Family, Heritage Travel, Historic Preservation, Monday Musings
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A morning stroll through Alameda

Alameda, California, a small city located in the East Bay region, is often overshadowed by its famous neighbors. Primarily located on Alameda Island, it also spans Bay Farm Island, Coast Guard Island, and a few other smaller islands in San Francisco Bay. We’ve been here for the past few days visiting our daughter Claire.

As is my habit in the morning, I woke up early, stretched, and then took to the streets of downtown Alameda to check out the architecture, people, and coffee shops. (I love Julie’s Coffee and Tea Garden on Park Street. Stop in, say hi to Araceli, and tell her that David sent you — that will elicit a laugh!)

First, let me say that it is a wonder that I ever left the luscious and welcoming garden lovingly tended by our Vrbo hosts, Arthur and John, for the past 50 years. I did spend many an hour sitting beneath the wisteria, listening to the songs of the canaries, taking in the scents of a wealth of plants flourishing in the California spring, watching a hummingbird take care of her children in her tiny nest, and being mesmerized by the sounds of the water. Heavenly.

The morning view out of our kitchen window
Wisteria in bloom above our small cottage
One of three aviaries for canaries in Arthur and John’s Wisteria garden

Yet I did leave our comfortable setting each morning and enjoyed what I saw outside the magical space of Wisteria Cottage.

Entrance to the Wisteria Cottage

Alameda is known as a family-oriented city, accessible by a quick ferry ride to the bustle of San Francisco, cheek-to-jowl with Oakland and near-by Berkeley, yet a bit of an oasis. Yes, it has new apartment buildings, especially the closer one gets to the beach, and a shopping mall, and all the “pleasures” of modern life (he says with tongue firmly planted in cheek). But the commercial cores (and they have more than one) still maintain many of their historic buildings — often sporting great signage (both historic and modern).

Home of Books, Inc., one of the oldest independent bookstores in the west
Views along Park Street
One can add serious pounds over breakfasts in Alameda
Dan’s Farm Market in downtown Alameda, which reminded us of the Italian farm markets in Rome

The residential areas also feature a mix of Victorian, bungalow, and early 30s architecture in various states of preservation.

Historic garden apartments, which now serve as starter apartments

The city contains several large lodge buildings, which appear to have active fraternal orders.

Masonic Lodge
Masonic Lodge detail

And the public buildings are — to my mind — astounding for a small city. Many have a more Midwestern rather than a west coast vibe. The crown jewel — Alameda High School — is certainly a thing to behold!

Alameda City Hall. A central tower was removed following the 1906 earthquake.
Alameda High School main facade
Revealing a bit more…the science building is at the far-left end of the photograph
And now the full effect! What an amazing physical demonstration of the community’s commitment to educating its children for the future.
Detail of the old Carnegie Library – a building apparently still in need of a new use

Finally, the historic Alameda Theatre is a feast for the eyes on both the exterior and interior.

Alameda is not part of the California Main Street program, which I believe could be a big boost in helping the city, with its wealth of assets, become even more vibrant. Nonetheless, the community already has much to offer and it was a joy to do my own work of discovery over the past five days. I will follow the advice of the sign above the doors as one exits the historic Alameda Theatre and take the magic with me.

More to come…


I am on a bit of a blogging break and have been taking the time to share some of my favorites from the More to Come archives. However, this new post — which consists of a few words and some pictures — is of a personal nature that I wanted to share in a timely fashion.

Image: Alameda Theatre interior by DJB


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


    • DJB says

      Many thanks, Sharon. Glad you enjoyed them! I enjoyed your piece in Preservation magazine (my long-time employer before my semi-retirement) on Gas Station’s Revisited. Very cool! DJB

  1. DJB says

    A long-time friend and former colleague – Ray Foote – wrote the following on LinkedIn:

    “David, thoroughly enjoyed this. My brother and sister-in-law have lived in Alameda for 25 years, and I’ve visited numerous times, always finding the architecture and small town feel very appealing. You do a great job describing the place.”

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