A piece of a once-stately historic naval officers’ club was lifted up from its 100-year post Wednesday, put on wheels, and moved half a mile to a new site where it will be renovated into a community center.
The Oaklandside’s visual journalist Amir Aziz was on site to document the journey.
“Club Knoll” is the last remaining building at the Oak Knoll property in the Oakland hills just above I-580 and deep East Oakland. Originally a golf course in the 1920s, then a U.S. Navy hospital from WWII until 1996, Oak Knoll is slated to become a massive development with 900 townhomes and houses, trails, and a large retail area. The white, Mission-style building that is being wheeled across the property in pieces was the naval officers’ club, where meetings and grand social events were once held.
“If you ask around, you’ll find many people who went to weddings and dinners there,” said Naomi Schiff of the Oakland Heritage Alliance. “Oak Knoll was a big deal in the postwar period—a very active place. There are former patients around who remember recuperating from injuries there.”
Developer SunCal’s plans for Oak Knoll have weathered many setbacks and controversies over the years, and the question of what to do with the Club Knoll building prompted passionate debate. Should the property, which had become derelict and graffiti-covered, be restored and left in place, or get demolished like all the other buildings? Finally, the decision was made to relocate it and conduct heavy repairs—including dealing with asbestos-laden walls.
In order to do so, it had to be chopped into pieces and transported with a motorized controller. Look out for the club’s tower traveling across the site in the coming days or weeks.
Amir Aziz is a photographer and videographer from Oakland, California. Using photography as his primary medium, Amir documents life and times in his community and the rapid changes in his environment. He's covered music events and social justice movements in the U.S. and abroad for local and international publications. Before shelter-in-place, he traveled to over 10 countries producing multimedia projects juxtaposing the experiences of locals elsewhere to those in his hometown of Oakland. Amir hopes to continue to bridge the gap between African diaspora communities and oppressed groups in the world through multimedia storytelling.
Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie lives in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.