The park is named for one of the more colorful figures of the 19th century. Cincinnatus Hiner ("Joaquin") Miller was born in Indiana in 1841 and during his life he was a pony-express rider, lawyer, judge, teacher, gold prospector, nomad and author.
During a trip to the Bay Area in 1870, he met California's first Poet laureat and Oakland's first librarian, Ina Coolbirth. Coolbirth convinced him to take the colorful pen name of Joaquin Miller. He became well known as the "Poet of the Sierras."
When he returned to Oakland in 1886, he settled on 70 acres of grassy hillside, which he had purchased parcel-by-parcel in the hills about the "City of the Oaks." In an effort to create an inspirational artists' retreat, he erected monuments, built structures for his mother and daughter, and coordinated the planting of 75,000 trees -- monterey cypress, olive and eucalyptus. He died in in 1913.
“The Abbey” was Joaquin Miller's greeting house for almost 50 years, leaving it to the city when he died in 1913.
Purchased by the City of Oakland in 1919, The Abbey was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962.
In 2009, Dale Risden of Friends of Joaquin Miller Park led the restoration efforts to restore The Abbey.
The Woodminster Cascade flows from the base of Woodminster Theatre and falls over 100 feet through a series of pools. The cascade and theatre were conceived by Juanita Miller, daughter of Joaquin Miller, and were constructed by the Works Progress Administration as a memorial to California writers and poets.
During the Cascade construction in 1937, William Penn Mott was starting his career with the Oakland Parks & Recreation Department. He was responsible for the original landscaping, roads, parks and picnic grounds in the area we are now working to restore.