A gigantic map of all the cool plaques in the world. A project of 99% Invisible. Logo by Chop Shop

Liberty Hall


Built in 1877, Liberty Hall embodies the many layers of West Oakland history. It is an
outstanding example of mid-Victorian commercial architecture, with octagonal turrets,
ornamental brackets and window hoods. It was operated as the Western Market by its original
owner Harry A. Zeiss, who lived upstairs, and later by another German family, that of Johan
Breiling. Early West Oakland was famed as a “melting pot” with large, strong ethnic communi-
ties, among them German, Irish, Italian, Portuguese, Slavic, and African-American. In 1925
Oakland Branch No. 188 of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association
(UNIA) bought the market building and renamed it Liberty Hall after their headquarters in
Harlem. The largest mass movement of African-Americans in history, the UNIA had over
1,000 chapters in 40 countries. In Oakland its membership grew to over 500. Garvey believed
African-Americans could achieve economic power by owning their businesses. In the mid-
1930s Liberty Hall was used by the Peace Mission of Father Divine, an African-American min-
ister who organized 160 mission throughout the country. The Oakland Peace Mission offered
Depression-era banquets for a few pennies per meal, a dormitory, and a furniture repair shop in
the now demolished stable. The movement began to decline after the start of World War II, but
the Oakland branch was listed in the telephone directory at this location until 1956. From the
closing of the Peace Mission until the early 1970s, Liberty Hall was occupied by several
African-American churches. By 1985 it was abandoned and scheduled to be demolished.
Through the vision and leadership of Sister Pat Sears, CSJ, Sister Joanna Bramble, CSJ and
many others, Jubilee West bought and renovated Liberty Hall to house its services to the neigh-
borhood. It became an Oakland Landmark in 1987 and was listed on the National Register of
Historic Places in 1989.


Nearby Plaques On Google Maps