Capturing the Spirit of Oakland has been an institution of Historic Oakland Foundation for 17 years. The tours are designed to enlighten rather than frighten, as the spirits of Oakland’s residents wait eagerly to tell their stories. This year, the preservation team and its volunteers will be stepping up to prepare the route tour-goers will take.
Our most difficult task so far has pertained to ensuring the safety of visitors on the route. We value our old trees here at Oakland, but sometimes the roots can tear up pathways, causing loose bricks and other tripping hazards. We found a stretch of path along this year’s route that was in need of leveling in two places. We started by pulling up and cleaning the old bricks. Unfortunately, sometimes when people set old, fragile bricks in hard, modern Portland cement, it can be difficult to separate the two without completely decimating the historic material. With chisels, hammers, and even power tools, we still only salvaged about half of the original bricks on the path. Next, we had to remove the tree root that had caused the problem in the first place. After attempting to remove it by hand with an axe for an excess of two hours, we brought in a stump grinder. Once the root was cleared away and the ground tamped level with gravel, we could finally find a few replacement bricks and lay them all in.
As a finishing touch, we asked our group of dedicated volunteers to help us clean some of the headstones that would be featured in stops along the tour. We use D2 cleaning solution for the stones. This solution works to target the mosses and fungi that like to stick to the porous marble headstones. With a gentle scrubbing and a good rinse, these markers look as bright as ever.