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Scenic Ridge

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Apr. 29, 1923:

In the upper reaches of Piedmont there is a long ridge, which is today the dividing line between Piedmont and Montclair. It was too far out of Piedmont to be marketable and Monclair had not yet been developed. Several of the backers of the Realty Syndicate, notably the late Frank C. Havens, were interested in art and literature and the building of the Piedmont Art Gallery by Frank C. Havens formed a nucleus around which it was not difficult to develop a literary colony. Walter Leimert was one of the original syndicate developers who had artistic and literary leanings, which were coupled with vision as to realty. Leimert evolved a shred idea. There was a ridge in question. It possessed all of the points that artists and literateurs were supposed to want - a wonderful outlook, forests, canyons and jungle. And then, literary chaps were supposed to buy what no one else wanted, and nobody seemed to want this particular ridge. So the ridge was surveyed, and a road or two was graded, and the whole was named "Alta Piedmont," I think, and the colony was started.


Jack London

206 Scenic Avenue (and 575 Blair Avenue?)

Worcester home - The_San_Francisco_Exami

206 Scenic Avenue and 575 Blair Avenue and 606 Scenic Avenue

I have found three addresses where the house supposedly is and his family lived after:

206 Scenic Avenue, 606 Scenic Avenue, 555 (Scenic) Blair and now 575 Blair Avenue

According to the MLS (home sales sites), it says:
206 Scenic was built in 1910

555 Blair was build in 1921
575 Blair was built in 1936 and looks like what the address 606 Scenic Avenue used to be? It doesn’t exist anymore - was most likely Scenic Avenue at the time and changed to Blair.

Xavier Martinez’s Wife’s oral history said London "moved to the banker Henshaw's "summer cottage" (in which he wrote The Call of the Wild)" in the Spring of 1902 and left the Fall of 2013 [Footloose in Arcadia, Noris]. 

The book, Queen of the Hills by Craig, says that Jack's cottage/bungalow used to belong to the Bowman family. 

The Piedmont Historical Society's Attic publication, "In 1901, Jack and his wife Bessie rented Joseph Worcester's cottage in the Piedmont Hills. Xavier Martinez and Herman Whitaker lived up the street and George Sterling was just across the way on Oakland Avenue." (Date is incorrect according to Jack’s letters – the one about the lynching/new house in piedmont and was actually 1902).

A December 12, 1920 Oakland Tribune map has London living on Scenic.

An April 24, 1938 Oakland Tribune ad has London living previously at 206 Scenic.

The Piedmont Historical Society's Footloose in Arcadia says London and Bess divorced in 1913 - then he built 206 Scenic Avenue for his ex wife. 

An Oakland Tribune article on Monday, Apr. 27, 1914. has Joan London's address at 606 Scenic Avenue. (a few more articles also site this address)

Looking at the Automotive map I linked above, 575 Blair Avenue could be George Sterling's or Oscar Sutro's home after London left Piedmont?

And the book Footloose In Arcadia by Noris says, Martinez and his wife on Scenic Avenue "look down at the Sutro House which has replaced Jack London's bungalow."

A Dec 12, 1976 SF examiner stated that the house is now on 575 Blair and that it was used as a garage by the Sutro family – possibly the Oakland Tribune map in 1920 linked above with both jack and the sutro family showing the Sutro house. The Piedmont Historical Society says, "Worcester’s Cottage / the Jack London Bungalow sat on the brow of the hill where 555 Blair is now... Oscar Sutro bought the hillside and built his “summer home” c. 1912 at 555 Scenic. It became part of the house at 575 Blair."

Jean Dickenson, "The Worcester Legacy," San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle, December 12, 1976, from the Swedenborgian Church files, San Francisco says:  The house was moved to 575 Blair Avenue in Piedmont and has been completely remodeled. An SF Gate article quoting a Piedmont resident's blog says they lived at 575 Blair Avenue, too.

Piedmont and Oakland author Jack London indicated he built the home in 1928 for his wife and her daughter

An exterior staircase leads to the entry of 206 Scenic Ave. in Piedmont, a home originally built for the wife of author Jack London

The most stunning feature of the room was its unobstructed view through a large bay window towards San Francisco Artist William Keith who painted several versions of his bungalow in the Piedmont Hills. [Source] 

Jack Londons Address - Oakland_Tribune_S
206 scenic - Oakland_Tribune_Tue__Jan_25
Jack londons home - Oakland_Tribune_Sun_
1 Joseph Worcesters Piedmont cottage.jpg

According to the book Footloose in Arcadia by Joseph Noel, “London’s house in the Piedmont hills became the Mecca for women of many moods and desires.” Piedmont’s Historical Society’s Footloose in Arcadia says Jack “had five acres of orchards, gardens and fields, and Jack’s mother and nephew lived nearby in Worcester’s former schoolroom.

Book of Jack London – January 1, 1921 by Charmian London:

When I did renew my acquaintance, it was that spring of 1902,  it was in the old Worcester bungalow at Piedmont, set on a breezy high-hill slope amid pine and swaying eucalyptus, with a rich spread of golden poppy-field slanting toward the westering sun, across the blue bay to bluer sea... 

The squat, weathered thatch of shingle sheltered a large-beamed living hall, a small dining room, and three or four bedchambers, in one of which Jack eventually combined his sleeping-with working-quaraters. Kitchen, laundry, and servants' rooms rambled like aimless if charming afterthoughts, with scant mercy to impatient feet, up-step and down, to the dismay of mistress and nursemaids and cook, of which assistants, whenever obtainable, there were, at one time or another, from one to three...

He would lead a friend into the rosy gloom of his redwood living-hlll, that the glory of a single poppy, or two, or three poppies in a stem-slender vase, might be viewed against a window.

Saw a man hung.jpg

The Letters of Jack London: 1913-1916. Volume three By Jack London

home - jack living where the squire and
home - jack living where the squire and

The Letters of Jack London: 1913-1916. Volume three By Jack London

home - london - poppy field - Oakland_Tr

Oakland Tribune - Sun - May 1, 1910

Home - jack londons piedmont copy.jpg

Jack London's California: The Golden Poppy and Other Writings Hardcover – October 1, 1986 by Jack London (Author), Sal Noto (Editor)

jack london lived at 20 scenic
2027 oakland avenue jack london

Two addresses for AC Shoup in Piedmont: 

2027 Oakland Avenue and 20 Scenic Avenue

was jacks house - The_Evening_Times_Star

The Evening Times Star - Fri - Apr. 22, 1910

Scenic ave - San Francisco Call, Volume
1910 census.jpg

Xavier Martinez

324 Scenic Avenue ("Tecolote Pec")

"Tecolote Pec" possibly meant "tecolote pec'oso" which means spotted owl. The owl is the symbol of the Bohemian Club.

Interview with Xavier's wife, Elsie Martinez:

All of the interviews were held at 324 Scenic Avenue, Piedmont, now the home of Mrs. Martinez's daughter, Mrs. Micaela Martinez Du Casse, but originally the studio of Xavier Martinez which and his friends built from the architectural plans of Frederick Meyer in 1908. The interviewer's first impressions were of much warm redwood; a large living room with a high ceiling in the middle contrasted by low, cozy, built-in places to sit and work around the edges of the room, paintings and art work everywhere; a breathtaking view of Oakland and the Estuary from the dining room table (carved by Herman Whitaker over sixty years ago); a whirl of life as three generations of a very active family bustled about the fairly small house. On the street level the house consists of one large room and a small kitchen, then down some steep stairs are the sleeping rooms on the second level, and then down farther (the house is built on a hill-side) to the quieter art studio rooms, originally built to isolate Marty from the hubbub after his daughter was born in 1913. 

martinez house - Oakland_Tribune_Thu__Ja
martinez building house - San Francisco

Xavier's wife, Elsie Martinez:


We lived in the first studio in Piedmont one year (1907-08) after we were married. Then Wickham Havens found some wealthy people who bought the whole tract and they wanted the piece on which the studio was built, too. He said he'd give us this lot with the view, which we preferred, and would move the studio for us. It was taken apart and brought over here and Frederick Meyer, who ran the art school, the California School of Arts and Crafts, had really a very charming design for the remodeling.


You took part of the old studio?


Yes, it was taken apart and the material used over again. But we brought with us the original design of Meyer's, which was rather attractive. We were going to put just an underpinning under it and a kitchen and so on. Our carpenter, "Booster" Smith had a yen for art, so he agreed to build the studio for a painting. Naturally, he wanted to finish it as fast as he could, so every time he could make a shortcut to save time he would ignore the design, with Marty's approval, and leave something out or switch a door around. So, Meyer's design suffered considerably.

The lot was on a ridge and the studio was built on the side of the hill. My brothers and I dug, out of the solid rock, fourteen piers, to carry the foundation. This house is on solid rock, that's why it's never shifted in the slightest. "Booster" got the lumber down at an Oakland pier, already creosoted. Thirty years later, when a banker came to inspect the studio before granting a loan for repairs, he exclaimed, "Good Heavens, you could almost put the Bank of England on this foundation!" This material was bought by a $300 check sent to Marty by Arthur B. Davies just after the earthquake, to help a fellow artist.

And then the daily routine began. His friends arrived, prepared to work with gloves and a hammer. First, each day, Marty got out his gallon of wine, declared they would have to start correctly, and they would start with a libation — they would all have a glass of wine. Then they'd work briskly for an hour and then stop for another glass of wine. By the end of the day, the gallon jug was empty. Later, an expert who had to work on one of the windows said it was one of the funniest things he'd ever seen — the difference in the dimensions — each one was just out a little — and wondered how they had gotten it in place. 

martinez home being built - Berkeley_Dai
Martinez with a crowd possibly building his cottage

   Xavier's wife, Elsie Martinez:

I forgot to say that during that nine months my father and friends, pioneer-style, built Marty a studio in the woods over by the old reservoir. He loved the life with us in Piedmont — the closeness to nature that stirred his Indian blood. Often, at sunrise he would go with me to the top of the hill on our ridge, enveloped in the warm sun, and caressed by the soft breezes filled with the fragrance of the Yerba Buena, our wild mint, mingled with the pungent odors released at the touch of the sun, of the stands of redwood and tall eucalyptus trees, recall in the sky, meadows and primeval forests our great Sierras, dimly glimpsed on a clear day across the wide central valley. As the sunlight flowed in a golden stream over the wild hay on the steep hillsides, the lush green shrubbery in the little hollows and canyons, there emerged out dusty old road weaving through the canyons and meandering along the hillsides of our glorious landscape.


The quiet hours of work during the week, and the gay week-ends with his friends from the City staying with us for an outdoor outing. After the first two months with us, Marty expressed the wish to live near us. Father promptly laid the plans for his studio. Wickam Havens gave him  a lot for a picture , just over the knoll from our house. Father gathered together several friends who could be counted on to know how to use tools, and with the necessary lumber donated by friends, the studio was soon up and Marty installed

Marty settled happily into his new surroundings, called the studio his "Hogan" and savored the undisturbed beauty to the full. Opposite was the reservoir, a small lake surrounded by young redwoods and pines from which the raucous blue jays whirling and screeching off any intruders in their preserve, and finally would light on the eucalyptus limb near his door to study this strange addition to their landscape. Below him was a small canyon with its tangle of blackberry vines interlaced with the wild thimble berries, the hazel nut thickets and its babbling brook — a shelter for large flocks of quail and a refuge for the many varieties of small birds in migration. Near the study the pretty trails that wound around the hill with its chattering squirrels in the oak trees, and shy little cottontails frisking in and out of the shrubbery, and the tiny lizards stretched on the rocks warmed by the sun all soon became friends of his including the friendly gopher snake who let him stroke it. While sketching, he would pause, luring them in true Indian fashion with a pocket of seeds and bits of bread — a rapport — a gift of his Indian people.


Pioneer style, the only addition that Marty made to his studio, which was one big room with a porch and a little kitchenette off the porch, was a four-cup coffee pot instead of the two-cup pot he had. That was the only thing he added to the studio beside myself. So I moved into the studio and that seemed perfectly natural to me. None of this modern idea of fancy weddings and fancy preparations and fancy honeymoons and fancy everything. It just never occurred to me. I just took my little suitcase and went over there, settled down in Marty's studio as part of it — nothing was changed in it.

The Wild Animals I have met 2-3.jpg
Martinez  studio - Oakland_Tribune_Sun__

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Jan. 24, 1943

Martinez house on scenic.jpg
martinez building home - Oakland_Tribune
Martinez house today.jpg

Oakland Tribune - Tue - Jul. 31, 1906

Herman Whitaker

716 Scenic Avenue

 Silk Culture Station.png

Xavier's wife, Elsie Whitaker Martinez:

(We moved) In 1902, to the "Silk Culture House" at the end of Mountain Avenue. The picturesque old previous house had an impressive sign across its front, "Silk Culture Experimental Station", popularly called "the bug house," was on a narrow ridge that dropped down into Hayes Canyon with its trees, heavy shrubbery and babbling creek. It fronted the large expanse of the towns of Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley, spread out below, down to the wide sweep of the Bay with its islands and across the Bay to San Francisco whose wharves, buildings and towers we could see clearly from our windows — a spectacular view that always impressed our visitors and awed us when we first saw it.


The house was a large, well built eleven room house with high ceilings and six foot double windows. The old house was full of antiques and curiosities. The bedrooms were furnished with real mahogany colonial beds and matching highboys, brought around the Horn by the Sea Captain. The living room, left by the second tenant was tasteless. It had ornate tables and a gaudy lamp with a colored glass shade, ugly rep covered Victorian chairs and couches. The dining room was a jumble of massive Mission furniture and, to add to the confusion, my father's study looked like a museum of pre-Columbian antiquities — an accumulation of treasures from two years in Mexico—including Aztec sculptures, richly colored Mexican pottery, colorful blankets and Mexican silver.


The house and the property had a clouded title. The government had donated the seven acres of land and the California legislature had appropriated funds for the project. Mrs. Kirkham had built the house on behalf of her nephew who was joint co-worker with the old Sea Captain on the experiment. The nephew, a mining engineer in Mexico, was killed there, so the property reverted to her. For several summers it did duty for a Y.W.C.A. Rest Home for working girls. A relic of their occupancy was the printed rules and regulations with the prize statement we cherished "Young Ladies! Do not empty your chamber pots out of the top windows!" Several tenants took refuge there for a while, then it fell into father's hands as caretaker for the munificent sum of ten dollars a month. After he took over the old previous house was filled with life, gaiety and many activities.


On the seven acres of land was planted a mulberry orchard, on whose leaves the silkworms lived. The small, stubby trees grew quickly, and were soon productive. The silkworms had been imported from China. The project was well on its way to success when, unfortunately, the tariff on Chinese silk was reduced to such a low that the venture could not compete with Chinese labor. So, the silk raising experiment became a lost cause and a conversation piece. The only souvenirs left of the experiment were the beautiful silk culture displays elegantly arranged in massive gold frames.

Whitaker family moved to Silk Culture Ho

The San Francisco Examiner - Sun - Mar. 6, 1892

Inside the Silk Culture House

1 silk house - The_San_Francisco_Call_Su

The San Francisco Call - Sun - Jul. 1, 1894

Whitaker building home - The_San_Francis

The San Francisco Examiner - Sun - Oct. 6, 1912

Whitaker building home - The_San_Francis
Whitaker building home - The_San_Francis
Whitaker building home - The_San_Francis
whitaker scenic home - famous oakland au

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Mar. 25, 1934

Xavier's wife, Elsie Whitaker Martinez:

After his trip to Mexico, the Piedmont study was Mexican — brilliant colored blankets on the sofas and chairs, Mexican leather work, gorgeous pottery and silver on the bookcases, much of it given to him, and the rest picked up in the "Thieves Market" in Mexico City. The last study in the home he built in Piedmont on our hill was pioneer style — rough wooden interior, many built in bookcases, a fireplace of rough bricks, handmade tables and typing stands, Indian rugs on the floors. It was simple and unadorned, but picturesque.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette on Wed. Feb 19, 1975 said Herman's son, "Laurie Whitaker lives at 291 Scenic Ave., Piedmont, nearly across the street from where his distinguished father built his 11-room hime with his own hands."

whitaker building house with wife - The_

The San Francisco Call and Post

- Wed - Dec. 10, 1913

whitaker home address and boho club - Oa

Oakland Tribune - Mon - Sep. 17, 1917

whitaker - Oakland_Tribune_Mon__Jan_20__

Oakland Tribune - Mon - Jan. 20, 1919

Joan London (and Jack's daughters)

606 Scenic Avenue

Piedmont and Oakland author Jack London indicated he built the home in 1928 for his wife and her daughter.

An exterior staircase leads to the entry of 206 Scenic Ave. in Piedmont, the home originally built for the wife of author Jack London when they were together.

606 scenic - Oakland_Tribune_Wed__Sep_7_
home - 606 scenic - 1913 - House in pied

Herbert Bashford

628 Scenic Avenue

Xavier's wife, Elsie Martinez:

Herbert and Kinnie Bashford
Oh, what a pair of characters! He wrote one very bad play which gave him quite a local reputation; he was a rather conventional little man and ran the literary page on the Bulletin, I remember. He was a neighbor and once in a while I used to be with Ruth Roberts and I'd see them at her home. He never even came to the studio. I'd see him and his wife at Ruth Roberts' - who had my father's house next door to them.

Herbert Bashford - Oakland_Tribune_Wed__
herbert bashford - Sioux_City_Journal_Su
628 scenic - bashford - Oakland_Tribune_

Sterling Family

8 Oakland Avenue?

2010 Oakland Avenue or 8 oakland avenue?

The Piedmont Historical Society's older Attic publication says the house is at 2010 Oakland Avenue but the 1900 Cenus records show the house was at 8 Oakland Avenue.

Xavier's wife, Elsie Whitaker Martinez:

They lived at the bottom of Scenic Avenue hill in a big old house. There was Lillian (Rounthwaite), Madeline, Marian, Avis, and Alice. George had two brothers, one a priest, who later became a mental case and died. All of the girls were beautiful, too.

At one time, years ago, these hills were carpeted with poppies. As between the destructive forces and the will “to live,” the poppies maintained an equilibrium with their environment. But the city folk constituted a new and terrible destructive force, the equilibrium was overthrown, and the poppies well-nigh perished. Since the city folk plucked those with the longest stems and biggest bowls, and since it is the law of kind to procreate kind, the long-stemmed, big-bowled poppies failed to go to :,seed, and a stunted, short-stemmed variety remained to the hills. And not only was it stunted and short-stemmed, but sparsely distributed as well. Each day and every day, for years and years, the city folk swarmed over the Piedmont Hills, and only here and there did the genius of the race survive in the form of miserable little flowers, close-clinging and quick-blooming, like children of the slums dragged hastily and precariously through youth to a shriveled and futile maturity.

-Jack London

bo ho piedmont 2Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Oct
bo ho piedmont - Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Oc
Oakland Tribune, Volume 120, Number 49,

Oakland Tribune, Volume 120, Number 49, 18 February 1934 

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