Archive for July, 2008

The hunt for Rockridge Rock

3 July 2008

The Rockridge neighborhood has migrated over the years. Today Rockridge centers around the Rockridge BART station, in the valley of Temescal Creek. But a hundred years ago, Rock Ridge referred to the highlands between that valley and the one to the southeast, through which the Rockridge branch of Temescal Creek flows (in the Claremont Country Club golf course and upstream along Broadway Terrace). The ridge was supposedly named by the Livermores, who put their mansion on it amid their 600 acres of land making up today’s Upper Rockridge neighborhood.

There was a famous rock somewhere up there that became a popular picnic site in the late 1800s. Photos show it as being blocky, massive stone, maybe 10 meters in height and greater in width, big enough for dozens of people to stand on for their portrait. Lately I’ve been trying to find it. Old maps don’t show it, but Jonathan Chester’s excellent book Berkeley Rocks has some information. He claims that the developers of the area named the rock itself Rock Ridge and encouraged the public to visit it. Today I found an article from the Call of March 12, 1910 about the area:

“Hundreds of people went out to Rock Ridge park, during the week, to enjoy the inspiration found in the budding trees and flowers awakened by the first touch of spring. The visitors found that the opening of streets, avenues, walks and drives through the famous old Rock Ridge picnic grounds has facilitated access to the points of interest. Those who have known best and enjoyed most the peculiar charm of the place were delighted to find that the plans of the owners of the Rock Ridge property in laying out the tract with wide streets and avenues and ample lots have preserved the distinguishing features unimpaired. The army of admirers of Rock Ridge property has received new recruits every day. A number of sales of lots, were made during the week to people who will build immediately fine homes on their grounds. The street work is being rushed. The planting of flowers and shrubs along the cement curb line is also receiving attention from a force of [men].”

The story suggests that while the “famous old” picnic grounds were wiped out by subdivision, “the plans of the owners . . . preserved the distinguishing features.” From this evidence and that cited by Chester, the rock was widely known and hard to miss. Therefore I can’t understand why Chester thinks that the site of the rock is on Glenbrook Drive at the corner of Bowling Drive:

rockridge rock

It’s a beautiful outcrop, nicely integrated into the two properties that own it, but no way is that the Rock of Rockridge. It’s the wrong size, the wrong shape and the wrong rock type. And the Call story at least hints that the Rock was “unimpaired” as of 1910.

I think that Chester may not have looked hard enough. I have found at least two other candidates for the Rock, but there is still some ground to cover and many places for rocks, even huge ones, to hide.


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