OAKLAND -- On March 23, thousands of runners will fill the streets for the Oakland Running Festival. Many of them will be new to the city or running in neighborhoods they have not visited for years. Here is a guide to a few of the highlights.
Snow Park, intersection of 20th Street, Lakeside Drive, and Harrison Street: Big Game Hunter Henry Snow gave this patch of green on the shore of Lake Merritt its name but before he installed a menagerie of elephants, bears, leopards, lions, snakes and birds the land was a cemetery. The interred made room for canning magnate Francis Cutting's 30-room mansion -- styled as a rustic hunting lodge -- that his estate sold to the city of Oakland after his death. The city made the mansion available to Snow for his showroom of taxidermy trophies that served generations as a natural history museum. The Snows also wanted to build a 40-foot-deep cave on the lakeshore edge of Lake Merritt to hold living lions, rhinos and hippos. Those animals wouldn't have stood a chance against open space advocates who fought off developers' plans to build a high-rise hotel after the mansion was torn down in the 1960s.
Frank Ogawa Plaza, One Frank Ogawa Plaza: The Oakland Running Festival originally started here but was moved to Snow Park. Jack London, novelist and "boy socialist of Oakland," once held forth in this public square built beneath the shadow of Oakland City Hall, where San Pablo Avenue converges with Broadway and 14th Street. A coast live oak stands at the center of the plaza as a symbol of Oakland, founded in 1852. The plaza has been redesigned over the years and in 1998 renamed for Frank H. Ogawa, who was imprisoned during World War II with his Japanese-born parents in an internment camp in Utah. Ogawa became the first Japanese-American person to serve on the Oakland City Council.
Fox Theater: 1800 Telegraph Ave. The Fox and the Paramount theaters are two of the Bay Area's grandest movie palaces. The Fox has the more colorful history because of its association with architect Maurey Diggs, who was a very married man in the early 1900s when he invited his young mistress to Nevada for a romantic rendezvous, at that time a criminal offense known as white slavery. Diggs also designed, ironically, San Quentin Prison, and the Bechtel Building, which runners passing Lake Merritt can see at 244 Lakeside Drive. The land on which the building sits once belonged to spice magnate Adolph Schilling. The Bechtel was billed in a lush brochure as the doorway to comfort, peace and luxury. "
Peralta Hacienda Historic Park: 2465 34th Ave. The Victorian frame house, built in 1870, stands on land settled by the Luis Maria Peralta family more than two centuries ago when California belonged to Spain, and later the Republic of Mexico. Peralta was one of the Alta California families given massive land grants for their military service by the Spanish crown, which needed settlers in order to protect its claim on the rich but sparsely settled territory. The Peralta land, called the Peraltas Rancho San Antonio, measured 44,800 acres and stretched from present-day Albany to the northern part of San Leandro and now includes seven East Bay cities.
Oakland California Temple: 4770 Lincoln Ave. At the crest of the hill, the five-spired cement and white granite landmark overlooks a spectacular view of the East Bay. It was the second temple built in California by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and can be seen illuminated at night for miles around.
Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension: 4770 Lincoln Ave. Just down the road from the Mormon Temple, the impressive Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension is a symbol of the Greek community in Oakland that dates back to the 1890s or earlier. Greeks, Syrians and Lebanese had to either cross the bay or celebrate the Divine Liturgy in a rented hall in Oakland with a priest from San Francisco before they built their first church. The parish built the cathedral on Lincoln Avenue in 1960.
Montclair Village: Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck and novelist Joyce Maynard ("To Die For," among others) have lived here in this valley formed by the Hayward Fault. The hamlet was once part of the vast Peralta lands, known as Rancho San Antonio. Patriarch Luis Maria Peralta split the 44,800 acres up, giving his son, Antonio Maria Peralta, this section.
Dimond District: In the end, the 1870 house and the last 18 acres of Antonio's share of the land grant was sold by his daughter Inez Galindo in 1897 to developer Henry Z. Jones. The house was moved across the street and a housing development called the Galindo tract resulted. The last remnants of the 1821 adobe were also removed from the site at this time and some of the bricks were used to build the Dimond Lodge in Dimond Park, Oakland. Fifty years after the American annexation, the last of the headquarters of Rancho San Antonio was gone.