At 12:10 pm, explosions ran throughout the Oakland hills as the former Oak Knoll Naval Hospital base went down for good, thanks to 800 pounds of dynamite. Crowds hugging the perimeter fences around Keller Avenue snapped photos and helicopters hovering above recorded the action; even TV stations streamed the implosion of the 11-story building live on the Internet.
It wasn’t all fun for everyone: a few vets that served at the Hospital or had a stay there were present for the final hurrah and cried tears as the building went down. One man, who wouldn’t identify himself, drove all the way from San Francisco just to get a picture of it before it was demolished, saying he had been born in the hospital. Another woman confessed she was able to drive her car inside the dilapidated base after finding the gates unlocked and grabbed as many photos as she could.
Oak Knoll Naval Hospital had been built out of a golf course during World War II and was open until 1996, when the Navy’s base realignment program closed other bases around the country. The base fell into disrepair and homeless people came to live in the abandoned buildings, which over the course of a few years looked more like the set of a horror film. ABC Security General Manager Ray Thrower was there when his teams cleared up the hospital building of any homeless people living there and called it a “scary time”. Other security officials said in yesterday morning’s sweep they found one man sleeping in the rigged hospital building.
Land owner and developer SunCal hopes to build homes and a shopping center at the site. The only building still standing on the grounds is the former officers club known as Club Knoll. Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid says he plans to re-purpose the club as a hub for city agencies.