New Oakland federal building exhibit details area history
article
By Ginny Prior, Correspondent
Posted: 08/20/2010 12:00:00 AM PDT

You've no doubt heard the story. Vast stands of Redwoods, some of the largest trees on Earth, once covered the Oakland hills. By 1850, logging was well under way, and the first steam saw mill was built on the edge of what is now Montclair. Ten years later, the forest was gone.

It's all documented in a new, permanent photo exhibit of the history of Alameda and Contra Costa counties inside Oakland's federal building. Hills resident and exhibit producer Bennett Hall has been working on the display since last fall, using a storyboard to outline the milestones of each city's history.

"There is a lot to tell in 75 views for Alameda and CoCo counties," he says. "It takes a good two hours just to read all the copy." Hall says the exhibit features early scenes from Oakland's Lake Merritt and the Tribune Tower, as well as the city's connection to aviators Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. The collection also documents construction of the Bay and Dumbarton Bridges as well as the World War II Liberty ships built in Richmond.

"Readers will be pleased to see the inclusion of some of the most important stories from their area." The selection of images was overseen by U.S. District Senior Judge D. Lowell Jensen, who helped Hall and his wife/business partner, Helen Rischbieth, with the picture selection and narrative. A photo of the old Chevron plant has special meaning for Jensen -- he worked there as a young man.




Bennett Hall and business partner Helen Rischbieth show pieces of the photo collection they were commissioned to create for the walls of the U.S. District Court inside Oakland's Federal Building.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, a history buff, also played a lead role in developing the exhibit, and the images were obtained from a number of sources, making Hall a bit of a detective. He culled photos from the Oakland History Room, Contra Costa Historical Society, Port of Oakland, Bancroft Library, Cargill Salt, Clorox, California Images and the Marge Callow Collection. Then he scanned them with the best equipment available, using a 12-color archival fine art printer that keeps the photos looking good for some 200 years.

Hall is proud of another aspect of the exhibit as
well.

"Our approach to production centered on going green," he says, "using local 100-percent Bay Area artisan framing by our San Francisco-based studio Eco-framing. Frame molding is solid American Cherry wood, grown sustainably and milled and finished according to FSC-certified methods."
Could there be a future for Hall in decorating the walls of U.S district courts across the country? He has already done similar exhibits in San Jose and San Francisco and says there is a growing interest in expanding this program nationally, as well as opening historical exhibits in other government facilities.

One thing's for sure. It makes the wait for jury duty a
whole lot more interesting.

The Oakland and Alameda County history exhibit is located on the second, third and fourth floors of the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building's West Tower and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Separate history exhibits of the South Bay and San Francisco are displayed in their respective federal buildings. A picture ID is required to enter the buildings.