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Piedmont honors 100 years of history

ASERIES of community celebrations are planned at the end of January to kick off the city of Piedmont's centennial year.

On Jan. 31, a self-guided Piedmont Park History Trail will be unveiled, starting at 2 p.m., and followed by a free concert featuring local talent at the Veterans Hall. The public is invited to sample bubbly beverages and finger-food at the Community Center and learn about the city's founding, starting at 6 p.m.

As a grand finale to that busy day, Gail Lombardi of the Centennial Committee said there will be a free laser show, visible from the overlook in Piedmont Park -- rain or shine.

Later in the year, there will be walking tours, an art exhibition featuring California impressionists who found inspiration in the hills of Piedmont, and outdoor concerts.

Centennial Committee members have been meeting for the past year to come up with various activities, and have raised $87,000 of the $160,000 budgeted.

"We are still accepting donations," Lombardi said.

An illustrated book, "Cottages and Castles," compiled by longtime City Clerk and Piedmont historian Ann Swift, will be available soon. The book depicts the homes and families who built them.

The city of Piedmont is sponsoring the history trail, with nine markers commemorating key milestones. Mark Feldkamp, a city Public Works Department employee, is designing plans for a re-creation of the rock grotto in the park, the site of mineral springs that once attracted visitors from across the Bay -- including such luminaries as Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) -- to come to the East Bay hills. The famous Piedmont Springs Hotel stood for many years at the site before being leveled by a fire in the 1940s.

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Piedmont Springs was one of the most popular resorts on the Pacific Coast, according to the history files. "California has within her limits a number of celebrated springs noted for the medicinal properties of their waters and for their romantic surroundings."

The files say the waters of the Piedmont mineral springs contain magnesia, iodine and iron, and are justly celebrated for their curative properties.

"The scenery is beautiful in its combination of hillside, vale and forest in the state of nature, the tastefully arranged grounds and a magnificent view of Oakland, Alameda and San Francisco and on out through the Golden Gate to the Pacific Ocean," according to history files.

Another longtime Piedmont landmark no longer standing was the baronial estate of Isaac Requa, who acquired 80 acres in the 1870s and built a "towered, gabled, high-windowed house with 22 rooms, painted yellow with brown trim."

The stately home was visible from across the Bay and, so the story goes, the Requa family watched it being built from their rooms at the Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco. Requa, who made his fortune in the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, Nev., called his estate "The Highlands."

Because it was so far from town, The Highlands was nearly self- sufficient, with its own vegetable gardens, orchards, dairy herd, water supply from wells on the property, and its own gas works -- to provide lighting. The Requas entertained often and lavishly. Extensive grounds surrounding the house were planted with trees and ornamental shrubs, say the files. The home was demolished by family descendants in the 1920s.

To learn more about the city of Piedmont's centennial celebrations, go to http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us. The History Room at the Oakland Main Library will feature an exhibit on Piedmont's history starting this week. For more information call 238-3222.

c2007 ANG Newspapers. Cannot be used or repurposed without prior written permission.
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