Sunday, May 27, 2012

Walking in Alameda

Alameda might be the perfect place for walking. It's an island so it's flat and designed to get you where you need to go even without some form of motorized or wheeled transportation. Also, the speed limit on the entire island is 25 mph and there are lots of pedestrian friendly cross areas so you don't feel like you're going to get hit by a car when you cross the street. (I'm talking to you, Washington, DC. Stop being a jerk when it comes to crosswalks.)

This is great for me because I love to walk for exercise. I don't like the gym and find it difficult to motivate myself to go. Gyms make me nervous and slightly self-conscious. I'm going to have to suck it up and go when I move. My new building has a great fitness center and I would be an idiot if I didn't use it (also I'm paying for it so I would be wasting money). But until then, I'm going to enjoy my walks around Alameda. I walk between 2-3 miles along the same route at least five times a week. I walk up San Jose to Park Street (or to Broadway) and then I walk back to Grand Street (I wish it was Grand Avenue-that sounds so much better) and then back to my building.

Along the way, I'm treated to some beautiful homes, lovely flowers, weird lawn decorations, and some homes that can only be described as "in need of a hug and some paint." When I tell people that one of the things that I liked immediately about Alameda when I moved here was that it reminded me of New Orleans, I get weird looks. If you know New Orleans houses and you've been to Alameda, the similarities are pretty amazing. There are all styles of homes (Victorians, Mission style, Tudors, shotguns, ranch style, bungalows) painted boring beige to wild purple. Here are two of my favorite houses on my walk:

This is on the corner of Willow and San Jose. Gorgeous. The pink house is on San Jose-it's such a great color.

For today's walk I decided that I wanted to change up my path a bit and go see the Alameda Spite House. Seeing this house is on my list of things to do before I move. Yes, we have our own spite house in Alameda. A spite house, a tiki bar, a bowling alley-what else do we need? A spite house is a house built to irritate a neighbor, city, or other parties with some type of land stake. According to Wikipedia (the lazy blogger's best friend), they're usually obstructions or have designs that would be prohibitive to the neighbor(s). Disputes over inheritance, cities taking land for public spaces, and neighbors who dislike one another seem to be the chief reasons spite houses exist.

Charles Froling built the Alameda Spite House in the early 1900s. He had inherited land and intended to build his dream home. The state of California saw otherwise and took a large portion of Froling's land to build a street. He built the home to fit the strip of land left to him: 10 feet (3.0 m) deep, 54 feet (16 m) long and 20 feet (6.1 m) high.

I had read about this house when I was researching places to live in the East Bay. I love stories like this. They add an odd character to a place. The address wasn't listed on either of the sites I originally looked at. When I moved here I asked a few people about the house. Most didn't know what I was talking about. One person did tell me the address but I forgot (and didn't write it down). When I posted my things to do post, Island reader Sue posted the address for me. Thanks Sue!

So today I set out for the Alameda Spite House. I had mixed feelings about taking pictures - I'm sure the residents are used to it but I try to be stealthy since I wouldn't want people standing outside my house snapping away.  I'll say this (just in case the current owners ever read this): the house is really lovely. You can tell they love their home and take excellent care of it.

This was about a block away and I thought it was fun.
Back view - this is what I saw first.
Across the street view
Front view- look at how close the two houses are.
I can't say that the house was exactly what I expected. I'm not really sure what I expected at all. Most people don't even know it's there and I find that fascinating. I've driven past it many times on my way to the theater and didn't realize I had driven past. Charles Froling is probably still pretty mad about the whole "California took my land" thing but I hope that he is at least enjoying that his home is still there, inhabited by people who clearly love and care for it. And that there are people like me whose curiosity always gets the better of them and they have to search out hidden treasures like this house.

On a side note, Happy 75th Birthday to the Golden Gate Bridge! I would come see you today, GG, but there are probably 8 million people there already and I don't want to deal with the crowds. We do have a date before I move as I try to get over my bridge fear by walking further across than I have before. I don't have to cross the bridge, just walk about halfway. I think that's a reasonable goal.

My first attempt on New Year's Day


  1. I've never heard of a spite house before... and now that I know of them I have to say they're pretty awesome. Watch out for me doing this as a little old lady when I'm bored.

  2. I had heard of spite houses before moving here but had never actually seen one. If you do this when you are a little old lady please send me the address and I will stealthily take photos of it before you yell at me to get off your lawn.