The Downtown Oakland Historic District of Oakland, California encompasses 11 blocks around 14th Street and Broadway, located from 1100 to 1637 Broadway and includes surrounding cross streets.

There are 43 contributing buildings in this Historic District (13 noncontributing buildings), one site and one object.  The architectural styles represented are late 19th and 20th century Revival, Beaux Arts, late Gothic Revival, late 19th - early 20th century American Movements, Chicago, Commercial, Modern Movement, Moderne, Art Deco, International and "other."

The Narrative Description of the Downtown Oakland Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form is as follows:

"The Downtown Oakland Historic District occupies a roughly L-shaped area of 11 whole or partial city blocks centered on the intersection of 14th Street and Broadway.  It includes City Hall and its plaza and a series of early 20th century 7 to 24 story skyscrapers along Broadway between 11th and 17th Streets.  Boundaries are defined partly by natural transition to different eras and uses (mainly to the north and east) and partly by late 20th century redevelopment (to the southwest, west and southeast).  The district contains 56 buildings, 1 public plaza, 1 fountain, and 6 vacant lots.  Forty-five resources contribute to the district's significance:  43 buildings, City Hall Plaza (Frank Ogawa Plaza) and Latham Memorial Fountain.  Four properties are individually listed on the Nation Register of Historic Places, and as many as 19 others may be individually eligible.  There are only 13 noncontributors (3 post 1948, 10 remodeled).  In addition to the many individually notable buildings, the pattern of skyscrapers spaced among lower buildings creates a still distinctive downtown Oakland skyline."

"Downtown Oakland developed historically with most of its banks and tall office buildings on the east side of Broadway, and major retail - furniture, clothing and department stores - on the west side.  Most of the early large-scale retail section has been replaced by the City Center redevelopment southwest of 14th and Broadway (outside the district), and the present district is predominantly defined by its early 20th century office skyscrapers.  Tall buildings occur at intervals, one or two per block, punctuating the surrounding low to medium rise small office and specialty retail buildings.  Along Broadway, Franklin Street and the flatiron corners west of Broadway, the skyscrapers are located with remarkable regularity on the southwest facing corners of blocks, providing natural light to the offices inside and enhancing the play of light and shade on the exteriors of the buildings."

"Almost all the district's buildings are built to the front and side lot lines with no setbacks.  Most are three stories or over; only two slender towers (both 1922-23 additions to older buildings) and the 18 story International Style 1330 Broadway (1956-59) are higher than 15.  Most of the tall buildings are fairly narrow, half to a third of a block on each frontage.  At least half the tall buildings are designed as free standing towers, fully finished and ornamented on all sides.  Two of the skyscrapers - City Hall and the Tribune Tower - are widely recognized symbols of Oakland for their distinctive silhouettes on the skyline as well as for their historical importance."

"The majority of contributing buildings in the district date from 1901 to 1929 and display a general unity of design: brick and masonry surfaces, tow or three part vertical composition, neoclassical ornament, projecting terra cotta or metal cornices, and Chicago style window treatment.  There  is a great deal of fine terra cotta, by N. Clark and & Son of Alameda and Gladding McBean of Lincoln, California.  Buildings vary in their proportions of stone, brick, and terra cotta surfacing; in construction (brick, steel frame, reinforced concrete) and in the contrast between three part skyscraper composition and smaller buildings with high glass base and brick or terra cotta top.  Cornices occur in a wide, flat, modillion style as well as a narrower, corbeled, mainly 1920s version. Cream colored brick predominates on the 1910s buildings, dark brown on the 1920s.  Ornamentation is derived from Renaissance, Romanesque, and other historic sources.  The Federal Realty (Cathedral) Building at 1605-15 Broadway (B. B. McDougall, 1913-14), and the East Bay Water Company and Roos Brothers buildings at 512 16th Street and 1500-20 Broadway (William Knowles, 1919 and 1922-23) are fine examples of terra cotta Gothic.  The Financial Center Building at 401 14th Street (Reed and Corlett, 1928) retains the composition and materials of the historicist skyscraper buy substitutes Art Deco motifs in its terra cotta base and capital.  The office buildings typically had elaborate lobbies and banking halls.  Outstanding examples of these semi-public interiors survive at the Financial Center Building, the Federal Realty Building, the Realty Syndicated Building at 1420-40 Broadway, and the First Trust and Savings Building at 1540-50 San Pablo Avenue."

"Interspersed between the large commercial and financial buildings are smaller store and loft buildings dating mostly from the early 1920s, including several fine examples of the high glass base type (especially on the 400 block of 15th Street and the 1600 blocks of Broadway and Telegraph).  There are a number of Art Deco remodelings and new buildings - four from 1928-29 and two later.  The 1929 remodeling of the Elks Hall at 420 14th Street and the two 1928-29 banks at 364 14th Street and 369 13th Street have Moderne sculptural concrete and tile treatments that are found in greater numbers in Oakland's Uptown Art Deco district.  Tile facades from 1935-48 are found at 1220-40 and 1450 Broadway, one new building and one representative of the characteristic downtown pattern of storefront and facade modernization."

"Two notable later buildings within the district are the late Moderne Anglo California Bank by Milton Pflueger at 393 13 Street (1950) and the 18 story blue glass International style First Interstate Bank Building at 1330 Broadway (1956-59), a corner skyscraper that remains compatible with the scale and rhythm of the district.  Because they are less than 50 years old these buildings (as well as two facade remodelings similar to the Pflueger bank) are not now considered district contributors, but they represent a continuation of the district's historic patterns."

"A few buildings in the district predate the large scale development of Downtown and represent the setting in which the skyscrapers developed.  These include a small 1903 hotel at 415-17 15th Street, a commercial building at 1631 Telegraph Avenue that may date back to 1892, and the 1901 Athenian Club at 400-08 14th Street, as well as five others modernized in the 1920s or after and no longer recognizable as 19th century buildings (1308-12, 1621-23, 1625-29, and 1633 Broadway; 1522-34 San Pablo Avenue).  Multi-story hotels - with or without ground floor commercial space - ring the east and west edges of the district and mark the transition to apartment and neighborhood commercial areas.  Three early hotel, built when the pattern was still evolving, are with the district boundaries and are considered contributors."

"Theatres and clubs, once numerous, have all but vanished from the district.  The Athenian Club and Elks Hall buildings survive on 14th Street, the former still operating as a (new) private club.  There were at least a doze downtown stage and movie theaters as late as the 1950s; none still operates.  The Dufwin Theater, just outside the district at 511-23 17th Street, closed in the early 1930s and has been totally remodeled for offices; an earlier remodeling turned the Pantages Theater (400-16 12th Street) into the Oakland Tribune printing plant in 1946.  The main commercial space of 1224-40 Broadway was occupied by the Lux Theater from about 1947 to 1986, but is once again a retail store.  The largest gap in the district, on the 1400 block of Franklin Street, is the site of the 1903 Ye Liberty Playhouse, and the First Interstate Bank Building (1330 Broadway) replaced the 1892 MacDonough Theater: both of these were stage theaters that later became movie houses."

"Redevelopment of the blocks southwest of 14th and Broadway eliminated most of the major retail portion of downtown, beginning in the late 1960s.  The two surviving big department store buildings in the district are Kahn's/Liberty House at 1501 Broadway and Roos Bros. at 1500 Broadway.  Both have been remodeled for other uses.  A greater proportion of downtown's ground floor businesses than in the past are services and conveniences for office workers, such as small lunch restaurants and copy shops.  The office buildings have on the whole retained their original use, now often as relatively unmodernized and inexpensive space.  Several bank spaces have been converted to retail or offices, as banks moved uptown to new quarters in the 1970s and after."

"The Tribune complex (401-17 13th Street, 400-16 12th Street) has been vacant since the newspaper moved to Jack London Square in 1992.  Since the 1989 earthquake, there have been many closed buildings and retail vacancies.  Before the earthquake, office conversion of rehabilitated older buildings was becoming an important trend, and this trend appears to be resuming, with the Broadway Building (1401-19 Broadway) incorporated into the new City office complex and a mixed-use project proposed for the Tribune property."

"The Downtown district is clearly recognizable in early aerial views and from the freeways today, by its series of equally spaced, cornice topped towers, extending two or three blocks in each direction from 14th Street and Broadway.  The pattern of recurring tall buildings unifies the district across occasional vacant lots and the change in the street grid where Telegraph and San Pablo Avenues cut diagonally into the west side of Broadway.  The intersection of these radial streets from the north reflects the fact that the early 20th century downtown lies at the north edge of the original town plat of Oakland.  Major traffic and transit nodes developed at these junctions;  14th Street, Broadway, and San Pablo Avenue at City Hall Plaza, and Broadway and Telegraph Avenue at Latham Square.  Both these intersections are distinguished by outstanding early flatiron buildings (the Broadway and Cathedral Buildings, 1401-19 and 1605 Broadway)."


Four buildings in the district are listed individually on the National Register (as of January 1998):

1100-10 Broadway, Security Bank & Trust / Key System Building

1501-39 Broadway, Kahn's Department Store / The Rotunda

1605-15 Broadway, Federal Realty / Cathedral Building

1 City Hall Place, Oakland City Hall

Nine district contributors are currently designated as Oakland City Landmarks:

1100-10 Broadway, Security Bank & Trust / Key System Building

1500-20 Broadway, Roos Bros. Department Store

1601 Broadway, Latham Memorial Fountain

1605-15 Broadway, Federal Realty / Cathedral Building

1 City Hall Plaza, Oakland City Hall

401-17 13th Street, Oakland Tribune Tower

380-98 14th Street, Alameda County Title Insurance Company Building

401-15 14th Street, Financial Center Building

401-03 15th Street, Oakland Title Insurance & Guaranty Company Building

Another 19 are on the Oakland Landmarks Board's Preservation Study List.

Links and References

Pages tagged “Downtown Oakland Historic District”