National Register of Historic Places in Alameda County

National Register #99000691: Montgomery Ward and Company in Oakland, California Montgomery Ward and Company in the 1920's
Courtesy calisphere and Oakland Public Library
(Click Photo To Zoom)
National Register #99000691
Montgomery Ward and Company
2825 East 14th Street
Built 1923
Demolished c.2000

The photograph was taking looking southwest across East 14th Street. After sitting vacant for decades, the building occupying the southwest corner of 29th Avenue and East 14th Street was demolished for construction of the Cesar E. Chavez Education Center, completed in 2003.

The following is quoted from an article by Rick DelVecchio which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on February 10, 1996:

This week's battle over the demolition of Oakland's vacant Montgomery Ward building was about the historic value of the former mail-order warehouse and department store, but it was also about the limits of patience - and power - in the politics of economic rebuilding. On one side: a powerful alliance between an angry and frustrated neighborhood front, Oakland Community Organizations, and a relentless politician, Ignacio De La Fuente, whose passions include making deals that financially benefit Oakland and create jobs for city residents. On the other: preservationists who wondered whether Oakland Community Organizations and De La Fuente were so determined to tear down the Ward's building that there was no chance alternative ideas could compete.

On Wednesday, the preservationists lost. The Planning Commission unanimously agreed with the city staff's decision that ripping down the building and redeveloping the 10-acre site in the Fruitvale district will not have a significant environmental impact.

Whether the building, a nine-story concrete enormity hulking empty over Interstate 880 for the past 11 years, has any historic value depends on who you talk to. A Fruitvale resident, summing up opinion in the immediate neighborhood, called it "this monster." To Oakland Community Organizations, the building attracts graffiti and crime, and its abandonment left a monument to the city's powerlessness to hold businesses accountable for the junk they leave behind.

Yet the state Office of Historic Preservation maintains that the building is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Though critics call it hack work by a 1920s Ward's house architect, supporters say the warehouse evokes that era's commercialism with broad-shouldered charm.

However, the building is not an official landmark, nor is there any active campaign to get it protected status. And Oakland's Cultural Heritage Survey lists it as valuable but less than first rate.

City staffers stayed neutral on the argument of whether the building is a historic treasure, but they agreed that it has little economic value and that the community really wanted to replace it with a useful enterprise.

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