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The Right Track: 16th Street Station

By Courtney Clark

Built in 1912, Oakland's 16th Street Station is a California landmark. Director of Communication and Media Lyn Hikida explains that, "The Station represents important aspects of Oakland's history, including the time when rail was the most important mode of transportation."

The 16th Street Station was designed by Jarvis Hunt, an architect from Chicago, to replace the wooden station that was previously built in 1870. The replacement was encouraged by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce due to a significant population increase after a San Francisco earthquake. The train station grew again in 1914 when the first Southern Pacific electric trains began running through the station.

On the West Coast, the station was a home to organizations such as the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African American union in the country. African-Americans were able to use this station to leave the South to search for jobs- often wartime jobs through the shipyards- in the Second Great Migration.

After an earthquake in 1898, the station closed to regular use. However, in 2002, BRIDGE Housing took over ownership of the 16th Street Station with plans for development. According to the website, the goal is for the station to become "a community asset for the Central Station neighborhood, West Oakland, and the entire Bay Area." There are several ideas for development, including a restaurant, event and performance space, museum space, and beer garden.

Today, the 16th Street Station hosts events for the community. According to Cynthia Parker, President and CEO of BRIDGE Housing, one exciting event was the "national art and culture event, 'Station to Station,' which stopped at 10 railway stations across the county before celebrating the grand file at the 16th Street Station" in 2013. Another celebration of the Station in 2011 involved food trucks and performers- including trapeze artists.

A historical landmark for more than a century, Hunt's 16th Street Station still impresses with its high ceilings and marble floors. To this day, the role of the Station is to build the community of Oakland and contribute to its development.

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