This row of palms has a history, but I don’t know it yet. The Oakland Heritage Alliance has a guided walk through this area, which was part of the Francis “Borax” Smith estate. Smith made his fortune developing the borax industry in the playas of Nevada and the Mojave, and nothing spoke success in turn-of-the-century California like an allee of palms. (Click it for an 800×500 version)
The ground here is a large, dissected alluvial fan that spans much of central Oakland. Pill Hill marks its west end, the rise of Evergreen Cemetery the east end. Foothill Boulevard runs along its base. The soil is a firm silt of excellent quality for building or growing. Many of the stream valleys that dissect it are now major streets: Park Boulevard, 14th and 23d Avenues, Fruitvale Avenue, High Street, Seminary Avenue.
These palms are widely visible around Oakland, if you know where to look. Yesterday I spotted them from the Kaiser Hospital parking structure; they’re also easily seen from upper Mountain View Cemetery and the Chetwood Street bridge over I-580. Other sighting reports are welcome.