Many people are rooting for the motion picture "Lincoln" to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards on Feb. 24. Directed by Steven Spielberg and nominated for 12 awards, the movie is the story of the final four years of the president's life and his efforts to pass the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery.
Although he was never in California, Abraham Lincoln has a presence in Oakland and, as the anniversary of his birth -- Feb. 12, 1809 -- approaches, here's some relevant facts.
Lincoln Elementary School, at 11th and Jackson streets, is Oakland's second oldest public school, having been in continuous use for more than a century. It stands adjacent to Lincoln Square Park, which is one of the original town squares laid out in 1953. Initially the park was called Oakland Square, but in 1895, on the 30th anniversary of President Lincoln's assassination, city leaders decided to rededicate the park in his honor.
A downtown parade was held and dignitaries convened at the park to shovel dirt over the roots of a replanted young sequoia tree. The soil had been collected from all 46 states, plus two territories and from the tombs of Washington, Lincoln and Grant. On hand was George C. Pardee, then mayor of Oakland, who recalled that, as a boy, he sat on Lincoln's knee when he and his father visited with the president at the White House.
The Lincoln Highway was the first coast-to-coast road for the automobile across the U.S. and opened 100 years ago. A coalition of car enthusiasts and civic boosters planned the 3,000-plus mile route from New York to San Francisco that would pass through 13 states. Oakland, along with hundreds of cities, towns and villages along the highway, enjoyed added prestige and exposure as a growing population of motorists followed the road.
Eventually the 1913 version of the Lincoln Highway would be known as U.S. Route 50. Altamont Pass Road, the town of Livermore, and Dublin Canyon Road through Castro Valley was the way travelers made their way to the Oakland city limits. From there, the route followed what is today MacArthur Boulevard to Foothill Boulevard, continuing to First Avenue and to Lake Merritt. The newly built Hotel Oakland, four blocks west of the lake, was a featured stop in 1913. To get to their ultimate destination, travelers rode across the bay on a car ferryboat docked at the foot of Broadway. They disembarked on Market Street in San Francisco.
In the 1930s, a new monumental Alameda County Courthouse opened its doors, with its grand entrance facing Fallon Street. A ladies civic group raised funds to place a bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln across the street and there the bust remained on its pedestal for many decades.
In early December, a car traveling too fast collided with the bust, knocking it from its pedestal. The pedestal was destroyed, but fortunately Abe did not sustain much damage, other than a scratch on his nose. He is in a secure location awaiting plans for his reinstallation, and his fans and admirers are hopeful that the bust of our 16th president will soon be restored to his rightful place.
According to the website www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org, plans are in the works for enthusiasts to make a commemorate trip across the country on sections of the Lincoln Highway later this year. Check the website for more information.