I live in the city of Alameda which is located near Oakland and San Francisco. Our city has an Alameda Recreation and Parks Department that provides advice, coordination, and guidance on parks and recreational facilities in the city. One of the activities they conduct is called Alameda Walks where they invite Alameda residents to lace up their walking shoes, bring family, friends, and neighbors and join them on an hour-long walk on the 1st and 2nd Saturday mornings of each month, May through October. For those who are new to Alameda or have lived there for decades, this is a great way to begin a Saturday morning exploring neighborhoods and learning about the history of Alameda.
This past Saturday, the walk featured Webster Street which is very close to where I live. Webster Street wasn't always called Webster Street. You can find old maps that call it Euclid Street. This is because the street was originally unnamed, and when surveyors had to put something on the map, they chose Euclid — the patron saint of geometry revered by surveyors. Years later, Henry Haight was governor of California from 1867 to 1871. He lived on the street and wanted access to Oakland. So he persuaded the city to build a bridge at the end of the street that connected it to Webster Street in Oakland. And thusly, the street became Webster Street in Alameda. The street in Oakland had been named after American statesman, Daniel Webster. Chiefly recognized for his Senate tenure, Webster was the Northern member of the "Great Triumvirate," with his colleagues Henry Clay from the West (Kentucky) and John C. Calhoun from the South (South Carolina) who helped establish California as a state.
Before heading to Webster Street, our tour actually started in Washington Park. Established in 1909, Washington Park is the largest public park in Alameda. The grass was originally cut by a horse-drawn mower. The horse was named Black Beauty. That didn't last long as keeping Black Beauty proved to be more costly than having someone mow the lawn. Washington Park was the original shoreline. These steps used to go down to the beach:
As you can see, the steps were built in 1924:
Landfill was added in the 1950's for a baseball field. This is what it looks like now:
The land adjacent to Washington Park used to be the site of Neptune Beach. Neptune Beach was open from 1917 to 1939 and was home to the largest outdoor swimming pools in the world (at the time) and an amusement park:
image courtesy of the Alameda Sun
All that is left from Neptune Beach is this walkway between the two pools.
This is what the larger pool area looks like now. The pool was actually covered over with earth:
It's still down there if you dig deep enough.
A train used to run along Central Avenue. Businesses competed by making their train stops attractive places to disembark and spend money. The stop at Webster and Central used to be the site of Neptune Gardens. Neptune Gardens featured exotic plants as well as animals. John Croll managed Neptune Gardens for its owner. When bare-knuckled boxing (a.k.a. pugilism), was outlawed in many parts of the country, Croll opened a hotel and boxing ring to entice more people to disembark at the Webster/Central stop. The hotel was constructed at a cost of $9,000. Though the boxing ring has since been replaced by a McDonalds, the hotel still stands today as the home of the 1400 Bar and Grill:
The part of the building that houses the adjoining pizza place was not part of the original Croll's building but was a later add-on from when Neptune Gardens was dismantled. The stained glass was added when a locomotive exploded at the stop and blew out the original windows.
Not too far from Webster Street, St. Barnabas Church is located at the corner of Sixth Street and Palace Street. Palace Street? The church building was originally the Palace Brewery:
Local folklore has it that this is the only church that used to be a brewery.
Our tour ended at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Webster:
Before Oakland finished its portion, Alameda was part of the Transcontinental Railway. In fact, Lincoln Avenue was originally called Railroad Avenue. It was renamed in 1909 on the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth when the country experienced Lincoln mania. Cities across America were renaming everything in his honor. Alameda renamed the street, Lincoln Middle School, and Lincoln Park.
This was a fun way to spend an hour on Saturday morning.
Local history is alive in the lab.