1996: New Life for Cleveland Cascade

[ From Oakland Heritage Alliance News, Vol. 24, No. 1, p. 6 ]

A neighborhood group of volunteers plans to restore Cleveland Cascade to at least a measure of its former glory. Beginning in May 1996, Friends of the Cascade has sponsored semi-monthly Sunday gardening days. With help from the Parks Department, which supplies gardening tools and collects gabbed debris, up to twenty Friends pick up trash, prune, and sweep. This maintenance has made the Cleveland Stairs a far more inviting place than it has been for many years.

Dedicated in 1923, Cleveland Cascade is located at the west end of Cleveland Street between Lakeshore and Merritt Avenues, on a block deemed too steep for vehicular traffic. Designed by Oakland architect Howard Gilkey, opened with great civic pride as “one of the few things of this kind in the West,” the Cascade was reportedly modeled after features in the hill towns of Italy. Water flowed down over twenty concrete bowls, illuminated at night by vari-colored lights. A pump returned the water to the top so it could fall again over the bowls past the colored lights, a truly magnificent sight

The Cascade was adequately maintained into the early 1940s, but then began to suffer from neglect and resulting disrepair. The lights and water were shut off sometime in the 1950s. As “Cleveland Stairs,” the Cascade has never lost its popularity, however. Today neighbors estimate pedestrian traffic af 200 persons per day. Joggers, stair climbers, Tai Chi enthusiasts are some of the constituents Friends of the Cascade hope to enlist in the drive to bring back the Cascades.

Restoration plans are both immediate and long range. The spring 1997 project aims to rebuild the pool, renovate the fountain, and replace the shrubbery around the pool at the top of the stairs. Costs will be borne by community fundraising and Parks Department matching funds. In the long run the Friends envision relandscaping and relighting the entire block-long area. Centerpiece of the restoration will be a rebuilt, reaquified cascade from upper pool to lower level.

Anyone wanting to know more about these plans or how to join in any of the volunteer activities should contact Tony Anthony at [defunct phone number]. Stair walkers can pick up a copy of the occasional “Friends of the Cascade Newsletter” at the distribution box on the second level from the bottom.

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