Thursday, July 21, 2011

Church of St. James the Apostle

Located on the corner of Foothill Blvd. and 12th Ave. in East Oakland. California Historic Site plaque number 694 is mounted to a freestanding monument on the side of the building.

The Church of St. James the Apostle was founded on June 27th, 1858, and has offered continual service to the community since that date. The church was opened under the authority of Bishop Kip, the first Episcopal Bishop to serve in California. The church was originally established to serve the community of Clinton, a small settlers town that has been absorbed into Oakland proper. The official account of the church's history on their website is oddly depressing and underwhelming, containing a lot of references to the ineffectual management and inward-looking management policies that have plagued the church since it was established. This is one of the oldest and longest-serving churches in the East Bay. There are a few that have a longer history, such as the Mission San Jose and a number of other Spanish Catholic institutions, but in the field of non-Catholic and non-Spanish churches there aren't many that can compete.

The building itself is sadly deteriorated and when I visited there was a lot of scaffolding surrounding the church tower and the exterior was not in great shape. This may be due to the fact that the church is located in a fairly blighted neighborhood. The church is neat, and is worth a visit, but there's not a lot else in the blocks surrounding it that make the trip worthwhile. There was a huge gathering of people in the parking lot when I was there, and the church community was participating in a foodshare and clothing donation drive. Even though the church building has seen better days, it was nice to see that the local community was still trying to help each other out.

Getting There By Bike...
There isn't really a great way to get here by bike. When I have to cruise around East Oakland I like to ride up and down Foothill Blvd. instead of International, just because there's less traffic. One thing that I do like about riding down Foothill is that you pass through three or four distinct ethnic neighborhoods on the way. There is a large Hispanic community in the neighborhood, but there's also a large Korean and Thai community, and the little markets and stores that line the street are fun to poke around in. If you're coming from downtown Oakland, the church is a straight shot down Foothill Blvd. As with all rides in East Oakland, be prepared for lots of broken glass in the streets. Good tires, or the ability to fix your own flats, are absolutely required if you're going to explore this side of town.
There are some other historical sites in the vicinity, but a lot of them have been swallowed up by the blight that is a continual problem in East Oakland. There's a beautiful Carnegie library on the corner of Miller and E. 15th St., though the building is currently closed and surrounded by chain link fence. There's another restored Carnegie Library at 35th and Foothill, though the neighborhood is pretty bad so it's not a fun place to visit. The remains of downtown Brooklyn, one of the first settlements in the East Bay, can be seen on E. 12th St. between 11th and 12th Ave. The buildings are neat, but even more interesting is how they've been repurposed to meet the needs of the local Korean community.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful building, great historical review. I cannot believe that you didn't tell me that you were doing this. I have a lot of back reading to do!