Dr. Robert Akeley, a 40-year resident of the Temescal neighborhood, is a psychiatrist by profession and an artist, philosopher and life enthusiast by avocation.
A wiry, fit octogenarian with a white ponytail, he is a frequent walker on the streets of Temescal and Rockridge. Akeley lives in a trim Queen Anne cottage on a corner lot, with a fenced-in lush garden and a separate two-story carriage house/barn, a few blocks up from Telegraph Avenue. The home's exterior is painted with an eye-pleasing color palette of blues and greens and creams -- it certainly stands out amid the other cottages and bungalows in the neighborhood.
Among the home's many charming features are its wraparound porch and distinctive octagonal tower with a bell-shaped roof topped with its original finial.
Since acquiring the house in the 1970s, Akeley has offered space to a series of roommates and boarders, many of them craftspeople and artists, and has regularly offered his garden and barn for benefits and fundraisers for various causes.
Akeley's neighbor, Sue Mark, also an artist and advocate for community arts, has pulled together, with Akeley's help, a selection of his paintings and collections. They are all on display at the Rise Above Gallery, 4770 Telegraph Ave, a short distance from the blue/green/cream compound.
The two-month exhibit highlights and celebrates Akeley's contributions throughout the years. His friends and associates have joined together to pay tribute to this quiet, introspective man whose generous nature has inspired so many.
Both Akeley's home and the Rise Above Gallery date from the turn of the last century, when Temescal was transitioning from a streetcar suburb north of downtown to a district of Oakland. Temescal -- the name comes from the Ohlone Indian term for sweat lodge -- was annexed to Oakland in 1897.
City survey workers date the Queen Anne cottage to 1892. The building housing the Rise Above Gallery was erected by a Berkeley contractor in 1904 as part of commercial development that fronted the horsecar transit line, which ran from Seventh Street downtown out to 51st Street starting in 1869. Later, the streetcars ran all the way to Berkeley to the new University of California campus that opened in 1873.
The house's original owner also was a medical doctor, by the name Mouser, and his family. As was typical of those times, Dr. Mouser saw patients at his home, in a first floor office, with its own entrance of off the porch. He kept a horse and buggy in the carriage house so he could travel to nearby "Pill Hill," to a hospital founded by a former Oakland mayor, Dr. Samuel Merritt.
More than a century later, Akeley's lovingly maintained home stands as a rare surviving example of the style of houses that once dotted the North Oakland area, amid small farms and orchards.
On April 5, First Friday, the Rise Above Gallery will hold a reception featuring Robert Akeley's art and collections. For more go to www.riseaboveoakland.com.
The gallery also serves as a print shop, with limited-edition T-shirts and prints.
For details on other First Friday events in Temescal, go to www.temescaldistrict.org.