Best Gawk at the PastRemember: Thou shalt not covet old money

Cohen-Bray House

If you’re more into the indoor historical aesthetic, look no further. Just off International Boulevard in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, standing regally behind an auto parts store among tired 1940s-era bungalows, is what many of the cognoscenti agree is the finest example of an East Lake Stick Victorian mansion remaining in the East Bay. Stumbling upon it by accident is like discovering a Gold Rush clipper ship among the rusting pleasure boats at the Fifth Street Marina. This stately masterpiece was the 1884 wedding present to Emma Bray Cohen and her husband, Alfred H. Cohen, from both sets of extremely wealthy parents. What’s unique about this Victorian treasure is that it remains in the same family, which means all of the original furnishings are still there, along with 120 years of accumulated treasures. The family gives tours the last Sunday of every month to raise money for restoration projects, and thrice yearly they throw a high tea for which the extended family dons Victorian costumes and serves the paying public in the magnificent formal dining room using the good china. The next opportunity is Mother’s Day, May 9.

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