The Metropolitan Horsemen's Association has received a Partners in Preservation Award for its role in preserving the MHA Clubhouse and Sequoia Horse Arena in Joaquin Miller Park. By doing so, MHA is helping to keep Oakland's equestrian history alive for the public to enjoy.
The roots of MHA can be traced back to Cornelia Van Ness Cress, who, by 1938, had been operating the Mills College stables for ten years. Seeing the increasing urbanization of Oakland, she became concerned. If the city were to retain its standing as the "horseman's paradise," it would be necessary for civic leaders to advocate for equestrian sports and trail access. Accordingly, she called upon the horse-loving business people she knew, many of whom were contributors to her charitable efforts at Mills. Thus, Oakland's Metropolitan Horsemen's Association (MHA) was founded.
Cofounders of the MHA included locals Sidney Chown, the grocer who blazed trails above Piedmont and Montclair; Ted Dreyer, the beloved local ice cream maker; Gordon Hooper, the chocolatier; Gus Himmelman, whose furniture store was located at 1749 Broadway; and realtor Howard Robinson.
Initially, horse shows were held in what is now Redwood Regional Park and at Portuguese Flat, the present site of Merritt College. In 1948, when the club membership numbered approximately 950, the Sequoia Horse Arena was constructed in Joaquin Miller Park, with the encouragement of local elected officials.
In the years that followed, off-duty city firefighters stationed at 10060 Skyline Boulevard became regular.attendees at the horse shows. Then, according to Oakland Fire Department historian Ed Clausen, around 1955, a falling tree demolished the small firehouse.
About the same time, with highways 13 and 580 under construction, Gus Himmelman and his family deeded their house at 3731 Redwood Road to the city for the Redwood Heights recreation center. In back of the Himmelman home was a wooden clubhouse used by the Lariettes mounted drill team.
In the early 1950s, the MHA clubhouse was moved from its original site at the Himmelman House at 3731 Redwood Road to its present location at 10060 Skyline Boulevard, mysteriously appearing one day at the site of the demolished firehouse. According to oral history, the firemen and club members simply separated the building into two sections and trucked them up the hill, with no paper trail provided. The MHA and the firemen shared the clubhouse for more than ten years. The fact that the small building has two bathrooms— each with a shower stall, and one with dual washbasins—speaks to its historic use as a firehouse. When the station was closed in the 1960s, it reverted to exclusive use by the horse club.
In April of 2009, Rebuilding Together Oakland (RTO) selected the MHA clubhouse as a community resource worthy of their efforts. Licensed building contractors and other trade professionals volunteered their time over several weekends. Structural pest damage was repaired, a new deck was built, and new plumbing fixtures and carpeting were installed. Rudi Schafer and Kym Luqman of RTO led the project, in collaboration with MHA president Melanie Diamond and other club members. Additional repair work has been done at the Sequoia Arena.
The MHA has continued to present horse shows at the Sequoia Arena each May through October since 1948. Shows attract riders from Oakland public barns, as well as local residents who keep horses in their back yards. Riders from other communities are also made welcome.