An artistic portrayal of history

Oakland Landmarks: An Artistic Portrayal of History is an ideal coffee table book for Oakland residents and fans of the city. The elegantly designed book features watercolor paintings of famous buildings and locations in Oakland by Heidi Wyckoff. The text in the book was written by Annalee Allen, the Oakland Tribune columnist and Oakland Tours Program coordinator.

This book is a great entry point for those interested about Oakland's history. What separates this book from other Oakland history books is that it covers 34 landmarks in just 80 pages. The beautiful watercolor paintings provide a new way to look at familiar landmarks, and Allen's one-page descriptions of the landmarks focus on the key details, showing familiar locations in a different light. Her descriptions give you just enough history to pique your curiosity, and make you want to read more about Oakland history.

Take for example her section on Oakland's oldest bar, Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon. We learn that this Jack London Square bar has been in continuous operation since 1884. The owner, Johnny Heinhold loaned Jack London money to buy his first boat. Jack London even used the bar's dictionary to study for the UC Berkeley entrance exam.

Another interesting entry is about the Claremont Hotel. I wondered why such a large, glamorous hotel was built back when Oakland was a small city. Allen writes that "it opened in 1915 in time for all the tourists flocking to California to attend the Panama Pacific International Exposition across the bay in San Francisco." Putting the Claremont Hotel in the context of the exhibition reminds the reader of the other things built, like Palace of Fine Arts and the Marina District in San Francisco being converted from marshland to exhibition space. This 279-room hotel doesn't seem out of place in the context of these other grand building projects for the exhibition.

Oakland Landmarks is Allen's third book on Oakland, her others being Selections from the Oakland Tribune Archives (CA) (Images of America) and Oakland (Postcard History)). If Oakland Landmarks makes you want to learn more about Oakland history, a good companion book to read is Oakland: The Story of a City by Beth Bagwell, which just published its second edition.
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