“Preservation Park Hosts a New Idea
Where Everything Old Is New Again”
Heading to a downtown meeting in Oakland near Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 12th Street, visitors might notice a neighborhood that seems like a different time and place. It’s quiet; the pristine Victorian houses look idyllic, and there is a picturesque fountain in the middle of the street. The uninitiated may be stopped dead in their tracks and end up late for that meeting because they can’t believe the setting. This isn’t some trip back in time—it’s Preservation Park, an appealing recreation of a Victorian neighborhood.
Preservation Park is a business district and neighborhood with 16 restored Victorian homes, the lovely aforementioned fountain and a public hall with meeting rooms. It is also home to a group of nonprofit organizations and creative small businesses with cultural, social and environmental goals. At one time, the site was the northwest corner of the original town of Oakland, developed back in 1853.
“We do see a lot of people walking through the neighborhood with a perplexed look on their face,” said Nathan Dalton, the office manager for Youth Service California, a nonprofit tenant in the R.E. Bauske House. Built in 1896 for dentist R.E. Bauske, this beautiful Queen Anne cottage is notable for its two towers and curved window sashes.
Preservation Park provides a showcase for these beautiful homes as well as a 40-year vista of Oakland architectural history. Five of the houses stand on their original foundations. The remaining 11 were moved to Preservation Park in the 1970s and early 1980s when Interstate 980 was being built. For City Center workers—and those who may meander on their way to and from meetings here—Preservation Park offers a quiet retreat for a meditative walk, as well as a self-guided history tour or a picnic on one of the many Victorian park benches. Five areas are available to rent for meetings, conferences, weddings and special events.
Denise Lewis, Preservation Park property manager, notes that on summer weekends, the site offers a private place for just about any special occasion. She says that many unique events have taken place there, including a premiere with actress Halle Berry and a World Figure Skating reception.
“And every bride thinks her wedding is special,” Lewis adds, noting that Preservation Park hosts private outdoor weddings from May through mid-October.
The homes of Preservation Park highlight a particularly rich period in local building design, starting with several ornate Victorian styles—Italianate, Stick and Queen Anne—followed by the classical refinements of the Colonial Revival and concluding with the rustic simplicity of Craftsman architecture. Seven distinct styles are on view, dating from 1870 to 1911. According to the Preservation Park self-guided tour materials, more than 80 percent of the homes’ exterior details are original (and constructed with local virgin redwood). The porches on the homes that were moved are recreations.
All of these architectural gems act as homes for the current “think-tank” community of 48 tenants. This group of businesses works to develop solutions to such urban challenges as health care, education and cultural participation. According to a recent survey, approximately two million people are served annually by the tenants’ collective efforts.
Dalton agrees that it’s an environment that is conducive to building a strong community. There are regular tenant meetings held in Nile Hall to share what’s happening among the residents. He adds that the setting offers an excellent venue for Youth Service California meetings and events.
“It’s such a nice setting, better than a hotel,” Dalton says.
Preservation Park has its own book, Through These Doors: Discovering Oakland at Preservation Park, which provides the stories and details about each house and a glimpse of a bustling port of Oakland in the late 19th century.
Lewis claims that a few ghost stories are floating around the Park. “There are rumors of different occurrences in the houses on the original sites,” she laughs, but none have been validated.
Go visit for yourself. It’s difficult not to feel the spirit of the past when walking through the park.
For more information on hosting an event or wedding in Preservation Park and maps of the area, visit http://www.preservationpark.com. The entrance to Preservation Park is at 13th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The Preservation Park Office is at is 1233 Preservation Park Way, Oakland, CA 94612.