Oakland’s Architectural Oddities.

Please click on the photos to enlarge and clarify them.

Since Halloween is right around the corner, I thought I’d share some of my favorite architectural faces, animals, and grotesques that you can find right here in downtown Oakland. At first glance, you might think these are gargoyles, but they’re not. Gargoyles are mythical beings, usually carved in stone, that are positioned at the end of rain gutters, allowing the water to pour out through the beast’s mouth. While these aren’t gargoyles in the true sense of the word, they provide the same sense of mystery and drama.

One good place to look for architectural oddities is in Old Oakland. The following beasts can all be found on 9th Street, between Washington Street and Broadway.

Grotesque 1

Grotesque 2

Grotesque 3

Another rich collection of architectural oddities can be found on the Asian Resource Center, 310 8th Street, in Oakland Chinatown. On the side of this building, you’ll find a variety of architectural flourishes. In particular, I want to draw your attention to the human heads and monkeys, as shown in the next three photos (don’t overlook the weird face on the right side of the first photo).

Grotesque 4

Grotesque 5

Grotesque 6

My final offering can be found on the rim of the entablature, sitting atop the lower section of the Bank of America Building on Broadway, between 13th and 12th Streets. Here you’ll find lion heads galore, about eight stories up, as you can see in the photo below.


If you have your own favorite architectural oddities that grace the exteriors of Oakland buildings, please feel free to share the locations with us. While these faces and creatures adorning some of our buildings may not be everybody’s cup of tea, I’m fascinated by them and feel they make our local architecture more interesting, mysterious, and, yes, beautiful.

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.

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