The Grand Lake District: Past and Present

by Ken Katz – I’ve personally witnessed quite a few changes in the make-up of the Grand Lake shopping district since we moved into the neighborhood in the early 1970s. Shortly thereafter, a gas station at the intersection of Lakeshore, Lake Park and Rand was torn down and replaced with the complex that includes T-Mobile and the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center. Parenthetically, nextdoor was (and still is) a small apartment building with a later addition in the “front yard” that currently houses Good Vibrations on the ground floor and Namaste Yoga above.  Not too long after that, another gas station at the corner of Lakeshore and Trestle Glen was replaced with what’s now Wells Fargo bank.

Those changes, however, pale in comparison to what’s happened longer-term. The very existence of the apartment building referenced above is just one indicator of the extent to which much (if not all) of this stretch of Lakeshore was once residential. In the above banner photo (originally posted on the Oakland History Facebook page by Dorothy Londagin), the house nestled on Trestle Glen next door to Bank of the West was originally located on the parcel now occupied by the Art Deco building that’s home to Maribel, Sherman’s Cleaners and Forever Nails. 

Some of the other changes on Lakeshore are well illustrated by the above “Then and Now” images (click to enlarge) that Dorothy also posted on Facebook. The one on the far left is of particular interest since it shows the Key System route that paralleled Trestle Glen and merged onto Lakeshore where the Bank of the West is now situated. Apparently, a Ford dealership was then located on what is now the parking lot.  

The conversion to commercial properties is far more striking in this photo of Lake Park Avenue circa 1930 which was, at the time, entirely residential. The large chalet-like building at the center was home to Walter Manuel, a prominent banker and council member. It was designed by C. W. Dickey, best known as the Claremont Hotel’s architect.  It was torn down to make way for Kwik Way and Bank of America. All the other residences on this block suffered the same fate with two exceptions. Heart and Dagger Saloon is at 504 Lake Park and Long’s Hair Salon occupies the ground floor of 480 Lake Park while a front yard addition is home to Gelato Firenze and Q Tea Bar. Chao Thai Restaurant is in the back yard and one or two apartments are upstairs. 

Above are two of Dorothy’s “Then and Now” images of Lake Park Avenue. In the one on the left, note that the C. W. Dickey building was still standing as of 1947. In the photo on the right, note that the building that houses a Firestone Tire distributorship also was the home of the “Gay Club” in what is currently Gabriella’s Pizza. 

The “Then and Now” photo of Grand at Wildwood and the “Bit of History” collage depicting the Grand Lake Theatre are also courtesy of Dorothy but the only ones of Grand that we have to share. I’m guessing that Grand never went through the large scale transition from residential to commercial due to the fact that unlike Lakeshore, it’s a through street and a major thoroughfare. As a result, by the 1920’s when residential construction began to boom, commercial was already well established on Grand and what residential was being built on Grand was in the form of larger apartment buildings with ground floor retail. 

Editor’s Note: A round of applause please for Dorothy Londagin who made this article possible and also a tip of the hat for the Oakland History Facebook page administrators. If you want to delve deeper,  check out Dorothy’s “A Bit of History” blog  and you haven’t already done so, join the Oakland History Facebook group. If you want to dig really deep, check out this online resource that Dorothy brought to my attention: How Transportation Corridors and Eminent Domain Changed Lakeshore, Grand Lake and Trestle Glen in the 20th Century. 




2 responses to “The Grand Lake District: Past and Present”

  1. Mae O Liu Avatar
    Mae O Liu

    Hi Ken –
    It’s Mae and just wanted to make a small correction. The small apartment building you reference in the first paragraph has as it’s “front yard” tenant Good Vibrations. My brother and my building directly adjacent used to be a home, which at some time in the past had the street level garage converted into retail stores that are currently occupied by Chi, Wind & Water and Center Stage West. Namaste Yoga (no longer there) and Silver Moon Kids are in the next (single level) building.

    1. Ken Katz Avatar

      Mae, I wish I could say that was our way of intentionally giving some free publicity to Chi, Wind & Water as well as Silver Moon Kids, but we were badly mistaken on all counts. Will make that correction belatedly.