Archive for April, 2008

The high knocker, Mountain View Cemetery

20 April 2008


This knocker can be hard to find. It’s two roads up from Millionaires’ Row and to the south, but its bay-facing side is obscured by trees. I took this photo in 2003; today I could barely see it from the road, and I knew where to look. It’s mostly chert. I’m calling it the high knocker because it’s the tallest one in the cemetery; at least two others are higher on the hill.

If you approach this rock, beware of poison oak.

Knocker on display

17 April 2008


Mountain View Cemetery is a manicured showcase of the lower Oakland Hills. When Frederick Law Olmsted designed it he left the natural contours of the land, and to this day it’s the nearest thing to the original oak-dotted grasslands that the first visitors saw (although the abundant elk and grizzlies are long gone). And decades before the rock worshippers of the Gilded Age put their stamp on Berkeley’s hill neighborhoods, Mountain View left the knockers alone. There are outcrops of the wild variety up near the utility yard, a couple of chert boulders in charming neglect, and there is this splendid thing left in the middle of its own circle above the Henry Cogswell monument. I should put up shots of the rest of the cemetery’s knockers—I think I have them all.

Basalt masonry

15 April 2008


I took a walk this morning among my local steep hills. Near the Rose Garden, I spotted a resident clearing his front yard, which was full of Oakland-quarried boulders. He had dug out all the old junipers and was making terraces with the rocks. I told him they’re special now that Oakland has no working quarries. He said he’s trying to get his neighbors to tear out their junipers too—all the houses have these rocks, probably dating from the twenties when they were built. Then I crossed the Chetwood bridge into Adams Point and inspected a bunch of yards of the same vintage, where the same landscaping rocks were common. My guess is that the Leona quarry was the source. I still know little about the Hiller Highlands quarry, but the rock there is different. There are piles of old quarry rock in the slopes below Merritt College that match some of the stones I saw.

But after crossing to the Auto Row neighborhood via the Perkins and Frisbie stairways, I passed this exceptional house along Richmond Boulevard. The stone fence is noteworthy with its jagged top. I shot this picture in 2006; right now it’s covered in vines. And the porch behind it is a splendid example of stonemasonry. It’s all made of basalt stones, and I’m guessing that the rock came from the Round Top quarry (or conceivably the Rockridge Shopping Center quarry). But some time I need to visit the History Room at the main library and find out just what the local quarries produced and when they were active.


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