I love the act of traveling by train and am perpetually fascinated by the historical significance train travel has had in the U.S. and abroad.
I have been looking forward to seeing inside the historic Oakland 16th Street Station since I moved to the East Bay. The station, designed by Jarvis Hunt, a famous Chicago-based architect, opened in 1912.
It was a cultural and technological crossroads. The station had the first elevated tracks west of the Mississippi; Oakland was the West Coast home of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), the first African-American union in the country; it was a major transportation hub for Southern Pacific trains; and many African Americans, who left the South and traveled by train to Oakland, found jobs and settled in the area.
The station, heavily damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, closed in 1994. It was replaced by stations in Emeryville and Jack London Square. The 16th street station's buildings are mostly intact but closed to the public. It can be rented for special events, group tours and photo and video shoots. Though very worn, the inside is still beautiful, and the contrast of the old details and the new graffiti are a testament to life in the urban area.
There are a few urban gardens in front of the old station, which is currently owned by BRIDGE Housing Corporation. The community nonprofit RAILS assists with the station’s development.
Though elegant and with such historic significance, the station generally keeps a low profile. It has had a few leading roles in films such as "Funny Lady," "Rent" and "Hemingway & Gellhorn." For more information, visit http://www.16thstreetstation.com/.