Western Market Building / Liberty Hall 1

Looking for a different building called Liberty Hall?

Liberty Hall (aka Western Market Building aka Marcus Garvey Building) was built in 1877, and one of its many uses was that of the meeting hall for the Oakland chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. 2

On June 19, 1987 the Western Market Building / Liberty Hall was designated Oakland Landmark #LM 87-150, and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Oakland Landmark plaque #107 on the building reads as follows:

"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 communities, 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 minister who organized 160 missions 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 neighborhood. It became an Oakland Landmark in 1987 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989."

Oakland Landmark Liberty Hall plaque 1Western Market Building / Liberty Hall, Oakland, California 1UNIA meeting 5

Liberty Hall has been in the news lately, as the building was facing foreclosure. Ayori Selassie is the head of a group that has been fighting to fight the foreclosure and a group recently bought the building. Current tenants include Overcomers with Hope, a youth program run by Faye Oliver and Bishop J. E. Watkins and the West Oakland Community Information/Resource Center and past tenants include Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association.3 The building is now safe from foreclosure. 4


1483-87 8th Street/782 Chester Street, Oakland, California

Links and References

  1. Designated Landmarks, Heritage Properties, and Preservation Districts City of Oakland

  2. The Pullman Porters and West Oakland by Thomas and Wilma Tramble Images of America, Arcadia Publishing

  3. Oakland landmark evades foreclosure Oakland Local, Aug 17, 2013.

  4. "Marcus Garvey Building – Liberty Hall: National Historic West Oakland Landmark saved by community organizations." San Francisco Bay View, Sep 7, 2013

  5. MS189_0874 African American Museum and Library at Oakland