Wandering Oakland: Traces of Temescal’s Multicultural Histories

Tour curated by: B. Starr

With this project, I wanted to investigate the histories of some of the many different groups of people who give Oakland its celebrated diversity. Who is here and how did they get here? I wanted to discover what global, local, social, economic and political conditions converged to draw the once-new, now-historic populations to this particular place.

I knew I couldn't cover all of Oakland, or even all of one neighborhood, but I decided to start with Temescal and see where it would take me. I chose Temescal because of its portrayal in mainstream media as a “hipster hotspot” worthy of tourism, because it has some of the fastest rising rents in the nation, because of the widespread and deeply felt concerns about gentrification among many of its residents, and because I lived here from 2014-2015. What has Temescal been before today? How did it become home to the many populations whose traces are still present, if overshadowed by the increasingly foodie bars and cleverly crafty boutiques sprouting up every week? Who has contributed to making Temescal the “place” that it is today?

I implore you to read the pins not as an attempt to cover in any complete way either the history of Temescal as a place or the people that have migrated here. Rather, each pin is the beginning of a line of inquiry. For each pin, I imagine I have stepped through one doorway and begun to wander around the building that houses the stories of one group of people in Temescal’s heterogeneous and layered story. Some of the pins are for social organizations, some are for nationalities, some are sites of community building, and some are a combination thereof or something in between. All are pieces of Temescal the place and the people who have lived, loved, and created here.

Locations for Tour

The Colombo Club, named for Italian-born Christopher Colombus, formed in 1920, a year that marks a transition between the first two waves of Italian immigrants to the US. The first and largest wave of Italians began in 1880 when the only way to…

Historically, despite a longstanding sympathetic relationship with the United States, Ethiopians rarely sought citizenship in the country. In fact, before the Ethiopian Revolution in 1974, the equivalent Ethiopian word for “immigrate” did not…

I wander through Temescal’s Studio One Arts Center on a Saturday in September 2015 to find it mostly empty. The space is impressive, however. There are several spacious, naturally-lit studios, a theater, a hall, a darkroom, a kiln for ceramics, and…

If you think your high school experience was complicated and difficult to navigate, imagine going to school at Oakland International High School (OIHS) where students come from thirty-three countries and speak over thirty-two different languages. If…

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, trains played a central role in the developing west. In small towns with train stations, “train time,” the time of day when the train arrived, was the day’s highlight. This was delivery hour. The town…

It was in San Francisco that the first Koreans to touch United States soil landed in 1883, as a result of the treaty of Amity and Commerce, signed the year before. (This was thirty years after the gold rush populated the SF bay area with people from…

As its name suggests, the First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAMEC) was indeed the first of its denomination to open in Oakland. In fact, it was the first African-American church of any denomination to open in Oakland. The year was 1858, nine…

Freemasons have been in Oakland for at least as long as Oakland has been an incorporated city of the United States (163 years); the first large wave of Freemasons came, like most other new Americans, for the gold in 1849. One August day in 1854, the…

The Bay Area Muslim Study, conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, estimates the population of Bay Area Muslims to be around 250,000, which makes it one of the largest Muslim communities in the nation. Of all the Bay Area…