|East Brother Makes 7 Wonders of
the East Bay List
April 6, 2005
The April 2 edition of the Contra Costa Times listed the “7 Wonders of the East Bay,” with East Brother Light Station being the only Richmond wonder to make the list. The Times, however, is soliciting additional nominations, so if you know of potential Richmond locations that may have been passed over, contact the Times. A PDF file of the East Brother clip is attached, and the text of the story follows. For information about East Brother, see www.ebls.org.
7 wonders of the East Bay
Granted, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were wonderful. Inspiring, amazing and even logic-defying.
But were they durable? Not so much.
Of the seven, only one -- the pyramids at Giza outside Cairo, Egypt -- remains standing. And they've seen better days.
While we don't presume to replace those ancient wonders, we would like to acknowledge those marvels closer to home, those amazing and so-far lasting salutes to technology, ingenuity and necessity.
Whether you've lived here all of your life or just moved in last month, we all know that the East Bay is filled with places, people and objects that make us smile or gasp in amazement or gaze in awe, and think about how lucky we are to call this home.
With a nod and wink to historians and archaeologists, we present the Seven Wonders of the East Bay.
The Great California Delta -- Well, they don't call it great for nothing. Two-thirds of the state's drinking and irrigation water flows through the Delta's 1,000 miles of levees, many built a century ago when those cured of gold fever sought to dig a different life from the soil. Almost every drop of rain or snowflake that falls in California finds itself flowing through the Delta at one time or another. The Delta also is home to thousands of birds, animals and plants, not to mention the crazy water-skiers, anglers and weekend boaters. Life on the river blends with the farmer's lot in the confluence of the small towns that dot the levees. It is said the sun rises in the Delta and sets there, too. It is a complicated and fragile system that is worthy of its inclusion on our list, even though it, like the pyramids at Giza, could do with a bit of restoration.
The Caldecott Tunnel's phantom fourth bore -- This wonder exists only in the fantasies of commuters who find themselves on the wrong side of the tunnel, sitting in the shadow of the Berkeley hills, waiting to pass through a single bore that connects Contra Costa County with "the other side of the hill." Oh, how we dream of the day when there will be two tunnels open in each direction. Will the phantom bore ever materialize? That's a wonderful mystery.
Paramount Theater, Oakland -- The Paramount is one of the last art deco design theaters in the United States, and decades of use and occasional abuse have been reversed in recent times, returning the theater to its 1930s glory. The theater was designed by San Francisco architect Timothy Pflueger, who incorporated the work of various artists and designs to create a magnificent theater made all the more impressive by the knowledge the work was complete during the Great Depression, opening in 1931. Today, the Paramount -- a state and national historical site -- is home to the Oakland Ballet and the Oakland East Bay Symphony, and it is a popular venue for various concerts and performances as well as movies. Guided tours are offered the first and third Saturday mornings of every month.
Mothball Fleet -- At the end of World War II, the nation was blessed with an embarrassment of riches. During the war years, civilian workers -- many working here in the Bay Area -- had turned out hundreds of ships needed to fight a war in two oceans. With peace upon us, the question arose with what to do with all those vessels. Eventually, Congress created the National Defense Reserve Fleet and the Ready Reserve Fleet, creating a standby fleet of supply and military ships. The waters of Suisun Bay, off Benicia, was one of eight sites chosen for what locals would quickly dub the Mothball Fleet. At one time, close to 200 ships lay at anchor -- the number is down to about 100 these days, but they still present an impressive sight from the shore and the water and are a popular fishing spot for anglers.
East Brother Lighthouse, Richmond -- East Brother Light Station is one of a diminishing number of active lighthouses that have for decades helped guide mariners past rocky shoals and through thick fog. And this one not only is a rarity, it's also one of the most beautiful lights in the nation. The lighthouse is perched at the top of a restored Victorian house, built on a lonely and almost barren rock known as East Brother Island. The light has shone from East Brother for 131 years, and was saved from destruction in 1979 when a group of volunteers formed the East Brother Light Station Inc. and talked the Coast Guard into letting it restore and operate the lighthouse as a bed-and-breakfast inn.
Family-owned stores -- At a time when it seems there's a Starbucks on every corner and a Barnes & Noble across every street, it's a wonder when a family-owned business not only survives but thrives. Surprisingly, there are more Mom-and-Pop shops than we may realize, but one of our favorites is the quirky little store on Main Street, Walnut Creek, called Ming Quong. Nona Mock Wyman, a strong and active supporter of her community, has been a fixture on Main Street for 36 years, ever since the Wymans opened the county's first coffee shop. It was popular, Wyman says, but perhaps ahead of its time. Today, the store has been renamed Ming Quong after the Los Gatos orphanage where Wyman was raised, and it offers a variety of clothing and furnishings. Ming Quong means "radiant light" in Chinese, and we're happy to see that light still shining among the corporate beacons.
Little Yosemite, Sunol Regional Wilderness -- For a certain period every year, the glory that is Little Yosemite bursts into life, a perfect combination of nature and geography. The hills are vivid green, peppered with a rainbow of wildflowers, and the stream that helped carve the gorge millions of years ago -- Alameda Creek -- swells with rain water and runoff to splash along the creek bed and plunge over small water falls. Little Yosemite is a small bit of the East Bay Regional Park District's Sunol Regional Wilderness, and is open year-round to hikers. But while winter is too wet and cold, and summer is too hot and dry, the conditions are near-perfect in the spring, giving this East Bay wonder added mystique, as if it only exists at certain magical times.