Oakland's newest city landmark is a renovated 1870s Victorian located in the Oakland Point District in West Oakland. The house is associated with Capt. William T. Shorey (1859-1919) a black sea captain who commanded his own vessels hunting and capturing whales in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The house had suffered from neglect and various misguided remodelings in recent years -- it was knocked off its foundation in the 1989 earthquake -- but since being acquired by its current owner, the home looks once again like the prosperous residence it once was.
Owner Biren Talati put forward the landmark nomination and appeared at various meetings during the past year, determined to have the historic structure achieve official landmark status.
Research shows that Shorey and his wife were well-known during their time in West Oakland. Originally from Barbados, Shorey showed an early interest in the sea, moving to Boston first as a cabin boy and later working on whaling ships until the whaling industry shifted to the West Coast. He rose rapidly from mate to officer to captain.
After he married Julie Ann Shelton (1865-1944) daughter of a well-to-do San Franciscan African-American family, the newlyweds set sail for a honeymoon in Hawaii, then settled down to married life, eventually having five children. Julie Ann Shorey and the children would sometimes accompany the captain on his voyages.
Shorey had many adventures during his seafaring days. He retired in 1908 and for the final decade of his life was active in Oakland civic affairs, once hosting a dinner for Booker T. Washington who was in town to raise funds for the Tuskegee Institute.
Shorey died on April 15, 1919, at the age of 60, a casualty of the worldwide flu epidemic then raging. He was buried in the family plot at Mountain View Cemetery where three of his children who predeceased him were already buried.
Following his death, the city council ordered a block of 8th Street, where the house is located, renamed Shorey Street.
His widow lived many years after her husband's death and remained active in civic and philanthropic causes associated with the black community. Interested in natural history, she wrote pieces for local journals on the flora and fauna she observed while on her travels. According to her surviving daughter, Victoria, who died in 1961, the home was filled with treasures acquired on the many voyages.
This summer, Betty Marvin, an architectural historian planner with the city, will be leading a walking tour of the West Oakland neighborhood associated with Capt. Shorey. The family is also featured on tours of Mountain View Cemetery. For more, go to www.oaklandheritage.org, and www.mountainviewcemetery.org.
Biren Talati has a website with information on how he and his company went about renovating the Shorey Housem including a slide show of the rooms and exterior, at www.shoreyhouse.blogspot.com.
"The house, through its occupants, the Shoreys, has an amazing story to tell," Talati said. "We hope that landmark status will enable more people to become familiar with it and learn from it as we have."