Archive for the ‘oakland stone’ Category

Oakland City Hall: Stone and structure

24 November 2014

A few weeks ago I set foot inside our City Hall—for the first time, I’m embarrassed to say. I hope you will step inside before you’ve lived here 25 years, like me. I’ve always known we have a gorgeous building, and now I’m amazed. C’mon in.

cityhallcorner

First we’ll have a look at the structure’s famous seismic retrofit. See the light-colored strip at the foot of the walls? That’s a steel apron that covers an air gap all the way around the building. That gives the structure room to shimmy and sway on its fancy rubber feet during a severe earthquake. You can see it better by the side door, on 14th Street.

cityhall-skirt

Notice the bellows-style barrier on the building below the street level, filling that air gap.

When you go inside there’s a little exhibit space that has, among other interesting objects, this cutaway model of the base-isolation pads.

cityhall-pad

There are more than a hundred of these under the building, each one the size of a cafe table, made of thick rubber and lead plates. In the early 1990s, when City Hall was retrofitted, no one had ever used this technology at such a scale before. Since then many other precious historic buildings have used it. Hearst Mining Hall on the UC Berkeley campus is one.

OK, now comes the luscious stuff. The interior is beautiful in the way people favored a hundred years ago. Here’s the grand stairway leading from the front door up to the City Council chambers.

cityhall-balustrade450

Click the image for a large version. The balustrade is translucent marble on top, ceramic tiles on the sides. The stairs are marble. The ornamentation on the walls is plaster.

Here’s a skylight on the upper floor, edged in black marble.

cityhall-skylight

And this thing is a large lighting fixture that illuminates the rotunda. Click that photo for a large version. It was futuristic in 1914, and it’s still futuristic today.

cityhall-light450

There are other, smaller fixtures elsewhere on the ceiling that are worth searching for. The bronze ring suspended above the big ball depicts personifications of the planets—eight of them, from Mercury to Neptune, just like today.

Local stone

31 March 2014

I always get a kick from old walls around Oakland that are made of local stones. This one is on Loma Vista Avenue, in the upper Laurel.

lomavista-stonewall450

Click the image to see a 1000-pixel shot of the whole thing. The mix of blue Franciscan rocks, golden Tertiary sandstones and the occasional reddish chert is distinctive, and it’s nothing that a local landscaping yard would ever offer. Its charm is homely and understated, but authentic.

We haven’t had a working quarry in Oakland for many years, so a lot of these walls are old, or rebuilt. Lovers of local stone today have to scavenge what they can from recycled rocks or their own cellar holes.

Rock yard

23 August 2013

Years ago, a homeowner installed this yard facing Humboldt Avenue. I think of it as a California zen garden.

humboldtrockyard

These days, landscapers are obliged to buy rocks that come from out of town, produced in anonymous quarries by the big-rig load. This yard could have been furnished with stone from just a couple miles away. One of my many pipe-dreams is to set up a stoneyard where I’d salvage and sell recycled rock from local sources. The market would be vanishingly small, but if just a few people cared that might be enough.

Another appearance of the Morton Gneiss

25 May 2012

Not long after I documented the tombstone at Mountain View Cemetery made of the extremely old Morton Gneiss, I spotted the same stone—four polished disks of it—flanking the entryway of a house in the Grandview neighborhood.

morton gneiss

This stuff is certainly a gift to the world. And yet just today I bent down by someone’s fence to caress a boulder of our own red chert, equally striking in its own way.

Slate on the water

19 May 2012

Lately the city has been fixing up the walks along the waterfront, and they’re well worth a visit. This splendid boulder of slate isn’t on the newest part of the trail—it’s at the foot of Alice Street, just where the Jack London Waterfront leaves off and the Alice Street Mini-Park starts.

slate boulder

I don’t know where they get stones like this; they aren’t from Oakland or even from the Bay area. That’s OK.

A real old-timer

15 April 2012

Mountain View Cemetery is a fun place for geology. Not only are there the untouched hillsides and the knockers of local bedrock, but the monuments themselves are displays of fine stone from around the world. On my last visit, though, this one caught my eye.

morton gneiss

It’s an example of the oldest stone in the United States, the Morton Gneiss from southwestern Minnesota. I mentioned it a few weeks ago in a KQED Quest Science Blogs post before finding this specimen. Touching it will put you in contact with something 3,524 million years old, more than three-fourths of the planet’s age.

Let me take this opportunity to plug Michael Colbruno’s blog about the people in the cemetery. He calls it “Lives of the Dead: Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland,” but I still think of it by its original (non-SEO-friendly) name “Mountain View People.”

Slate fountain

23 November 2011

Here’s a nice piece of stonework on upper Lakeshore Avenue.

slate fountain

It’s a pit lined with picturesque cobbles and rimmed with gray slate flagstones. A large slate boulder is mounted in the center, and a fountain trickles off a smaller slate stone over the boulder, cascading into the pit with a delightful sound. Thanks for the gift to passers-by.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,116 other followers