While the namesake of the neon sign harkens to bygone eras, the Oakland Floral Depot Building that sits diagonally across the street from the Fox Theater remains one of the shining architectural gems in the Uptown. The unique blue terracotta tiles and silver waterfall motifs that cover the exterior are what sets this building apart from its neighbors. As the sign implies, this was once the location of a floral shop with J.J. Newberry’s adjacent to it. Now, the popular restaurant and bar Flora occupies the corner space, serving up reinvented American classics in an Art Deco interior.
Before you step into Luka’s Taproom for happy hour, remember to look up. Classic Art Deco in every sense, the towering sea green Breuner Building next door stands tall amongst its contemporary neighbors. Constructed in 1932, the eight-story building was home to the John Breuner Furniture Company. The glazed terracotta façade tells the story of their trade with a relief of two workers constructing a chair above the front entrance while other ornate Art Deco motifs are found throughout. Although the furniture company still exists and is called Breuners Home Furnishings, they no longer reside in the building.
The Alameda County Courthouse was built in the 1930s and is the county’s fifth courthouse. As a gleaming white beacon along the edge of Lake Merritt, the courthouse is an example of Greco Deco – which is Art Deco style with Greek and Roman influences. Made of granite, concrete, and terracotta, the courthouse’s imposing edifice looms with perfect symmetry. Beyond the lawsuits and legal arguments made inside the courtrooms, there are Art Deco elements everywhere. Tiled mosaics in the lobby and ornate metal work on the elevator doors remain stoic as they observe the judicial process. Now there is another reason to head down to the courthouse other than legal duty.
Although you wouldn’t know it today, the popular Spice Monkey restaurant and newly opened specialty marketplace Howden Market on Webster Street was once home to Robert Howden & Sons, a prosperous tile company and showroom. The Howden Building was built in 1925 and is decorated with colorful tiles from all over the country. Though the building’s showroom days are long gone, the owners of the restaurant and market have made major efforts to preserve and restore as much of the original interior tile work as an homage to the building’s history.