Fall colors and flavors were in full force last Friday in Old Oakland. The brightness of summer has given way to the warmth of fall, visible in the deep oranges, purples, and greens on display at the Old Oakland Farmer’s Market. The seasonal flavors were abundant in dishes being served from the dining hotspots tucked into the revitalized Swan’s Market at 10th & Clay.
On this cool yet sunny afternoon I was able to spend some time with my younger sister. We had the chance to share a few hours together, having lunch and exploring this iconic corner of the Old Oakland District. It left me curious to learn more about this historic block in the center of the neighborhood.
Bound on 2 sides by Broadway and Hwy 980, situated between 6th Street and 11th Street, Old Oakland is the original commercial district of Oakland built in the late 1800’s. In the heart of the district sits Swan’s Market, a renovated complex that houses a diverse community of retail, restaurants, commercial office space, co-housing, and a modern market space.
The history of the space dates back to 1917, when the Oakland Free Market, established in 1890, decided to move to the block from a site nearby. Over the subsequent 60 years the various spaces on the block went through different periods of growth and reincarnation. The block maintained a reputation through the decades as a premier shopping destination in Oakland with the appeal of Swan’s Department Store and the Housewives Marketplace. However, by the 1950’s, Old Oakland saw a massive decline which lasted into the 1990’s.
The Swan’s Market block was taken over by The East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation in 1996, and they focused on a plan for the space that retained much of the original structure. They chose to blend modernity with the original brick facades and the glazed terra cotta tile and medallions, helping to land the building on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2001.
Our visit started with a walk through the Friday Farmer’s Market which takes place from 8:00am -2:00pm, just outside Swan’s at the intersection of 9th and Washington. A combination of local fruits, vegetables, prepared foods, artisans, and musicians were on hand and we enjoyed a pleasant stroll through the streets, taking in the seasonal produce on display. I was particularly intrigued by a young woman composing poetry for market wanderers who were interested in supplying a chosen subject. I couldn’t resist giving her the prompt “fall afternoon at the market” so I could see what she came up with.
Lunch for us was a blend of fall flavors from the women of Hen House, one of the amazing dining options inside the market. They share the open market space with fellow restaurants Cosecha, The Cook & Her Farmer and B-Dama Japanese. Deep Roots is a small bar space right next door to Hen House, offering wines of tap from Periscope Cellars in addition to small cocktail and beer menu. Standalone restaurants Miss Ollies and Rosamund Sausages are right around the corner. Tucked in the back you will also find Taylors Sausages & Sincere Seafood, traditional style meat and seafood counters where you can grab ingredients for dinner.
I plan to head back to Old Oakland to take in more of the historic Victorian buildings, learn a bit more about our city’s history, and sample more from both Swan’s and the surrounding restaurants and shops. This was a lovely way to reintroduce myself to the area, a perfect fall Friday. I’m looking forward to my next visit.
Swan’s Market is located at 538 9th St, Oakland CA 94607
The hours for the various market restaurants vary for both lunch and dinner, please check their individual websites for their hours of operation.
For more information about the history of Swan’s Market, please visit swansmarketoakland.com
You can also learn more about the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation at www.ebaldc.org
Image of historic 10th Street Market was sourced via localwiki.org. All other images by Adrienne Schell