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Frozen in a Moment: The Oakland Tribune Tower Audio Tour

Frozen in a Moment: The Oakland Tribune Tower Audio Tour 

The goal and aim of this interpretive plan is to convey the aura and the feelings (through audio particularly but also through sight, narrative, and even touch) to the visitor of what it might have been like to take a walk through the Tribune Tower at the peak of The Oakland Tribune’s occupation of the Tower. This specific era in history, reflective and relevant to the Tower’s primary use throughout its lifetime, is chosen based on an evaluation of what the most interesting time period would have been to be inside of the Tower in order that the visitor get the most satisfying experience on the tour. The era that I would like to freeze the Tower in for the audio tour is the 1950s, when The Oakland Tribune became Oakland’s primary news source. Having the audio tour take place during this period in the Tower’s history would showcase the Tower at its peak as The Oakland Tribune was climbing the news podium in the City of Oakland and debatably the Bay Area at the time.

Audio Tour Example

The audio tour will begin with the visitors arriving at the site and putting a pair of headphones on connected to an audio device. This audio device will play audio guiding the visitors around the building to different places all the while narrating relevant history about the particular location that they are in.  It would say things like “Go through the hallway adjacent to the doorway and proceed to the far corner of the room that you will then be standing in”. This will tell visitors exactly where to go and would allow the tour to be taken correctly in accordance with how the area is set up. When the visitor arrives at the instructed location, the device will say something like “Look at the desk with the typewriter on it. This desk belonged to John Peterson who was a writer for the…..”. There will also be different narrators who would come on at particular times and tell their own oral histories relative to the spot the visitor would be standing in. The audio device will be the main tool on the tour and will allow each visitor to learn about the site individually without an outside bias influencing their thought process. The tour  will take them throughout the building from the ground floor where the newsroom used to be all the way up to the top of the Tower stopping at relevant floors and spots in the building (relevant meaning that it had to do with the period that the Tower is set up to commemorate). Moving throughout the building would require listening to instructions which will guide visitors through the tour which will include riding the elevator or going up stairs but most of the time simply walking around the room and observing the setup of the room while listening to the audio created for it.

The Tower would be set up to resemble how it would have been at the peak of a typical business day in the 1950s. In the audio tour, there will be multiple narrators associated with different parts of the building, many of whom will be people who used to work for The Oakland Tribune when it occupied the Tribune Tower. It would be most ideal to have the majority of these narrators be people who worked in the building for The Oakland Tribune during the 1950s but considering that that was 60 years ago, this might be difficult. The narrators would talk about daily life working inside the Tower and give history of the Tower throughout the tour. It would all be aimed at giving the visitor a feel for what it must have been like to work inside the Tower as a reporter during the peak of The Oakland Tribune’s occupation of it. This would be enhanced through sounds going on in the background of the narrator’s voice reflective of what a bustling newsroom would have sounded like in the Tower during the 1950s.

1950s newsroom of the Oakland Tribune

There would be certain parts of the building that would be set up to look nearly exactly like it did in the era that it is resembling. An example of this would perhaps be a desk with a typewriter on it, an ashtray, and a wristwatch. On the wall above the desk would perhaps be a framed newspaper article pertaining to the person who used to occupy that desk. The visitor might be instructed to walk over and touch the objects set up at the desk while pausing with background noise of conversations in the work office, doors opening and closing, Zippos being struck, etc., being played through the headphones. All of this would give the visitor a feeling of actually being there with the noise and the way the building is set up enhancing the experience. The audio tour would navigate you through the Tower and the building adjacent to it stopping you along the way for these kinds of experience. By the end of the tour, you would be at the top of the tour looking around at the City of Oakland having had an enriching interpretive experience of the heritage site.

View from the top of the tower

The main theme that will be incorporated into this site will be the historical theme. This is obvious considering the fact that the tour is taking you into the past to a unique time in the Tower’s history. Tourism is also a theme that will be incorporated into this project considering that people will be visiting the site for the sake of the experience and therefore be creating more people traffic in that area. The audience that I feel this would reach out to most would be the people who used to work in the building for The Oakland Tribune. They are the ones that would be able to enjoy the experience the most as it would hopefully bring back memories of working in the tower. However, with this being said, this is also the interest group that we would have to be most careful with. This is so because they may also be oral histories of the building and if our depiction of the tower during their period of time does not fit their oral description, then the genuineness and the authenticity of the project takes a toll. I would suggest, as I said earlier, that these are the people that should be incorporated into the project as their insight would be incredibly helpful with depicting the building the correct and authentic way. Another audience that might be drawn to this project would be the building owner or any building owners over the years considering that they have seen the tower and what it has gone through over the years making this experience very meaningful to them. The last (but not least) audience to be incorporated would be members of the Oakland community considering that this building is in a sense theirs as it has been a part of their community for a long period of time.

This project exemplifies sustainability through the way that it sustains the history of the Tower which is something that may be easily forgotten. This history is sustained through the recreation of a setting within the Tower and immersing the visitor into that setting. The audio tour will hopefully be so successful as to trick the visitor into feeling like it is not the present day anymore therefore having them feel as if they have “time travel” to a different time through the sights, feelings, and the sounds of the bustling 1950s news room in the Oakland Tribune Tower.

The aim of this interpretive project is to convey the sights, sounds, and feelings of being inside the Tribune Tower in the 1950s (a unique time in the Tower’s history) to the visitor through an audio tour. This tour will shed some light on the history of The Oakland Tribune and will hopefully give the visitor an enriching experience leaving them feeling as if they have traveled in time while they were on the tour.

This will hopefully open the community’s eyes to the importance of the Tower and the role that it has played in the community of Oakland over the years.


Re-Imagining the Tower: An Alternative History of Oakland

Re-Imagining the Tower: An Alternative History of Oakland

The web browser goes dark a moment and requests permission to use the full screen. You click the button that says “Allow” and the computer screen becomes a window pane looking down over the City of Oakland. In your headphones, a brief crackle of radio precedes a voice telling you that the captain will be landing soon. Pressing a button that says “Next”, the image fades away and is replaced by another that shows a zeppelin hovering in the sky above the Oakland Tribune Tower. The images are static, but around you, in surround sound, are the muffled voices of the cabin crew directing everyone to prepare for docking. On the screen, text appears paneled to one side as if in a comic book. It informs you that the year is 1926, the height of the roaring twenties, and that you are a reporter from New York aboard a zeppelin preparing to land in Oakland and that you are about to investigate the story that is going to make your career…

Thus begins the interactive visual novel set in an alternative, steam-punk interpretation of downtown Oakland. Also referred to as an interactive fiction computer-game, a visual novel is a computer game that uses static graphics, text, and background sound to immerse the user in a story that leads them with audio and visual cues. However, the Tribune Tower’s interactive story has a twist, in which the user will quickly learn that they are being brought into a story about a story – a visual novelization of a historic event that took place in Oakland during the 1920’s. Using archived stories from The Oakland Tribune itself, this project seeks to re-tell history through a fictional and alternative steam-punk lens – blending Oakland’s authentic history with an imagined history where the Tribune Tower was used as a zeppelin mast and the city became the primary docking station for transatlantic travel as opposed to San Francisco.

The main themes that are encapsulated in this project are history, accessibility, media production, technological innovations, and tourism. First, the project seeks to engage the audience in Oakland’s history by telling stories about events that really happened and were reported by The Oakland Tribune. Second, it challenges issues of accessibility by rendering the Tower as something inherently accessible while transforming the site into the very conduit that permits passengers to enter the City of Oakland. At the moment, the modern Tribune Tower is largely inaccessible. It is an area occupied by a building that one must go around. The visual novel transforms this entirely by making the Tower something that one travels through. Media production is also included in this project as it invites the audience to think about how content was produced by The Oakland Tribune. No matter what twists and turns the story may take however, the participant will always be returned to the “official” story that was published in the newspaper, raising questions about how truth is manufactured by places that produce media. Technological innovation is also a key part of the visual novel as the steam-punk setting requires a re-imagination of how technology might have evolved if zeppelins and steam-power had taken off. In this alternative history, Oakland becomes the international hub and the center of innovative technology rather than San Francisco. Finally, tourism lies at the heart of the project as a large part of it revolves around the desire to engender more interest and visitors to the City of Oakland and the Tribune Tower.

Reimaging the inside

The project has three primary goals. The first is to act as an outreach program for a potential audience. It targets members of the many alternative communities in the Bay Area (particularly the steam-punk community) and provides them with a means of engaging with the site from the comfort of their own home. Hopefully, this will inspire users to visit the site and will draw new tourism and customers to the City of Oakland. The second goal is to provide a story about Oakland that challenges current and accepted narratives, one being, for example, that Oakland is violent and unsafe or a place where only poor people live. It encourages re-conceptualization of Oakland as a place where exciting and interesting things once happened and may still be happening today. This will target the residential audience within the Bay Area that already knows of Oakland but avoids it. Finally, it seeks to re-imagine the Tribune Tower and how it exists in its own space. From the zeppelin, the user sees the Tower from the perspective of someone looking down at it from above, a point of view most people never consider. In the next scene, when the zeppelin is shown approaching the Tower, the user is looking up and the peak of the Tower is given relativity in context by being placed next to something. Close up shots can provide the user with a sense of how near (and how far) the landing mast is to the zeppelin and as they cross from the zeppelin to the docking station, a glance down shows them how high above the city the Tower stands. By playing with the space, the project invites the user to re-consider the space the Oakland Tribune Tower inhabits and perhaps invites them to play with the space in reality too. This will draw in not only the first two audiences but also people who currently occupy the Tower’s space such as the people who work there, the people who live near there, the people who maintain it, and the people who own and manage it.

View from above

The project primarily incorporates the senses of sight and sound, but also proprioception as the user is invited to re-consider the Tower’s location in space and their relative position beside and within it. It also incorporates cinema as background music, sounds, and “fade to black” moments all contribute to a sense of drama. However, the visual novel also offers itself to device-specific “mini-games” in which after having completed the interactive story, the reader is able to download an app that takes them to the “real life” scene of the event and allows them to visit the memories they have already created in the story world. By blending such physically-aware apps as DeTour and Google Stories, visitors could lift their phones in certain locations and see on the screen the scene as it was in the novel while immersing themselves even more completely in the sights, sounds, and smells of Oakland as well as their own movement through the streets.

An important way in which this project contributes to the sustainability of Oakland is that it generates new interest and seeks to attract new visitors. Although the economic aspects of sustainability are vital to keeping the Tower maintained, there’s also a key area of intangible heritage that is sustained by this project. When I first began researching the Oakland Tribune Tower, the rumor associated with it was that it was supposed to have been a zeppelin docking station. This rumor was quiet but quite persistent. The existence of the rumor led me to question why the idea of Oakland as a zeppelin landing port had so thoroughly captured the imagination of the city’s inhabitants. But as I listened to the extant narratives about the city (the stories of its violent past, its rough neighborhoods, and its poverty) I realized that the zeppelin in a way represented everything Oakland was “supposed” to have been. It was never intended to be a food desert or a dumping ground for the poverty-stricken. Drawing upon this realization, I began to research zeppelin landing docks in the United States and I could find only two, both unused.  The first is the InterContinental Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, built in 1929, and the Empire State Building in New York, built in 1930. This places Oakland on the same level as these great cities which can be described as the jewels of the United States. The idea that the Oakland Tribune Tower might once have been a landing mast for a zeppelin represented everything Oakland itself might have become. It places the city on par with the places that tourists want to go to, and the big names in America. This sense of pride is an enormous part of the Tower’s intangible heritage and although it is not consciously linked to zeppelins and airships, the Tower still stand as a representation of a golden-era and a hope that the city unfortunately was not able to fully realize but however, a hope that can be re-inspired and sustained by this project.

Blimp Landing

Read All About It: Technological Innovations (for kids from 1-92)

Read All About It: Technological Innovations (for kids from 1-92) 

For this interpretative project we would like to propose an educational way to engage new generations that have never had the chance to see the Oakland Tribune Tower as a newspaper producer. Our goal is to reopen the Oakland Tribune Tower as a museum open to the public free of charge. The museum will have multiple printing presses ranging from the early 1900s to the present day as well as different custom made bikes, cars, and vans to be used for a tracked tour to depict newspaper distribution and the change in transportation. The target audience of this interpretive project will mainly be youth but also extends to include adult interaction. Students and youths will be given the option to participate in the “Read All about It” tour in which they will be given a sheet of paper and will have the chance to write their own news based on their experience within the museum or in the City of Oakland.

This “Read All about It” tour, will be a tracked tour similar to a roller coaster. The building itself will consist of twenty three floors total, enough space to make it a rollercoaster. The track will run through all floors with twenty of those floors consisting of people sitting on bicycles, cars, and vans depicting the change of methods used to distribute paper. On the three remaining floors, people will be asked to get off the track to experience the other interpretative projects, which will also be part of the museum. This “rollercoaster” will be secured for youths to ride alone or alongside parents, depending on their age. This track tour will also be ADA accessible so that people can enter the tour vehicles with their wheelchairs so that they don’t have to leave them behind. The ride itself will then transport everyone to the different levels of the Tower.

Digital to Reality.

The guests will then be able to take another elevator, also ADA approved, to return to the bottom. This form of exit will one, avoid repetitive information by replaying the tour on the way down; and two, eliminate congestion of more people trying to get on the ride. The vehicles on the track themselves will go down to the bottom in a similar way almost like how bowling balls are retrieved. At the end, the elevator will leave you on the first floor where there will be printers for children and guests who can print out their news with the help of museum volunteers.


Although our intial hope was to provide access in a less restricted manner, health and safety considerations make it difficult for us to allow visitors to roam the site unsupervised. By making this plan a track tour we would be able to enforce more controlled access, avoiding accidents and problematic scenarios (such as the suicide in 2004). The track tour will also allow us to direct the attention of our visitors and encourage them to be engaged with news articles decorating the walls, or the audio narrations that will be built into the museum. This track tour will create an interactional experience stimulating most of their senses such as touch, sight, and sound. (The taste factor will come in after the track tour in the restaurants which exists below the Tower.)

This “Read All about It” tour fits our educational theme since it will allow youth to be part of the Oakland Tribune Tower by making their own news, but also by learning how numerous papers were produced in this Tower. Seeing how the forms of transportation for the Oakland Tribune evolved over time alongside the different printing presses will show the technological innovations that have occured since the 1920’s – another of our considered themes. This interpretative plan will also consider tourism (one of our themes) in which multiple stakeholders, such as the owner of the building and restaurant owners, will benefit since it will attract more people to the Tower and to their business.

Read All About it

With this interpretive plan, the space containing the Oakland Tribune Tower as a whole will once again change in its use. Yet by looking at the prior uses within its history, it may become evident to many community members that the Tower is in fact a member of the contemporary community as much as any building in Oakland is. Sustainability of the Tower will be continued by historical documentation and oral history that has been stagnant since the Oakland Tribune left the Tower. Re-opening the Tower to the public will guarantee that the Tower is being looked after and taken care of. Things that are necessary like electricity, sewage, earthquake reinforcement, etc. will become a concern for the entire building as opposed to just the restaurants and businesses that occupy the building. Although this will maintain the physical sustainability, opening the museum will encourage the historical sustainability by passing down knowledge to a different generation here in Oakland and those who wish to visit. Having then created the actual physical track tour, “Read All about It” can then be made into a virtual tour exactly, replicating the track tour considering that the track layout would be a perfect walk through for the virtual tour. Making this site accessible online to people that cannot come to visit the museum but are interested in the history will also broaden the knowledge of this site and help it reach more people in an easier way. This however will not be as fully enriching as visiting the site and taking the actual physical tour will be.

Interactive Tribune Museum

Interactive Tribune Museum Interpretive Plan

The Interactive Tribune Museum plan will immerse the visitor in the news publication process. A recreation of the newsroom floor will be the setting for the museum. The visitor will move through a physical timeline that highlights the progress from the start of The Oakland Tribune as a news source all the way to the contemporary period. The visitor will be guided throughout the decades of the Tower’s existence revealing the news that shaped the City of Oakland as we know it today.

One of the goals we would love to accomplish with this heritage project would be to see The Oakland Tribune resume news production from within the Tribune Tower. Considering this realistically with politics and business bureaucracy, this endeavor must be rethought.

Women type writers

Refashioning this goal into the proposed interactive museum allows for a wider audience reach than restoring the paper to the Tower. An existing floor of the Tower will be dedicated to the museum. The entire floor will be divided into four sections, or quadrants. Each of these quadrants will represent a specific linear time period.

The first will chronicle The Oakland Tribune from its construction to the 1950s. As the visitor moves around the quadrant, they will progress through time. This quadrant will display the construction and dedication of the Tribune Tower in the 1920s and will then progress to the 50s era. Desks where reporters would have typed out columns will be arranged just as they would have been in the original newsroom that occupied the Pantages Theater many years ago. Visitors will be able to watch a silent film about the construction of the Tower which will be projected onto one of the walls of the quadrant and will contain early video recordings and images of the City of Oakland in its infant years. Visitors will be able to have a seat at the desk of a reporter where they will be able to pick up a freshly printed copy of The Oakland Tribune and read headlines from the roaring twenties. On another desk, the needle point of a record player will scratchily run across a jazz record from the 1940s to encompass the feel of that era.

Quadrant two will focus on the era ranging from the 1960s to the 70s. Visually, each quadrant will differ from the next. Each will reflect the aesthetics of that time period in order to situate the visitor in a more realistic environment. Flower power, peace, and love will adorn quadrant two on one side, while a focus on civil rights and socioeconomic movements will be the headlines for visitors to read as the quadrant transitions to the 70s decade.

The third quadrant will focus on the 1980s and 1990s. The major visual draw to this quadrant will be the recreation of the Loma Prieta earthquake that rocked the Bay Area in 1989 resulting in The Oakland Tribune having to relocate from the Tower while the building underwent repairs and retrofitting. A giant “crack” will run through the middle of the room while visitors will have to zigzag around overturned chairs and desks. Papers will be scattered aimlessly around littering parts of the floor. Headlines will reflect the earthquake that shook the amassing Tower. Now that we’re in the 80s, televisions can replay old news stories that documented the aftermath of the disaster around the Bay Area.

Newspaper release of disaster.

The fourth and final quadrant will consist of news from the early 2000s to the present. This quadrant will be most similar to the current newsroom of The Oakland Tribune, and will be the most technologically advanced quadrant. Desks will be outfitted with computers with which visitors will be able to scroll through archived headlines or watch videos of current events. Large touch screen panels around the room will allow the visitor to interact with previous Oakland Tribune journalists. Press a name and a prerecorded life size image of a person will appear, introduce themselves and will engage with you around news that they reported on.

Probably the most interactive and exciting feature of the museum will be The Oakland Tribune blog that museum visitors will be able to directly publish their own stories to. Visitors can sit down at the blog station and type their thoughts, reflections, comments, and concerns after completing their tour of the museum. Their only instructions will be to pen an original piece of work that will then be published to an online blogroll that will be publically accessible through The Oakland Tribune’s website. Visitors will be able to comment on their experiences at the museum, or write their own versions of some of the news articles that were highlighted as they moved through the different quadrants of time.

This interpretive project will incorporate many historical aspects as it chronicles the history of the City of Oakland. This will be done by the visitors literally walking through different decades of the paper and the Tower’s history while viewing the big news stories that were covered during these periods of time. With this interpretive plan, there is also a heavy focus on technological innovation (another one of our themes) to show the technological evolution of The Oakland Tribune from a paper using the hand printed press method to one that today might be described as completely digitalized. The advancement of technology as the visitor walks throughout the plan also allows for a more interactive experience.

Perhaps the most vital theme incorporated into this plan is tourism. The museum is set up to attract individuals to experience the cultural heritage of The Oakland Tribune within the Tribune Tower. Without tourism, there is no museum. Without daily visitors, the vision of the interactive museum will be lost and the dream of having the newspaper again housed within the walls of the Tower will never come to life.

Our target audience of the museum will be by and large the community of Oakland. The news stories published by the Tribune are the stories of the individual people in the city. Visiting the museum should evoke memories, and take visitors back to a certain place and time. The great thing about the museum is that it will make the Tribune Tower the most accessible to the public that it has ever been. People will even have the opportunity to become, for a short time, reporters themselves while experiencing news production first hand via the blog function. We really hope to draw people into the building and to make their visit one that leaves them feeling as if they just time traveled into the past to a different time period in the City of Oakland.

Sight, sound, and touch will be used to enhance the visitor’s sensory experience in the museum. This will be done by seeing the design of the quadrants change as you progress along the timeline of the city, listening to the different prerecorded oral stories, and touching copies of the papers produced by The Oakland Tribune. We don’t want the visitor to come into a static environment where all they do is look but instead we want them to engage with the environment using their different senses. The goal of the interaction in the museum is to make the visitor feel as if they are a journalist for The Oakland Tribune themselves. The timeline and the ways we will represent each decade in the quadrants will hopefully bring the visitor back to those periods of time in their own lives.

This project relates to sustainability in several ways that will benefit both the Tribune Tower and The Oakland Tribune newspaper. The museum will have a nominal entry fee with proceeds going to making the museum more self-sustaining. Any additional profits left over can then be directed to the preservation of the Tribune Tower itself in order to ensure that future generations can enjoy the newly founded museum inside. In regards to The Oakland Tribune, the museum acts as a living archive. People will be able to engage in the news production process and the printed word of The Oakland Tribune and the news realm in general will continue to live on.

Through time

Members Bios

Tyler Brown (Copy Editor) instagram

Profile Picture

Tyler transferred to UC Berkeley in Fall of 2014 from Los Medanos College in Pittsburgh, California. He’s an Anthropology major and is graduating next May. His academic interests include American History. Tyler is a sports enthusiast, a musician, and is interested in aviation.

Marisol Cuong (Media Manager) instagram


Marisol is a senior at Cal double majoring in Latin American Literature and Anthropology. She is originally from Los Angeles, California where she is the youngest of three siblings. Her academic interests are teaching and learning new languages, currently Marisol knows English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Nahuatl. After graduation, she hopes to take time off to work and possibly travel. Shortly after, she plans to apply to graduate school to pursue a PhD in Latin American Literature. While also wanting to open up her own non-profit to encourage multilingual literacy as well as higher education to all minority groups.

Jeremy Spratlen (Project Manager) instagram


Jeremy transferred to UC Berkeley this semester from Merritt College in Oakland, California. He’s a third year Anthropology major. Some of his academic interest include Peru and Inca culture, as well as gender and sexuality studies. He keeps chickens and gardens at home. In 2016 he hopes to break ground on a community garden project in East Oakland to provide access to local, organically farmed foods.

Shelley Trout (Researcher/Designer) instagram

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Shelley is a senior undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, majoring in Anthropology with a particular focus in archaeology. A native of Wales, she has always held a deep fascination with ancient lifeways and the people of the past, and looks forward to pursuing her interests further at graduate school. When she is not busy studying, she enjoys art, music, and road-trips to new places.

Project Media


These videos can give you a feel for what its like to be inside of the tower and also offer insight into the tower’s history with some informative interviews.

Use the arrow buttons to toggle between different videos.


These audio clips give a sense of the sounds associated with the tower.


Oakland Tribune Tower

Interpretive Projects

Scope of the Interactive Plan:

The Oakland Tribune Tower is located in downtown Oakland off of 13th street. The building is in good condition today and looks the same on the outside as it has for many decades. The Tower itself was built in 1923, with the building that it is attached to being built prior in 1906. The large neon letters that light up at night reading “Tribune” are still in place on the Tower’s four sides. They are maintained to this day in order to preserve the iconic image of the building as it presides over the City of Oakland, just as it has done for many years.

The first floor of the Tower itself is fairly accessible to the public due to the restaurant located on the ground level of the building. Much of the space above the lower levels is used as office space and for small businesses, and as such, has limited access. The Tower is located in the middle of a large urban area and not hard to spot out or travel to. However, one concern with accessibility is the limited parking around the Tower. There is a parking garage nearby and parking along the street, but much of this is taken up by residents of Oakland and employees in the Tower. This may be a concern with making the site a tourist location, and the parking issue will need to be revisited upon these interpretive plans being executed. Other than this, the only other issue that will need to be addressed in terms of accessibility of the building is its current users and how to properly accommodate them or work out an agreement with them in terms of use of the building.

The Tower is currently and actively used by other businesses. For example, there is the aforementioned restaurant that occupies the bottom floor of the building called “The Tribune Tavern”. This restaurant has done a lot to preserve the history and tradition of the Tower, incorporating many artifacts into the restaurant and almost making it a commemorative place for The Oakland Tribune while also serving as a restaurant. Our aim is to work alongside the businesses in the Tower and the restaurant on the ground floor to ensure that our interpretive plans are made possible while still allowing them to occupy their space. However, this endeavor might prove difficult as some of these interpretive plans do require a considerable amount of space in the Tower, but all in all, it would be most favorable if all parties concerned could continue to use the building.

At the same time, we would want to make sure that we are not neglecting the use the Tower serves the community today while carrying out these interpretive plans. This would take away from the key role that the Tower is playing in the community today, which is the present version of the past that we are trying to shed light upon. Carrying out these plans with the Tower would require some work and negotiation, but we believe it is possible to accomplish these interpretive plans, and that our final implementation would be well worth the effort.

A Different Perspective


  • Historical
  • Past & Present Accessibility
  • Media Production
  • Technological Innovations
  • Ownership
  • Tourism

How we intend to reach out to each audience:

The Oakland Tribune has been reaching out to its audience throughout the years via the news. This is something we would like to continue, while simultaneously providing an inside perspective by re-creating the Oakland Tribune Tower as a museum. Before opening the museum, it would be ideal to meet with community members, building owner(s), restaurant owner(s), people involved in the publication of The Oakland Tribune, Safety Commissioner(s), Water and Power Department, etc., to ensure this museum would benefit the City of Oakland, and to make sure the community as a whole supports the re-opening of the Tower.

If it is decided to open the Tower, the current owner will certainly benefit by making a profit, considering that the museum will attract more people and bring in more money. Also, other stakeholders like restaurant owners and workers will gain an increase in revenue, resulting from the increase in the number of customers.  Community members will benefit from a free museum completely open to the public. And finally, the curiosity people will experience when hearing about the Tower will encourage them to engage with the Tower by looking inside, where they will find history told through narratives and material objects.

The cultural/ historical property of the Tower that has accumulated over time will now be shared with the public through a more intimate perspective. This “public” is comprised of people ranging from local community members to tourists visiting far from home.

Another way we will be reaching out to the community aside from newspaper will be through our multi-sensorial interpretative projects, which will cater to all age groups for the public to enjoy. There are four different interpretive plans:

  1. “The Interactive Tribune Museum” plan will immerse the visitor in the news publication process. A reproduction of the newsroom floor will be the setting for the museum. A linear timeline, showing progress from the origination of The Oakland Tribune as a news source to the contemporary period, will guide the visitor throughout decades that shaped the history and created the city of Oakland as we know it today.
  2. “Read All About It: Technological Innovations (for kids from 1 to 92)” is a plan that will take place on a track similar to a rollercoaster that will run through all the floors. Kids will be given a sheet of paper where they will have the chance to write their own news based on their experience within the museum or being in the City of Oakland.
  3. “Re-Imagining the Tower: An Alternative History of Oakland” is a steam-punk visual novel that seeks to immerse the user in an online, fictional retelling of an event that took place in Oakland during the 1920s.
  4. “Frozen in a moment: The Oakland Tribune Tower Audio Tour” is an audio tour taking you through a staged setting of the Tower reflective of a significant era of its past. The purpose of this is to convey the feelings/visuals/sounds of what it might have been like to work in the Tower news room on a typical business day in the 1950s.

The Oakland Tribune Tower as a whole is a continuum when it comes to the news being produced there. However, with the renovation of space through these interpretive plans, a new historical perspective will be ushered in that will engage the visitor with the rich history of the Tower.


We as a team hope to continue to bring more community member to engage with the building and its history. With the use of our interpretative plans we have reimagined the Oakland Tribune Tower open to the public as both a cultural heritage site and a museum.

Trip to the roof of the OAK Tribune Tower

Trip to the roof of the Oakland Tribune Tower- photo by Marisol Cuong

With the Tower being converted into a museum we aspire the community to see the building not just as an iconic building, yet as something that represents the Oakland history. Having had experienced the Oakland Tribune Tower from its physicality to the remembrance of people that have been part of the building we know and respect its intangible attributes which is why we want to help sustain it through a set of long term and short term implementations. Short term consist of the following:

  • Funding


  • Make sure building is up to code



  • Consent from current owners



  • Parking


Long term consist of the following:

  • Hopes for the Oakland Tribune Newspaper to return to the building.


  • Establish our interpretative plans



  • Ask people in the past and present that have a connection to the tower to share their stories.



  • Instill a sense of pride in the Oakland Community by highlighting the importance of history through the use of the tower.



  • Digitally document and establish a reliable archive of The Oakland Tribune Tower newspaper.


As of now, perhaps exhibits or tours could be established while work is in progress but this would depend on the availability of space in the tower and how negotiations go with the current owner, Tom Henderson, the businesses, people that occupy the space, and the use of the tower.

Tribune Tavern

Tribune Tavern -photo by Jeremy Spratlen


Intended originally as a zeppelin landing mast for transatlantic travel, the Tribune Tower has also served as the original home for the city’s news publication, The Oakland Tribune, for several decades. Thus the Tribune Tower has always been a symbol of connection within the city – connections to distant places and innovative technologies, and also connections to the many people within the community who read the newspaper, and for whom the tower was a part of their daily lives.

Our primary objective is to enforce and strengthen existing connections between the tower and the community and to hopefully forge new ones that allow for public interaction with both the tangible heritage (the site and space the tower occupies) and the intangible.

A key theme in our management assessment has been the accessibility of the site and the ability for our visitors to forge their own interpretations of the tower. However, there are several constraints in achieving total accessibly. First, the building is privately owned and also is for many an office space and work environment where it would not be appropriate to have members of the public. In addition, much of the site is not ADA approved, due to the building’s age.

There is also the health and safety of the public to consider as the tower has been associated with at least two deaths in the last fifteen years one of them being a suicide carried out by a girl who somehow got past security in the tower and out onto the roof of the 6 story building attached to the tower. This means that great modification of the tower would need to take place for it to become a truly accessible public space leading us to our second objective of our management assessment which is preservation.

Because the tower itself is an iconic image, it is important to avoid altering the aesthetic in any significant way which could render the landmark “unrecognizable” or simply sever people’s attachment to it because it no longer looks like “their” tower.

At the same time however, in matters of preservation, the tower cannot be metaphorically cemented in concrete and forced to remain unchanging as that may render it “too” perfect or pristine for the changing community of Oakland to identify with. Fortunately, the current owner of the tower has already adopted this concept of “flexible preservation.” Rather than replace the neon lights with newer, modern lights, the owner has opted to maintain the existing neon technology. In a similar vein, concepts of “flexible accessibility” have been adopted in our management assessment, querying ways in which the space can be made publicly accessible without the need for actual physical interaction.

Iconic Neon Sign
“Neon, the greatest thing in the world!” -John Law, tenet and long-time caretaker of lighting at the Tribune Tower.



Built in the early half of the 1920s, the Oakland Tribune Tower has housed “a theater, a furniture store, a radio station, a tavern, law offices” (Lighthiser, 2014), and the newspaper from which it derives its name. The Oakland Tribune has reported news in the city since 1874. The building sits at 409 13th Street in downtown Oakland. Its exact location is recorded by Google Maps as 37.8032378N, -122.2708058W.

Prior to the addition of the tower section in 1923, the six story Tribune building that housed the Breuner Furniture Company was built in 1906. The Breuner Furniture Company vacated its home at Thirteenth and Franklin in 1918 prompting Knowland to foresee the empty showroom as the site of his newspaper facility. In the same year he acquired the property from the Breuners and moved news production of The Oakland Tribune there.

6 ft building

Original 6 story Tribune Building which previously housed the Breuner Furniture Company. Construction of the tower was completed in 1924.

The tower was influenced by the campanile at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy which was designed in the Renaissance Revival style by architect Edward Foulkes. With its blend of classical French and Italian architecture, the red brick tower with its green mansard roof stands at 305ft (93m) high and possesses twenty-two stories and approximately 89,000 square-feet of interior floor space. Although it was the tallest building in Oakland during the 1920s, it stands today as the 11th tallest. A parapet wrapped around the tower at the 16th floor says the word “Tribune” in bright white letters that illuminate with red neon light after dark. Each number on the clock is 26 inches and the hour hand is six feet and three inches long weighing about 35 pounds. The minute hand is nine feet and two inches long weighing over fifty pounds according to a 1918 article in the Journal of Electricity. Due to their immense size, the clock hands must be manually reset every few months to maintain an accurate time as a result of the hands lagging under their own weight.

From 6ft to 23+ft

(Left) The Tribune building prior to the tower addition. (Right) Construction of the Tribune Tower, its exposed steel framework looming over Oakland’s City Hall across Broadway.

“In 2011, Tom Henderson, a third generation Oaklander and local entrepreneur, purchased the building for $8 million. Since … he has made several renovations. Located on the ground level of the tower is the Tribune Tavern restaurant and Modern Café. There is a call center for Henderson’s company CallSocket, as well as law offices and nonprofit organizations.” (Arvizu, 2015) Henderson also has history with the newspaper. He was a delivery boy for the Tribune 50 years ago during his childhood. “I’m proud to own the Tribune building,” Henderson said. “We treat it as a 100-year-old building [should be treated], and we take care of it because of its [varied and important cultural] history.”

Today the building itself is in very good shape, although the clocks are in need of constant maintenance. The elevator mechanisms have been replaced with modern technology to make the trips up and down the tower safer, and the original machinery has been preserved inside the tower.

The Tribune building has been re-purposed to serve an ever-evolving community in Oakland. The building was declared a city landmark on May 4, 1976. “The tower has changed and grown and developed over the years, much like the city, but its integrity has remained.” (Lighthiser, 2014) Still, the tower maintains its notable presence in the downtown landscape by creating new spaces of public interest and accessibility for the community.