Sunday, March 29, 2009's a plane

[Photo of Liese Angel with Plane by Michael Colbruno - click to enlarge]

I was taking pictures at the cemetery this morning when an airplane flew into this shot creating a fun image.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

John Hege - Oakland Police Officer Killed in Line of Duty

It's unusual for this site to post something about a person who just died, but this seems like a special circumstance. Officer Hege was one of four members of the Oakland Police Department killed by a single parolee.

By Kelly Rayburn
Oakland Tribune

John R. Hege enjoyed riding motorcycles, collecting sports memorabilia, skiing, trout fishing and coaching and officiating prep sports.

And he loved being a cop.

"It fit very will into his life," said John S. Hege, his father. "And he was very good at it."

The younger Hege, 41, of Concord, was one of four Oakland police officers killed in related shootings in East Oakland on Saturday. He was buried at Mountain View Cemetery after a service for all four officers at Oracle Arena.

Hege, a 10-year veteran of the department, was described as someone who would be the first to respond to a radio call to assist another officer, a cop who kept an even keel interacting with people while policing the streets of Oakland.

"There are ways to talk to people," said Officer Jeff Thomason, the department spokesman. "And he knew how to do it."

Hege attended Wildwood Elementary School, Piedmont Middle School and Piedmont High before transferring to The Orme School, a boarding school in Arizona where he wrestled and played football, graduating in 1986. He earned a degree from Saint Mary's College in Moraga in 1990.

He taught physical education at Tennyson High School in Hayward, and coached and officiated prep sports. He served as a reserve officer for the Oakland Police Department from 1993 until 1999, when he joined the department full time. Fresh out of training, he worked the graveyard shift in an area of Oakland stretching from High Street to 82nd Avenue. He had long wanted to be a motorcycle cop.

He transferred to the motor division March 7, though he had completed training for that position earlier, Thomason said. The holdup was that Hege was also a field training officer, training incoming officers in a time when the department dramatically increased its staffing.

"He was getting ready to be transferred," Thomason said, "but he was a field training officer, so it went against him (to transfer) because he needed to be there to train all these new rookies."

Thomason worked East Oakland with Hege early in their careers. When Thomason changed units, he and Hege kept in regular contact.

They spoke about once a week, Thomason said. Thomason and his wife would often meet Hege for Thursday night concerts at Todos Santos Park in Concord, or for dinner. Sometimes they'd go to I Love Teriyaki & Sushi, one of Hege's favorite spots.

Hege was single and had no children. He lived with his dog, Bosco, who will be adopted by neighbors.

His parents, in Piedmont, would sometimes catch their son on the television news after a drug bust or some other police story.

"We were certainly aware of the risks, and I'm sure he was aware of the risks," said the elder Hege, a retired physician. "You never really think that's going to come home. You figure it's going to be someone else. "... I'm sure this caught him completely unaware."

Hege was an organ donor, and the California Transplant Donor Network said this week his organs will save four lives.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Idah Meacham Strobridge: (1855-1932) – Miner, Writer and Book Binder

[Photo of Strobridge gravestone by Michael Colbruno]


Idah Meacham, born June 9, 1855, spent her childhood on a Lassen Meadows ranch halfway between Winnemucca and Lovelock. Her father built the popular Humboldt House Hotel and Café -- a rest stop for wagon train passengers, railroad workers, Chinese placer miners and Native Americans from the Paiute and Bannock Tribes.

She graduated from the Mills Seminary in Oakland, Calif., in 1883. While there, she met and married Samuel Hooker (Whitmarsh) Strobridge of Auburn, Calif. The young couple moved back to Nevada and ranched near her parents where she gave birth to three sons. Then, the devastating blizzards of 1888-89 killed most of the family's cattle herd. Tragically, within a year, Idah's husband and three sons died.

After losing her family, Idah found solace in work. In July 1895, Mining and Scientific Press reported Idah working on the "Lost Mine" claim. She also established the Artemisia Bindery book binding business, and wrote and published three volumes of books, most based on her experiences and love of the desert. Editors of her Sagebrush Trilogy named her "Nevada's first woman of letters."

In 1901, Idah sold her property and moved to Los Angeles with her parents. Although she lived her final years among the Southern California cultural crowd, her love of the desert's solitude persisted. She created a special retreat in San Pedro called "The Wickieup ... my substitute for the desert. ..."

Idah died Feb. 8, 1932, and is buried in Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery next to her parents, husband, and sons.

[Bio courtesy of Reno Gazette Journal]

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Ella Castelhun (1868-1961) – Second Woman Architect Licensed in California


Mountain View Cemetery has the unique distinction of having both the first and second woman licensed to practice architecture in California Julia Morgan received license number B344 in 1904, followed by Ella Castelhun, who received license B358 in 1905.

Unlike Morgan, Castlehun is largely unknown since she had difficulty being taken seriously as a female architect. She had to support herself as a school teacher for 50 years, since her work as an architect couldn’t sustain her financially. Newspaper accounts show her teaching at the Horace Mann School in 1896 after transferring from the Agassiz Primary School.

Castlehun attended the University of California from 1894-1898 and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree of Philosophy in Architecture. She spent much of the next six years as a graduate student at the College of Social Sciences, taking classes in architecture, civil engineering and architectural drawing. She did not receive her graduate degree.

He first project is a house at what is now 3054-56 Market Street and was built for a widow named Mrs. Winifred McKeown. Her second house, pictured above, was built in 1907 at 265-7 Lexington Street for Mrs. Mathilda Olander, also a widow. She remained a licensed architect with the state until at least 1920.

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William Shew (1820-1903) – Photographer & Daguerrotype Innovator


William Shew was born on a farm in Waterton, New York on March 1820. At the age of 20 he read an article by the inventor Samuel F.B. Morse about the daguerrotype process and, along with his three brothers, moved to New York City to study with Morse. His brothers Jacob, Myron and Trueman were also photographers, but not attained the stature of William Shew. Morse would become more famous as the inventor of the telegraph.

After completing his studies, Shew worked briefly in upstate New York before becoming the supervisor at John Plumbe’s gallery in Boston. Three years later he opened John Shew and Company in Boston, where he manufactured his own dyes and created daguerrotypes with wooden frames, thin vaneer backings and embossed paper coverings. In 1849, he married his wife Elizabeth, who bore their only child, Theodora. He also became and active member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.

In 1851, he sold his business and sailed on the steamer Tennessee to San Francisco, where he joined his brother Jacob who arrived in 1849. It is believed that Shew set up a gallery shortly after arriving in San Francisco, which may have been destroyed by the 1851 fire that swept the city. After the fire he set up “Shew’s Daguerreian Saloon,” which is pictured above.

The wagon drew the attention of the neighboring Alta California newspaper, which wrote, "A good deal of curiosity has been expressed in regard to the object and intention of the big wagon which fills up a large portion of the plaza, and which was yesterday being covered with a frame. Some suppose that 'the elephant' which so many people come here to see was to be caged up in it and exhibited to greenhorns at a quarter a sight. . .It seems, however, that it is to be a traveling daguerreotype establishment, with which the proprietor intends to travel around the city and country, taking views and portraits."

That same year, John Wesly Jones hired Jacob and William Shew to take dagurrotypes for the California portion of his moving panorama “Great Pantoscope of California, the Rocky Mountains, Salt Lake City, Nebraska and Kansas.” In 1852 the brothers expanded the business, selling portraits and pictures of buildings, as well as daguerrotype materials.

During this period he continued his interest in the anti-slavery movement and is believed to have hosted the first Free-Soil convention held in San Francisco on October 8, 1852. His interest in politics expanded beyond slavery and Shew went on to serve on the San Francisco Board of Education and he hosted meetings of the Temperance Society at his office. He also became an active member of a number of photographic associations and societies.

By 1854, he was operating his business at the corner of Montgomery and Sacramento in San Francisco, later moving to a “fire-proof building” at Clay and Montgomery. His brother, who had been his shop supervisor, opening a competing business named Hamilton & Shew located directly across the street. William Shew expanded his business to include photographs and ambrotypes (positive photographic images printed on glass).

In 1864, he entered a competition at the Mechanics’ Institute Exhibition where he displayed pictures of Thomas Starr King, Edwin Sumner, Gen. John Sutter and Sam Houston.

By 1902, the octagenarian was still operating his studio. A year later he died and was buried at Mountain View Cemetery. His wife continued to operate his studio after his death. Tragically, most of his work was destroyed in the 1906 fire and earthquake. However, many of his works can still be found in history books and major collections, including at the Smithsonian Institution, California Historical Society, Bancroft Library in Berkeley and the Wells Fargo Bank Historical Room.

TOP PHOTO: Pensacola Sailor Photograph by William Shew, c. 1860s, Photograph of Pensacola Sailor; backstamp by “William Shew’s Photographic Establishment.” The image was taken in San Francisco. The Pensacola was commissioned in 1859 and was part of the Navy’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron under Farragut during the Civil War, later joining the Pacific Squadron as their flagship. Image was hand-tinted by Shew.

SECOND PHOTO: Shew family plot photo by Michael Colbruno

THIRD PHOTO: William Shew's traveling studio sits next to the Alta California newspaper office in the midst of construction following the fire of June 22, 1851 in San Francisco.

BOTTOM PHOTO: William J. Shew Daguerreotype. Untitled (Mother and Daughter). c. 1850. Gift of Ludwig Glaeser; Currently housed in the NY Museum of Modern Art.

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Eli Welding Playter (var. Ely) (1819-1893) – Oakland Mayor; Hardware merchant

[Photo of Playter house from Oakland Tribune; Photo of Playter obelisk by Michael Colbruno]

Playter was born on October 6, 1819, in Toronto, Canada, but his family moved to rural Niagara County, New York as farmers when he was a youth.

In 1852 he began studying law in Buffalo, but the same year he was offered a ticket to California, and he came, via Panama, and mined gold for a period before settling in San Francisco, where he became a prosperous hardware merchant (Dunham, Carrigan, and Co).

In 1860, he married Sarah Matilda Neville, a native of Ireland who had also lived in New York. They had two children Charlotte Playter and Grace Playter, who married Murrey L. Johnson. Charlotte lived in a house designed by Mountain View Cemetery denizen Julia Morgan, located at 612 Mountain Avenue in Piedmont.

Ely Playter relocated his residence to Oakland around 1865. A Republican and "devout Methodist," he defeated the Democratic candidate, John S. Drum, for the mayor's office in 1885, and the following year was re-elected by defeating the Democrat, Captain John Hackett, by a vote of 2,818 to 2,691.

Playter built a home in 1879 at 14th & Castro, which is pictured above. In 1906, the house became a refuge for “working girls” after being purchased by the YWCA. The house was torn down in 1948 to make room for a service station.

He later served as a commissioner on the Board of Public Works (1889-90) and president, Board of Police and Fire Commissioners (1892). Playter resided at 1167 Castro while mayor and for some years beforehand and afterwards.

He died January 9, 1893.

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