Saturday, March 31, 2018

Henry J Kaiser Convention Center

I had no idea that the man for whom this convention center was named, created the healthcare system now known as Kaiser Permanente. 

A blurb from a history page dedicated to Henry J. reads: To prevent illness among the workers on the Grand Coulee Dam, he offered affordable coverage by creating a comprehensive, pre-paid program. Known as Kaiser Permanente, the program currently has subscribers in California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawai‘i, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Washington State. When Henry Kaiser died in Hawai‘i on August 24, 1967, he left most of his enormous fortune to the Kaiser Family Foundation for health-related research.

I used to visit the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center often in the late 80s during Grateful Dead shows. I could never afford an entry ticket in & my 'I need a miracle' skills were in poor shape. To be honest, I didn't really care to go in to see the Dead. I wasn't so much a fan of their music as I was a fan of hanging out outside the shows. Lounging about on the grass across from the auditorium, now home to a sizable 'tent city' of homeless people, my friends and I would smoke pot and take in the spectacle that was always happening just outside any Dead show. Jugglers, huggers, stoners, music-makers---you name, we experienced it. 

Today, the center sits empty, ringed by fencing and litter, and is a sad sight. Its parking lot is now used by the city to generate income. One can pay to park hourly, but not overnight. 

Like San Francisco's Civic Center structures, the convention center, originally named the Oakland Civic Auditorium, was also built in the Beaux Arts style & completed in 1914.

There have been a few false starts since its closure in 2006 to re-open the structure for public use. A local redevelopement agency owned the structure for a time back in 2011. The city then regained control of the building after that agency was desolved by the state of Calfornia. Guess they weren't cutting it? 

Directly across the street from Henry J. is the Oakland Museum of California, a decent junior college, a solid public transport hub, and the delightful Lake Merritt. It is a shame to see this facility languish.

Auditorium turned into makeshift hospital during the 1918 flu-epidemic

Along Lake Merritt

View from the Convention Center of Lake Merritt at dusk


  1. A huge shame to see the facility languish. As a confirmed people watcher the best part of most shows was/and is seeing who was there.

  2. There are some Kaiser's in Tulsa that are very philanthropic. They own banks and hospitals and not sure what all.

    1. I think those are the same Kaisers...? Strange coincidence if they weren't related, but both Kaiser clans were connected to hospitals and wealthy.

  3. Sad that it's no longer being used. Hopefully they'll find a way one of these days.

  4. it's a shame that these beautiful old buildings fall into disuse.

    1. It's a stately building, one of few in Oakland. I'm hopeful that it will be revitalized (as the surrounding area has been in recent years) and enjoyed again by the public.


A piece of your mind here: