Mary's Story

Longfellow Neighborhood

neighbor since 1999

“It was a few years after the [1906] quake...I remember sitting by the attic window with my brother, watching all the cattle driven up Market Street to Butchertown.  Market Street was all cobblestone then.”

Frank Mecca’s story as retold by Mary & Tony, Longfellow neighbors on Market Street near 42nd Street.

Mary, a relative newcomer to North Oakland’s Longfellow neighborhood, shared with Commons Archive stories she learned about her house. During their daily dog walks around the block, Mary and Tony met Frank Mecca, not long after they moved into the neighborhood.  Frank, who was born in the home that Mary and Tony bought in 1999, shared anecdotes and photos about what the area had been like.

The creative couple have been gradually renovating their house, which was built in 1891. During the process, they’ve found interesting traces of the previous residents.  Peeling back old paint has revealed layers of wallpaper, a visual timeline of interior design trends, as well as portions of the SF Chronicle from 1887.  They also came across the initials ‘JM’ carved into one of  the attic beams---Frank’s father Joseph had literally inscribed himself into the bones of the house.

 

Frank, then in his early 90s, was living with his daughter in the house adjacent to Mary and Tony.  Frank’s  family had had that building relocated from Piedmont Avenue in the 1920s.  To build the Chapel of the Chimes, a crematorium and columbarium development designed by Julia Morgan, a number of homes were displaced.  The Meccas were able to save one of them, and moved it to their double lot property.  Intrigued by what she learned from Frank and his daughter, Mary continued to do more research about their house and neighborhood at the Oakland Public Library’s History Room.