
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