Webster Versus Park
The underdog, Webster, has come a long way.
A few years ago in Alameda, I strolled the length of Park Street on a summer afternoon and then did the same on Webster Street the next day. I jotted down impressions on the vibe of both thoroughfares and took copious notes about what the streetscapes looked like and who walked and shopped and hung out on the main drags. I listed the iconic businesses from both, catalogued Park and Webster’s major attractions, recorded the available cuisine options. I even considered the uniquely charactered businesses and the indie-and-chainster coffee-purveyor quotient. I studied the architecture and eyed the development, I considered the neon signs and the studied the views from both.
Having long worked out of an office on the Park Street or east side of the Island, I obviously was more familiar with the charm, nature, and commerce of Park Street, and so I fully expected my little exercise in street-to-street direct comparison would result in the better-known, more popular of the two, Park Street, having the advantage. But a funny thing happened: I was swayed, albeit ever so slightly, into favoring scruffier, more blue-collar Webster Street. The proximity to downtown Oakland, the Pacific Pinball Museum, and WesCafe probably had something to do with it. But as I think about it now, the underdog, Webster, just felt more walkable, and I must have responded to that in my admittedly subjective survey.
Why bring all this up now? Because Jakki Spicer, a West End resident for the last eight years, has something to say on the topic of West Alameda and Webster Street. In this issue in “Tale of Two Cities,” she explores Alameda’s main streets on the opposite sides of the Island. It’s a historic romp through West Alameda’s marshes and forests past its boxing, bathing resort, and freak show days, continuing beyond the rowdy tattoo parlor and carousing Naval Air Station eras. In the end, Spicer’s tale is one of the major transformation of the once wild and wooly Webster Street and the less-respected West End into a vibrant, respectable, community-centered patch of paradise, the epitome of family-friendly, small town—USA living. She only hopes it stays that way.