Amazing Art Deco Gems In Oakland, California

Paramount Theater, Oakland, CA | © BWChicago/Flickr
Paramount Theater, Oakland, CA | © BWChicago/Flickr
Photo of Victoria Lau
3 January 2017

While Oakland is known for its hip restaurants and blossoming nightlife, it is also a treasure trove of Art Deco–style architecture. Widely popular in the 1920s to 1940s, this art movement is characterized by geometric shapes, curvilinear forms, and elaborate ornamentation. Oakland’s economic boom during this era ushered in the Art Deco-influenced buildings we see today. Here are seven spots in Oakland to admire this architecture of the Golden Era.

Paramount Theater

Cinema, Theater
Map View
If you’re impressed by the towering tiled mosaics that flank both sides of the neon Paramount sign, wait until you see the inside. Built in 1931, the Paramount Theater was once the largest theater venue on the West Coast. With intricate grillwork and gilded surfaces, the grand lobby’s high ceilings seek to impress all who pass through its regal entrance. While it is home to the Oakland East Bay Symphony and Oakland Ballet, the theater also hosts a number of musical and live performances.

Guided tours are offered twice a month for those who want to explore the full history and grandeur behind this amazing Oakland landmark.

Oakland Floral Depot Building

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.

Flora, 1900 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA, USA

Breuner Building

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.

Breuner Building, 2201 Broadway, Oakland, CA, USA

I. Magnin Building

Building, Store
Map View
Luxury retail once thrived in Oakland’s downtown. Adjacent to the Paramount Theater, the serpentine-colored Magnin Building was home to the high-end department store, I. Magnin & Co. They were known for selling high-quality goods and was the place to buy the latest Parisian fashions and other high-end clothing such as bridal wear and lingerie. The department store has long closed its doors, but the I. Magnin & Co. name lives on in Art Deco typestyle on the tiled green façade, a ghost of a fashionable era’s past.

Alameda County Courthouse

Historical Landmark
Map View
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.

Howden Building

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.

Howden Building, 1630 Webster Street, Oakland, CA, USA

14th Street

Bar, American, Cocktails, Wine, Beer
Map View
Art Deco Doors and Grillwork
Art Deco Doors and Grillwork | © Phillip Pessar/Flickr
Longitude is a popular bar that’s become a staple in Oakland’s burgeoning nightlife. While they serve up exotic cocktails and savory bites in a tropical oasis, the outside tells a different story. Built in 1931, the building’s exterior is covered in sea glass green tiles similar to those of the Breuner building, complete with Art Deco elements that are typical of that era. Be sure to take a moment to admire the ornate Art Deco motifs that crown the building before stepping inside to enjoy a refreshing Mai Tai.