"When thou saidst, seek my face; my heart said unto thee, thy face, LORD, will I seek." -Psalm 27:8

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Moment In Time; The Oakland 16th Street Train Station

So what is the 16th Street Train Station in Oakland?  It was a type of building called "Beaux Arts" or Fine arts because of its style.  The station was a major transportation hub in Oakland for many years and was part of the Southern Pacific Railroad line.  It was home of the emigration from the South to the North called the "Second Great Migration", when African Americans came here searching for jobs. The train station and Oakland were the West Coast organizing home of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), the first African American union in this country. When first constructed the station was made of wood, but that was demolished and the station that you see today was opened in 1912.  It is located in West Oakland on the corner of 16th and Wood streets.  It is an impressive building, by anyone's standards.  It is beautiful and speaks to the time when America took great pride in its architecture.  A time when public transportation was seen as an event.  People would get dressed in their finest, and entire families would board the train for special occasions.  The station was a reflection of this era, beautiful, utilitarian; and making a statement for all that entered in.  Bridge Housing owns the building now and it is a redevelopment project today.  Bridge Housing has also built low income housing;  99 units,  about a block away from the train station.  Other private builders have also developed housing in the area.

In 2012 the HBO movie, Hemingway and Gellhorn was filmed there.  It was made to look like Hotel Florida in Madrid, Spain,  where Ernest Hemingway and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn made their base.  This hotel underwent several bombings during the Spanish American War.  As part of the renovations for this movie a beautiful and amazing staircase was constructed that leads to nowhere.  The large bar in the middle of the room was also part of the movie.  The Southern Pacific Logo on the wall is now covered up, but still resides below the round covering that is surrounded by leaves on the wall.  The wainscoting on the lower walls was also an addition from the movie.

When you look at the building you can see the fine details and the time that was taken when building it, both inside and out.  Robin and I were given the awesome privilege of photographing this Oakland icon.   There are three ornate and round elements on the ceilings which once had chandeliers hanging from them. The ornamentation surrounding the doorways is fantastic.  In 1989 the train station was damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake and then in 1994 it was closed permanently.

Just imagine, the number of people that sat and waited for their train, or arrived in Oakland for the first time.  I have seen photos of people buying things at the snack bar,  sitting in its massive seating area relaxing and reading books and newspapers.  All the stories that have played out there.  The lives and generations that have been a part of its history.   It is worth so much more than the sum of all its parts and it is our hope that it will be saved.  Please enjoy now that you know a little bit about it...

Today you must get permission from Bridge Housing in order to enter the building.  We were allowed to be there for about two hours and the time flew by.  We had just finished when the Property manager, Marcus, came back to let us out.  You see, for those two hours we were locked behind a twelve foot fence, but that didn't matter.  We were much too busy capturing the glory of the building to really care about that.  It was an incredible experience and one that we wouldn't hesitate to do again.  It was a huge blessing to be allowed to attempt to capture some of its magnificent history.


































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