Oakland in the late 19th century was a thriving waterfront city, the second largest in the state. A center of commerce and industry, it was also known for advanced notions of civic improvement. Public schools and academies, convenient transit, and an oak-studded, parklike landscape made Oakland a very desirable place to live.
Pictures of early Oakland neighborhoods are immensely appealing. Larger homes were set in sumptuous gardens, and even ordinary cottages are built along handsome tree-lines streets. A substantial picket fence or a low wall topped with decorative iron defined nearly every property. The more grand among them featured cast-stone pillars with wrought iron gates, like those at Preservation Park.
On the north side of 13th Street, five fine historic buildings stand in their original locations. Beginning in the 1970's, eleven compatible Oakland houses facing demolition were moved to the vacant block across the street. The earliest "move-ons" had been in the path of the nearby freeway that severed the natural street grid. The houses were arranged to suggest a late 19th century Oakland neighborhood, with typical fences, curving walks, and colorful plants, necessarily condensed on the limited site.
Preservation Park provides a forty-year window on Oakland architectural history. It was a particularly rich period in local building design, starting with the exuberant Victorian styles - Italianate, Stick and Queen Anne - followed by the classical refinements of the Colonial Revival, and concluding with the rustic simplicity of Craftsman architecture. Seven distinct styles are on view, dating from 1870 to 1911.
Who lived in these houses? Oaklanders, in all their diversity. From governor to saloonkeeper, painter to professor, their stories revel much about the city of the day. As downtown overtook the neighborhood, these homes were converted to rooming houses, accommodating a new generation of arrivals.
In 1988, reversing decades of neglect, the buildings were renovated and the facades restored. Preservation Park is now an innovative office center for nonprofit organizations and small businesses that further cultural, social, and environmental aims. Alive with new use, the houses continue to play a vital part in the city's history, as they have for a hundred years. The important work accomplished here by some 45 different tenants will be a force for progress well into the next century.
Preservation Park welcomes community use. Beyond its appeal as a destination and educational tool, may fine public spaces attract business gathering and classes, performances, festive occasions. T he Nile Hall auditorium, several meeting rooms and even the grounds with bandstand and plaza are available for special events.
For information on renting the above facilities, or leasing office space in Preservation Park, call (510) 874-7580.
A self-guided tour and current tenant list may be obtained at the White House, located at 1233 Preservation Park Way.
Originally owned by the City of Oakland, Preservation Park was developed in cooperation with Bramalea, Incorporated, in a landmark partnership between a public agency and private enterprise. Additional original funding was provided by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In 2005, in continuing its provenance of cooperation, Preservation Park was purchased by the Preservation Park Center, Inc., a non-profit partnership of the Tenants of Preservation Park and East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation.