More Info About the Isle City of Alameda

Real Estate Agent with Kane & Associates call 510.908.9002


Central Alameda

Even though I was born and raised in Alameda it always amazes me on how it has grown so much. Here is a little information about Central Alameda. The only way to access the main island is to cross either of our 4 bridges or the tube.

The island of Alameda was originally a peninsula connected to Oakland. Much of the peninsula was low-lying and marshy, but on the higher ground, the peninsula and adjacent part of what is now downtown Oakland were home to one of the largest coastal oak forests in the world and the area was therefore called "Encinal", Spanish for "Oakland". "Alameda" is Spanish for "grove of poplar trees" or "tree-lined avenue." This name was chosen in 1853 via popular vote.

The inhabitants at the time of the arrival of the Spanish in the late 18th Century were a local band of the Ohlone tribe. The peninsula became part of the vast Rancho San Antonio granted to Luis Peralta by the Spanish king who claimed California. The grant was later confirmed by the new Republic of Mexico upon its independence from Spain.

Prior to the gold rush besides Native Americans there were also in modern Alameda French lumberjacks supplying lumber to the quickly expanding San Francisco and Chipman and Auginbaugh, as well as major Spanish descended landowners who founded the village of Alameda near the corner of Encinal Avenue and High Street in Alameda.

The city was founded on June 6 , 1853 . Originally three small settlements grew in town. "Old Alameda" referred to the village at Encinal and High, Hibbardsville was at the NorthShore ferry and shipping terminal, and Woodstock was on the west near the ferry piers of the South Pacific Coast Railroad and the Central Pacific . Eventually, the Central Pacific's ferry pier became the "Alameda Mole " while the Central Pacific itself became the Southern Pacific . The Alameda pier was the site of the first train across the Transcontinental Railroad into the San Francisco Bay Area. The terminus was moved to Oakland a few years later.

In 1917, an attraction called Neptune Beach was built in the area now known as Crab Cove. Often compared to Coney Island , the park was a major attraction in the 1920s and 1930s. The original owners of the facility, the Strehlow family, partnered with a local confectioner to create tastes unique to Neptune Beach. Though many do not know it, both the snow cone and the popsicle were invented at Neptune Beach. The Kewpie doll, hand painted and dressed in unique hand-sewn dresses, became the original prize for winning games at the beach - another Neptune Beach invention. The Strehlows owned and operated the beach on their own, even filling in a section of the bay to add an additional olympic-size swimming pool and an exceptional roller coaster which must have given riders a tremendous view of the bay.

Neptune Beach 's two huge outdoor pools hosted swimming races and exhibitions by famous swimmers like Olympian Johnny Weissmuller , who later starred as the original Tarzan, and Jack LaLane, who started a chain of health clubs. Unfortunately, the park closed down in 1939 because of the Great Depression , the completion of the Bay Bridge, people circumventing paying the admission price and in general, the rise of car culture. Once the Bay Bridge was complete, the rail lines, which ran right past the entrance to Neptunem Beach on the way to the Alameda Mole and the Ferry, lost riders in droves. People began using their cars to escape the city and the immediate suburbs like Alameda and traveling further a field in California. Alameda lost its resort status as more distant locations became more attractive to cash-rich San Francisco tourists. Youngsters in town became aware of ways to avoid paying the dime for admission to the park. Strong swimmers or even waders could sneak in on the bay side, just by swimming around the fence.

Some of the resort homes and buildings from the Neptune beach era still exist in present-day Alameda. The Croll Building , on the corner of Webster St. and Central Ave., was the site of Croll's Gardens and Hotel, famous as training quarters for the some of the greatest fighters in boxing history from 1883 to 1914. James J. Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jim Jefferies, Jack Johnson, and many other champions all stayed and trained here. Today this beautiful preserved building is home to Croll's Pizza and the New Zealander Restaurant. Neptune Court, just a block away on the corner of Central Ave. and McKay Ave., provides another glimpse of what resort life was like in Alameda in the 1920s. A short walk near Crab Cove will reveal many more historic gems.

Sadly, the vast majority of the Neptune Beach structures - the hand-carved carousel from the world-famed Dentzel Company, the ferris wheel, the roller coaster, and other rides - were auctioned off in 1940 for mere pennies on the dollar of their original cost. Today, an Alameda resident Michael Schiess looks to preserve some of the historic artifacts from the Neptune Beach era at the Neptune Beach Amusement Museum, specifically dedicated to the resort and all "amusement machines." While the existing and more general Alameda Museum has quite a few artifacts from Neptune Beach in its collection, this new museum will focus more on the games, rides and other machines that brought amusement to Alameda's bay shore.
As the Neptune Beach era faded and Park Street developed into the major thoroughfare of the city and the location of the main Alameda train station, residents of Old Alameda pulled up stakes and moved across town to the new downtown. The street's location was chosen by two landowners who wished to attract tenants and development to their land. As a result they designated their mutual border as Park Street.

The need for expanded shipping facilities led to the dredging of a canal through the marshland between Oakland and Alameda in 1902, turning Alameda into an island. Most of the soil from the canal was used to fill in nearby marshland. The area of Alameda called Bay Farm Island is no longer an island, but is attached by fill to Oakland. In his youth, author JackLondon was known to take part in oyster pirating in the highly productive oyster beds near BayFarmIsland, today long gone. The Alameda Works Shipyard was one of the largest and best equipped shipyards in the country. In the 1950s, Alameda's industrial and ship building industries thrived along the estuary, where the world's first-ever; land-based, containerized shipping crane was used. Today, the Port of Oakland across the estuary serves as one of the largest ports on the West Coast, using the shipping technologies originally experimented with in Alameda. As of March 21 , 2006 , Alameda is a "Coast Guard City," one of seven in the country.

In addition to the regular trains running to the Alameda Mole, Alameda was also served by local steam commuter lines of the Southern Pacific (initially, the Central Pacific) which were later transformed into the East Bay Electric Lines . Southern Pacific's electrified trains were not streetcars , but full-sized railroad cars which connected to the mainland by bridges at Webster Street and Fruitvale (only the latter bridge survives today). The trains ran to both the Oakland Mole and the Alameda Mole. In fact, one line which ran between the two moles was dubbed the "Horseshoe Line" for the shape of the route on a map. Soon after the completion of the Bay Bridge , Alameda trains ran directly to San Francisco on the lower deck of the bridge, the ferries having been rendered unnecessary.

In the 1930s Pan American Airways established a seaplane port along the fill that led to the Alameda Mole. This was the original home base for the famous China Clipper . With the advent of World War II , a vast stretch of the marshy area southwest of the Alameda Mole was filled and the Naval Air Station Alameda established. This major Naval facility included a large airfield as well as docks for several aircraft carriers . It closed in 1997

Buying or Selling, I am here to help!

Jean 510.908.9002

Comments (3)

Pam Winterbauer
Pam Winterbauer Real Estate - San Ramon, CA
"Providing Blue Ribbon Service"
Jean......what a great piece of history on Alameda.  Being a native of Alameda County some of these ring the bells.  Thanks again for sharing.
Mar 27, 2008 12:03 PM
Michael Greenslade
Better Homes & Gardens | Mason-McDuffie Real Estate - San Leandro, CA


Great article I really enjoyed reading it.  The article made me hungry for some Caramel Apples, Popsicles and Sno-Cones.  I am going to give this article a star and bounce it up to the top of the group's page.

Jean and Pam

Welcome to the Alameda group here on Activerain.  Thanks for joining. 

Mar 27, 2008 01:02 PM
This piece was cogent, well-wtiretn, and pithy.
Nov 12, 2011 03:46 PM