We’re just about 3 weeks into our 3-month long One Book One Marin program for 2014, and I hope a few if not all of you have had the chance to check out Novella Carpenter’s book, Farm City. Novella touches on some of Oakland’s history; she briefly mentions the influx of African American residents who came to Oakland in the early 1920s to work on the railroads and in the shipping yards. I thought it might be interesting to know just a bit more about the city, so below is a slightly more in-depth, brief account of Oakland’s transportation and horticultural history.
Around 1868, Oakland became the western terminus of the transcontinental Central Pacific Railroads. As the railroad brought an influx of jobs and residents into Oakland, the city’s waterfront began its own expansion: shipyards grew in prominence and by World War I, government contracts helped major shipbuilding companies to employ thousands of workers to help build tankers and freighters. “By the mid-1930s, Oakland was a port of call for 40 world shipping lines.” (The Spirit of Oakland, p.19) Major shipyards were called on once again to produce hundred of combat vessels during World War II.
Oakland also has a historical connection to agriculture and farming: Fruit Vale started as an orchard of 700 Bing cherry trees planted in 1856 by a German immigrant, Henderson Luelling. Fruit farms sprang up across the Oakland foothills, and “Fruit Vale was considered a major fruit-growing center.” (The Spirit of Oakland, p.107) Elaborate 19th-century gardens created a beautiful ring around Lake Merritt, and commercial nurseries shipped flowers (via the railroad, then ferry) over to San Francisco. Oakland’s Municipal Rose Garden was established in the 1930s held a “Rose Sunday” viewing every Mother’s Day when the roses were in bloom. In 1936, 25,000 people attended Rose Sunday. (The Spirit of Oakland, p.107) The name of the garden was later changed to Morcom Rose Garden.
Source: The Spirit of Oakland: an Anthology ed. by Abby Wasserman, Heritage Media Corporation, 2000.