Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Cleveland Cascade

The Cleveland Cascade is an ornamental staircase near the eastern shore of Lake Merritt.  It is almost in the exact middle of the block of the block on Lakeshore Drive, between Brooklyn Ave. and Boden Way.

The Cascade was built in 1923 and was designed by Howard Gilkey.  The Cascade is a part of the extensive civic improvements that were built around the lake during the first two decades of the 20th century.  The pergola at the far eastern edge of the lake was built at approximately the same time, as was the Necklace of Lights which was first lit in 1925.  Also built at this time were Lakeside and Eastshore Park, the Oakland Civic Auditorium, and the Bellevue-Staten apartment building.  For more information on these topics, all of these sites are covered in a previous entry addressing many of the historic places around Lake Merritt.

The Cascade was designed as a water feature that mimicked hillside water features that are found in rural Italian towns.  When it was first opened, the Cascade had twenty concrete bowls that created a cascading waterfall down the side of the hill.  When it was at its peak, the bowls were lit by colored lights at night and the Cascade was considered a notable local landmark.

The heyday of the Cascade was relatively short though, since photos and city documents show that by 1950 the fountain had been switched off and the basins were overgrown with vegetation.  The community group that has taken over the task of restoring and maintaining the Cascade believes that wartime restrictions on personnel and resources spelled the end for the Cascade, as was the case for many other similar sites, including the Necklace of Lights which was turned off during World War II as a part of nighttime blackout restrictions.

By 2004, many Oakland residents had either forgotten or were unaware that this feature had existed, or had been anything other than a long flight of cement stairs near Lake Merritt.  A community group, a Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council from the surrounding area, met to discuss the eventual restoration of the Cleveland Cascade.  After a period of research and some generous donations off time and resources they have managed to excavate the Cascade in its entirety and re-establish the landscaped plantings that were originally on either side of the fountain.  The eventual goal of the Friends of the Cleveland Cascade is the full restoration and functionality of the fountain.  The City of Oakland has supported their goals with a sizeable chunk of money from Measure DD, and hopefully we'll see the fountain restored and flowing in the near future.

Getting There By Bike...
If you're around Lake Merritt, all you have to do is follow Lakeshore Drive around the eastern shore.  The Cleveland Cascade is a little bit below the pergola at the far shore of the lake, and sits between Brooklyn Ave. and Boden Way.  If you are looking for it, it's very obvious.  However, I rode by it for years on my way to and from work without ever realizing what I was passing.  The place is usually crawling with joggers and people running up and down the stairs so be sure to be courteous about where you stand and park your bike.

1 comment:

  1. Oakland Urban Paths just featured the Cleveland Cascade on our recent Jane's Walk. We heard from the FOCC that they've added LED lighting to the handrails, but I haven't seen that in action yet.