As the cranes of unrelenting growth stack studios and one-bedrooms on every horizon, it is interesting to look back on Oakland’s not-so-distant past, its strange and colorful history, the stories that came before our own. In the 1800’s, before the electric commuter trains occupied our space, there was a horse-drawn tramcar line running up Telegraph Avenue, then called Humboldt Avenue. The horsecars operated out of a large barn on 51st, where the Walgreens now stands.
The horse barn was built beside Temescal Creek, the hidden watershed that defines our neighborhood, just a stone’s throw from the DMV, where Vicente Peralta built the first adobe structure in 1836, dubbing it Rancho Temescal. In 1820, Vicente’s father was given 45,000 acres – pretty much all of the east bay - by the Spanish Crown, for forty years of military service; his Rancho San Antonio stretched from San Leandro to Albany. Vicente and his brothers had more than 2,000 horses and 8,000 cattle, raised not for meat, but for hides and tallow. The Peralta’s built a slaughterhouse on 14th street and 12th avenue, where there is now a Burger King.
Temescal Creek, likely named after native sweat lodge huts the vaqueros discovered along its banks, is one of many ways water gets from the hills to the bay. Over the years, the creek has been culverted and redirected to accommodate new development, but it still carries much of the runoff beneath us from the east. Anthony Chabot, the ‘Water King’, dammed the creek in 1868 to create Lake Temescal, the first Oakland municipal water supply. Until the early 1900’s, there was still a wide, wooden bridge on Telegraph Avenue, where they’re now building a two hundred unit residential building and a Whole Foods.
While the march of progress continues unabated, let’s take some time to enjoy what we still have here: the sun, the hills, each other, and the small bits of artificially constructed and re-pumped ‘creek’ surrounding the DMV. And maybe fifty years from now, you’ll sit back and say, “I drank some delicious wine in that spot on 40th and Webster.”
TONIGHT: Thursday Night Flights!: Italian reds and Loire Valley whites. Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Nebbiolo, Melon, Sauvignon Blanc & Romorantin. Flights $12 from 5-9 and wines by the glass until 9pm.
SATURDAY 6/29: ITALIAN ROSÉ Tasting Flights – All new dry Rosés from Tuscany and Piedmont. Flights $15 from 2-6 and wines by the glass until 9pm.
SUNDAY 6/30: ‘ORANGE WINE’ Flights: Skin-fermented wines from Croatia, California & the Republic of Georgia. Flights $15 from 2-6 and wines by the glass until 8pm.