• Jefferson Square Park
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  • DO YOU know some history about this park?

    If you would like to write a short history about this park (from any point in the past), please email us: info@10000stepsoakland.org. We would like to include your historical account here.

    --- history : 2010-01-01 ---

    The Origin of Oakland's Historic Squares

    "The originators of [the 1853 map of Oakland] this plan had a vision. In a symmetrical arrangement about Broadway as an axis seven blocks were reserved as parks, each block having an area of about two acres. Between 4th and 5th Streets, on either side of this axis, and extending from Broadway both ways to Washington and Franklin Streets were two squares, later named Washington and Franklin. Two blocks to the north of these squares between 6th and 7th Streets, and three blocks east and west of the Broadway axis were Harrison Square, between Harrison and Alice Streets and Jefferson Square, between Jefferson and Grove [present-day Martin Luther King, Jr. Way]. Two blocks further north, between 8th and 9th Streets, and six blocks east of Broadway was Caroline Square [present-day Madison Square], between Julia (now Madison Street) and Oak Streets. The corresponding square to the west was not reserved, possibly because it was near the western edge of the survey and 'way out' in the country. Four blocks directly north of Jefferson and Harrison Squares, between 10th and 11th Streets, were Lafayette and Oakland [present-day Lincoln] Squares."

    "Clear title to these parks was established in August 1869 through a quit-claim deed stating: 'The title to the above public squares is taken by the party of the second part (the City of Oakland) for the purpose of cutting off all outstanding claims, and of quieting the title to the above described public squares as the same have heretofore been dedicated and used in trust for the inhabitants of said City of Oakland as public squares or plazas and for no other purpose'…In 1887 then-Mayor Davis said, 'Within the city limits we have eight public plazas or little parks. The most of these breathing spaces—rest spots—are not in attractive condition.'”

    Oakland Parks & Playgrounds, 1936 (WPA Project)

    --- history : 2010-01-01 ---

    Neighborhood Memories of Jefferson Square Park

    "In the early 1950s West Oakland Catholic elementary schools used to play their baseball season at Jefferson Square Park. I went to Sacred Heart elementary school in North Oakland and there was quite a rivalry between us and St. Patrick's School. When we'd play them there were usually shouting matches and occasionally rocks and sticks thrown by fans at the opposite team and fans. Pretty mild compared to some of today's altercations.

    Also, in 1960-61 there were teenage houseparties I attended on Jefferson Street across from the park. Mexican-Americans, African-Americans and whites were there, some with guitars, but mostly dancing and singing to rock'n'roll records. Probably the most integrated youth scene in the area that I can remember at the time.

    Later when I heard most of the 7th Street corridor between Market & Jefferson was scheduled for teardown I took photos of the stores, restaurants, clubs and houses. The demolition was the end of West Oakland's Mexican-American community and the beginning of its exodus to the Fruitvale district and other parts of East Oakland.

    There was a novel written in the late-1940s-early 1950s about this area. It covered the Zoot Suit era of World War II and the discrimination against Mexican-Americans who lived in the Jefferson area. Unfortunately I forget the title and author and read this paperback when I was a teenager many moons ago. My ex-brother-in-law, raised in the area, told me many tales about life in the 1930s, 40s and 50s that paralleled the novel."

    ---Al, neighborhood historian

    "I started coming here in 1948 to play basketball and met people here, when they had people living around here! When they wanted to build the freeway and the police station, they knocked them people out.

    The Rec center Directors were real nice, it was real nice down here. We’d be playing basketball; they closed at 10PM, but they’d let us stay until 1or 2AM when we had a good game going!They used to have a kitchen in the Rec center. We’d take the kids fishing, catch the fish and then come back and I’d cook the fish. They kids would run home and say, 'Mama, they’re selling fish sandwiches down there!' I think we charged 50cents. We sold all the fish we caught.

    ---Boone, local basketball legend

    "Boone, he’s one hell of a ball player. Being a little kid, I idolized him. If you could beat him, you could go anywhere. He made basketball seem fun and that’s the way the game should be played. He taught me a lot and that’s how I made it to the Harlem Globetrotters."

    "I consider Boone to be a legend of this park; some of the things he did on the basketball court were amazing to me. Boone was like the protector, the controller. He kept us all in line so there was no fighting, no shooting, no drugs, none of that stuff in this park."

    --Roy "Zazu", professional basketball player, grew up in the neighborhood

    "The Recreation Center used to be open 10am – 10pm and all you had to do was leave anything of value - a sweater, an ID, your wallet- and they gave you a ball to play with for basketball or volleyball or tennis against the wall. The Rec Center gave the park life. It was not unusual for at least four different types of pick-up games to go on at any given time in this park."

    ---Gus,long-time neighbor & small business owner

    "I got a home run here, too, hit it right in the middle of that tree. That’s my favorite tree, too. I could never climb it, but I loved it, my home run tree. I come through and reminisce; I lived between 5th and 3rd on Filbert. I remember all the kid-things we used to do, not like today. There were kids everywhere around the park! My wife grew up down the street. In my family, there were 10 kids, in hers, there were 22! There were big families here in Oakland."

    ---Park visitor

    "En el verano nos juntabamos (la mayoria eramos latinos) y haciamos un equipo de softball y jugabamos contra otros equipos locales. De vez en cuando tambien jugamos futbol y basketball. Tengo muy buenos recuerdos de el Jefferson Park."

    Bernardo, grew up in the neighborhood

    "Growing up hearing stories about the neighborhood and this park made me long for a similar sense of community. I returned as a resident in 2000 and have worked at La Borinqueña throughout my life. As children, my siblings and I spent time in this park. I’m excited to see the neighborhood enjoy this green open space again.

    "Tina Tamale", small business owner and neighbor since 1969

    --- history : 2008-08-04 ---

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