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An Update on our East Hill Project

Ashley Shares and Sean Diaz reset restored headstones on East Hill.

2021 is really flying by for Historic Oakland Foundation’s preservation, restoration, and operations (PRO) team. This year we’ve been busier than ever thanks to ongoing work taking place on East Hill. In late 2019 we began restoring 7.5 acres on the east side of Oakland Cemetery. This work represents the largest restoration project HOF has undertaken to date.

Laying irrigation pipe on East Hill

As a result of budgetary constraints brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, our in-house preservation team worked entirely solo in 2020 and early 2021. Despite the challenges, we stayed on schedule. The PRO team is accustomed to working closely together, usually in teams of two. Because of social distancing requirements, our work quickly shifted. We stopped using our workshop and indoor spaces, we enacted sanitizing measures and avoided sharing most tools, and we scheduled our work so that we stayed more than six feet apart. With the assistance of additional equipment such as scaffolding and pry bars, we learned how to work alone on projects that would typically require two sets of hands. To date, we’ve restored nearly five acres since late 2019.

Contractors reset brick pathways on East Hill.

This year we’ve cautiously begun to work on two-person projects: two-story obelisks, broken ledgers, and small retaining walls, just to name a few. We were also joined on the grounds this spring by several contractors who laid new irrigation lines below pathways, repaired dozens of deteriorated retaining walls, and re-laid bricks and exposed aggregate concrete over thousands of square feet of damaged and unsightly pathways. Work moved smoothly and quickly and with meticulous attention to detail. All replacement materials had to be compatible with the historic ones. For example, we tested several different mortar colors and sand grades before settling on the appropriate blend for grouting between bricks. The new irrigation system provides 26 hose hook-ups on East Hill, making watering plants much easier as our gardens team begins their beautification efforts.

The PRO team will spend the rest of 2021 and early 2022 wrapping up in-house wall work in phases 1,2, and 3 of our East Hill project. Then we’ll move into the final phase, hopefully bringing the East Hill hardscape work to a close by 2024.

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