Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Temescal is a neighborhood in North Oakland.  It's traditional borders are Broadway and State Route 24 to the East and West, with MacArthur to the South and 55th St. to the North.

Temescal is one of the oldest outlying neighborhoods in Oakland.  The area has been known as Temescal since the land was owned by the Peralta family as a part of the Rancho San Antonio.  The named is derived from the Temescal Creek, which once flowed above ground from the hills outside Montclare, down the Claremont Canyon, and then into the San Francisco Bay by way of Emeryville.  The creek still exists, and still flows into the Bay, but it has been diverted into a series of culverts and underground storm sewers.  There are a few sections where the creek still flows above ground.  A large section of the creek was uncovered in Emeryville during the construction of the Bay Street shopping district, and it has been left open as a part of the nature walk and public exhibit concerning the Ohlone shellmound that was once on the site.  There is a memorial to the creek that covers some aspects of local history that is located on the back side of the Post Office along Shattuck Avenue.

The neighborhood owes its importance and its long life to its historic role as a transit nexus, where a number of important thoroughfares meet.  Telegraph Avenue, Highway 24, 51st Street, Shattuck Avenue, and Claremont all pass through the neighborhood.  In many ways, the presence of easy transit between downtown Oakland and Berkeley resulted in the development of Temescal as a residential community in the early part of the 20th century and through the '60s.  The original horse car line from Oakland to the University of California in Berkeley operated out of a barn at the corner of 51st and Telegraph.  When the horse car line was discontinued, the line was absorbed into the Key System and was served by electric streetcars.  The Western Carhouse of the Key System stood on the site until 1948 when, as a part of the reduction in service and the eventual elimination of streetcar service in Oakland, the car barn was removed.  Vern's, a local grocery store, stood on the site until the '80s when a Walgreens took over the commercial space.  Temescal was also the site of the first telegraph line that ran form Oakland to Sacramento.  The telegraph lines ran up Claremont Avenue and over the hills towards the capital.

Temescal is home to a number of distinct communities, the longest lived of which is Oakland's largest Little Italy, with many residents still claiming descent from Northern Italian immigrants that settled in the area in the 1950s and '60s.  There is also a substantial Eritrean and Ethiopian community, as well as a Korean community and shopping district that began to appear on Telegraph in the 1990s.

The area was also the site of several historic attractions and leisure destinations.  Since Temescal was so well served by horse car and street car lines, it made a fitting home for Idora Park, the earliest, and largest, of the "trolley parks" in the East Bay.  Idora Park, along with Neptune Beach in Alameda, were leisure destinations for the masses at the turn of the 20th century.  Located in the suburbs, and served by dedicated trolley or streetcar lines, they served as a weekend destination for families and residents in the days before personal car ownership became common.

Getting There By Bike...
Temescal is totally easy to get around by bike!  In the spirit of total honesty I'll admit that I work in this neighborhood and I spend a lot of time scooting around the back streets of Temescal on my bike, so I may be biased.  But the same features that made the neighborhood a transit nexus for cars and public transit also make it a great place to ride bikes.  Webster Street, a major bike boulevard, cuts right through Temescal and takes you up into Rockridge or down into downtown Oakland. Claremont cuts up through Rockridge to the hills, Telegraph is one of the best and fastest routes from Oakland into Berkeley, and Shattuck is an easy alternative if you're headed north.  To top it off, almost all of the residential streets in the neighborhood are bike friendly; there are lots of speed bumps to keep traffic speeds down, vehicular traffic is limited once you get off the main drag, and most of the streets run parallel to each other so you can move one block off a busy street and keep heading in the same direction, just with less traffic and much more enjoyably.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This is a 'next level' article! Thank you for sharing. It seems like a great place to visit. I hope the historical cycling continues to be this productive!