Temescal

Temescal is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the northern section of Oakland, California. It is centered on Telegraph Avenue, bordered by Broadway and Highway 24 to the east and west, and MacArthur Boulevard to the south. Temescal includes the area of Telegraph Avenue that runs from the Macarthur BART station northward to the intersection of 55th Street.

Temescal is primarily a residential neighborhood. Most of the houses in Temescal are early twentieth century bungalows along tree-lined streets. There are also many multi-family homes and mid-size apartment complexes interspersed throughout the neighborhood.

Temescal was an Italian neighborhood until the late 1960s. Temescal saw many changes in demographics over the past 10 years as new developments and upscale shopping and restaurants entered the neighborhood.

Large numbers of young couples with children moved to Temescal as the real estate prices in nearby Rockridge grew too expensive for middle-class families. People of different racial and economic backgrounds live side-by-side in the neighborhood.

Temescal is a diverse neighborhood with concentrations of Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants. There are many Ethiopian restaurants here, especially on Telegraph north of 51st Street. There are also many Korean establishments along Telegraph Ave.

The Kingfish Cafe and Pub, a popular bar in Temescal

The commercial heart of Temescal is Telegraph Avenue, between the MacArthur BART Station and 51st Street. This area is known locally as the home to popular restaurants, such as Dona Tomas, Pizzaiolo, Bakesale Betty, Burma Superstar, and Barlata. Mama's Royal Cafe, locally famous for breakfast, is located on Broadway, near the border of Temescal and the Piedmont Avenue neighborhood.

Other commercial zones include 40th Street and Broadway between 40th Street and Pleasant Valley Road.

Temescal Farmers' Market, begun in 2006, is held on Sundays in the parking lot of the Department of Motor Vehicles facility on Claremont Ave. SadieDey's Cafe is a play park for kids and neighborhood community cafe.

The Temescal Pool on 45th St. in Oakland

Studio One, located on 45th Street, is home to art classes and workshops. Temescal Pool, located next door, is open to the public.

The neighborhood is also home to several public and private schools, including Park Day School and the architectural landmark Oakland Technical High School on Broadway, where Clint Eastwood, an Oakland native, attended.

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History

The district was named for Temescal Creek which runs through it. Temescal received its name from the Peralta family, who established their Rancho San Antonio in the East Bay. The name was first applied to the major creek that runs through the district. It was subsequently applied also to the estate of one of the Peralta brothers (Vicente), which was established in today's Temescal district adjacent to the creek. Somewhat confusingly, Lake Temescal is not in Temescal at all - when the creek was dammed, the lake formed just outside the neighborhood's border, in nearby Rockridge.

The word temescal derives from the word temescalli, which means "sweat house" in the Nahuatl language of the Mexica ("Aztec") people of Mexico. It is surmised that the Peraltas or perhaps one of their ranch hands (vaqueros) had seen local indigenous (Ohlone) structures along the creek similar to those in other parts of New Spain which were called temescalli.

Temescal has long been an important junction of several principal thoroughfares: Telegraph, Claremont, and Shattuck Avenues, and 51st Street.

The earliest telegraph wire from Oakland to Sacramento went through the area, up Claremont Avenue and over the hills at Claremont Canyon. Temescal was the site of agriculture, cattle grazing and greenhouses when, in the 1890s, an opera house was built in parkland north of the creek crossing at 51st street.

The area grew and was developed into Idora Park, the earliest "trolley park" in the East Bay. In the late 1920s the amusement park was razed and, after a plan to build mid-rise apartment blocks called the Midtown District fell through, a tract of storybook houses was built on the site between 1929 and 1934. It is reported to be the first development in the American west with underground utilities.

Until the early 20th century, a wide wooden bridge spanned Temescal Creek, carrying both road (Telegraph Avenue) and railroad tracks. The horsecar line to the University of California along today's Telegraph Avenue (then called Humboldt Avenue in Oakland and Choate in Berkeley) operated out of a horse barn at 51st and Telegraph.

When the horsecar was replaced by electric streetcars, the horse barn was replaced by a carbarn. The carbarn became the Western Carhouse of the Key System's streetcar division, the East Bay Street Railways. When the streetcars ceased operation in 1948, the carbarn was razed and Vern’s, a grocery store constructed on the site. This, in turn, was razed in the 1980s and replaced by a Walgreen's store.

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Temescal Tool Lending Library

Temescal is home to one of the few tool-lending libraries in the Bay Area—indeed; in the U.S. (The Berkeley Public Library also has a tool-lending library at their nearby South Branch.) The Temescal branch of the Oakland Public Library operates this facility, which lends tools, free of charge, to library patrons for repairs and home-improvement projects. The Tool Lending Library also has instructional materials (books, videos, etc.) and gives "how-to" workshops.

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