Old Town Alameda

Old Town Alameda

Alameda, CA
  • The island that Alameda occupies was originally a peninsula connected to Oakland. Much of the peninsula was low-lying and marshy, but on higher ground the peninsula and adjacent parts of what is now downtown Oakland were home to one of the largest coastal oak forests in the world. The area was therefore called "Encinal," Spanish for "oak grove." "Alameda" is Spanish for "grove of poplar trees" or "tree-lined avenue,"[1] and was chosen in 1853 by popular vote.[2]

    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.

    The city was founded on June 6, 1853, and originally three small settlements were located in the town. "Old Alameda" referred to the village at Encinal and High, Hibbardsville was at the North Shore 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, featuring transit connections between San Francisco ferries and local trollies, Key System buses, and Southern Pacific (formerly Central Pacific) commuter lines.

    The Alameda Terminal was the site of the first train across the Transcontinental Railroad into the San Francisco Bay Area on September 6, 1869. The transcontinental terminus was switched to the Oakland Mole two months later on November 8, 1869.

    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. It is not widely known that both the American snow cone[3] and the popsicle[4] were first sold at Neptune Beach. The Kewpie doll, handpainted and dressed in unique hand-sewn dresses, became the original prize for winning games at the beach - another Neptune Beach invention. [citation needed] 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. The Cottage Baths were available for rent.

    Neptune Beach's two huge outdoor pools hosted swimming races and exhibitions by famous swimmers like Olympian Johnny Weismuller, who later starred as the original Tarzan, and Jack LaLanne, 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 Neptune 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 afield 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.

    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 or NBAM, 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. A consequence of the Neptune Beach closing around 1940, was a total dearth of quality, clean swimming facilities in town. A grass roots effort to create swimming pools at two high schools and two city parks would continue into the early 1960s.

    When the railroad came to town in the 1860s 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 Jack London was known to take part in oyster pirating in the highly productive oyster beds near Bay Farm Island, 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.[5]

    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. Alameda was the site of the Southern Pacific's West Alameda Shops where all the electric trains were maintained and repaired.

    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.

    In the late 1950s the Utah Construction Company began a land fill beyond the Old Sea Wall and created South Shore.

    [edit] Geography

    According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 23.0 square miles (59.5 km²), of which, 10.8 square miles (28.0 km²) of it is land and 12.2 square miles (31.5 km²) (52.98%) is water.

    Today, the city consists of the main original section, with the former Naval Air Station at the west end of Alameda Island, "Southshore" along the southern side of Alameda Island, and Bay Farm Island, which is part of the mainland proper. The area of the former NAS is now known as "Alameda Point." The Southshore area is separated from the main part of Alameda Island by a lagoon; the north shore of the lagoon is located approximately where the original south shore of the island was. Alameda Point and Southshore are built on bay fill.

    Not all of Alameda Island is part of the City of Alameda. Although nearly all of the island is in Alameda County, a small portion of a dump site west of the former runways at Alameda Point pokes out far enough into San Francisco Bay that it is over the county line and part of the City and County of San Francisco.[3]

    Coast Guard Island which is a small island between Alameda Island and Oakland is also part of Alameda and is the home of Integrated Support Command Alameda[4]

    [edit] Demographics

    At the 2000 census[6], there were 72,259 people, 30,226 households and 17,863 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,693.4 per square mile (2,583.3/km²). There were 31,644 housing units at an average density of 2,931.2/sq mi (1,131.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 56.95% White, 6.21% Black or African American, 0.67% Native American, 26.15% Asian, 0.60% Pacific Islander, 3.29% from other races, and 6.13% from two or more races. 9.31% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

    There were 30,226 households of which 27.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them. 43.7% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.9% were non-families. 32.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 3.04.

    Age distribution was 21.5% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 33.6% from 25 to 44, 24.6% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 92.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.5 males.

    The median household income was $56,285, and the median family income was $68,625. Males had a median income of $49,174 versus $40,165 for females. The per capita income for the city was $30,982. About 6.0% of families and 8.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.4% of those under age 18 and 6.1% of those age 65 or over.

    There is a major Portuguese community, from where Tom Hanks' mother came and where Lyndsy Fonseca was raised for some time.

    [edit] Transportation

    Vehicle access to the island is via three bridges to Oakland, a bridge for vehicular traffic as well as a second, pedestrian/bicycle-only drawbridge (the only one in the USA)[7], to Bay Farm Island, and two one-way tunnels leading into Oakland's Chinatown. Bridges at Fruitvale Avenue, High Street, and Park Street, and the tunnels at Webster Street and Harrison Street (the latter called the Posey Tube) connect Alameda and Oakland. Public transportation includes the AC Transit buses (which include express buses to San Francisco) and two ferry services — the Alameda-Oakland Ferry and the Harbor Bay Ferry. Both ferry services may soon be transferred to the Water Transit Authority. The island is also close to the BART train service, with the closest stations being Lake Merritt, near the exit to the Posey Tube, and Fruitvale, near the Fruitvale Bridge.

    Even though the island is just minutes off Interstate 880, the speed limit for the city is 25 mph (40 km/h) on almost every road. Many unaware drivers fail to slow down after exiting the highway. Groups like Pedestrian Friendly Alameda and BikeAlameda advocate stronger enforcement of speeding laws. Alameda has a reputation for vigorous enforcement of the 25 mph (40 km/h) speed limit.[8]

    [edit] Attractions

    Victorian house in Alameda

    Due to its proximity to the Bay, wind surfers and kite surfers can often be seen along Crown Memorial State Beach and Shoreline Drive. From the beach there are also views of the San Francisco skyline and the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge.

    One of the recent attractions is the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, a museum ship now moored at the former Naval Air Station. This ship was originally named the USS Kearsarge, but was renamed in honor of the previous Hornet CV-8 (famous for the Doolittle raid), which was lost in October 1942.

    Alameda is known for its large stock of Victorian houses; 9% of all single-family houses (1500) in Alameda are Victorians, and many more have been divided into two to four-unit dwellings.[9] It is said that Alameda has more pre-1906 earthquake era homes than any other city in the Bay Area.

    Alameda is home to the official offices and training facility of the Oakland Raiders American football team. The training facility features practice fields, a full- featured weight room, locker room, player meeting rooms, an auditorium, a state-of-the-art television studio and spacious offices and is also home to The Raider Image, the merchandise arm of the franchise, to which all the public can visit.

    At the turn of the 19th century, the city of Alameda took a large chunk of Charles Froling's land away to build a street. Froling had planned to build his dream house on the plot of land he received through inheritance.[10] To spite the city and an unsympathetic neighbor, Froling built a house 10 feet (3.0 m) wide, 54 feet (16 m) long and 20 feet (6.1 m) high on the tiny strip of land left to him.[10] The Froling spite house is still standing and occupied.[10]

    Alameda is also famous for its Fourth of July parade which is one of the largest and longest in the country. It features homemade floats, classic cars, motorized living room furniture, fire breathing dragons, marching bands and lots of enthusiastic people. The parade route is about 3 miles (5 km) long

    [edit] Economic development

    The Naval Air Station Alameda was decommissioned and is in process of being turned over to the City of Alameda for civilian development. The area of the former NAS is now known as Alameda Point. Portions of this area are now in commercial use, but the transfer process has been slowed down by disputes between the Navy and the city regarding payment for environmental cleanup of the land. In late July 2006, the City of Alameda announced a deal with Navy that would turn the land over to the city for $108M. The preliminary development concept calls for 1700 housing units to be developed at Alameda Point. In September 2006, the developer, Alameda Point Community Partners, withdrew from development of Alameda Point. In May 2007, the City selected the SunCal Companies as the Master Developer of Alameda Point and, in July 2007, the parties were negotiating terms for a development agreement. After two previous failures, voters in the city passed a ballot measure in 2000 authorizing a bond measure for construction of a new library to replace the city's Carnegie library, damaged during the Loma Prieta earthquake. The city also received state funds for the new library and opened the doors to the new facility in November 2006.

    [edit] Wine and Spirits Production

    Rosenblum Cellars Winery and St. George Spirits are located at Alameda Point. In 1978, Alameda veterinarian Dr. Kent Rosenblum and his wife Kathy founded Rosenblum Cellars. In 2008, the company was purchased by Diageo Estates.

    In December, 2007, St. George Absinthe Verte, produced by St. George Spirits became the first brand of American-made absinthe to be legally produced in the United States since a ban was enacted in 1912.

    [edit] Theaters

    The Alameda Theatre in 2006 prior to expansion and restoration

    City officials continue to seek ways to spur economic development on the island, including the restoration of the historic Art Deco city landmark Alameda Theatre. The theater restoration project included a multiplex to make the project financially feasible and a parking structure to accommodate patrons of the theater and avoid excessive impact on parking in the Park Street area. Following some setbacks during construction the public opening was May 21, 2008, with a gala event.

    The South Shore Mall Twin Cinema opened in 1969 and served as a prominent theater on the island until its closure in 1998. In 2002, the building was demolished and its former site is now a parking lot in the Alameda Towne Centre shopping mall (formerly South Shore Center).

    Alameda also had one other operating movie theater. Central Cinema, which opened in December 2004 and closed in June 2008. It was a 42-seat house at 842 Central Avenue (near the western end of Webster Street). The building had previously been both a community center and a mortuary, and the operator of the movie theater was able to use a quirk of the site zoning to legally operate a movie theater. The theatre had only one screen, but featured couches and armchairs for seating.

    [edit] Local newspapers and magazines

    Alameda's first newspaper, the Encinal, appeared in the early 1850s and the paper's editor was instrumental in the movement to incorporate the city. Following the Encinal, several other papers appeared along geographic lines, and the Daily Argus eventually rose to prominence. A young Alameda native, Joseph R. Knowland, wrote political and historical articles for the Alameda papers. Later, Knowland owned the powerful Oakland Tribune. Around 1900, the Daily Argus began to fade in importance and east and west papers The Times and The Star combined to take the leading role as the Alameda Times-Star in the 1930s. Under the ownership of the Abe Kofman family, the Times-Star thrived until selling to the Alameda Newspaper Group (an out-of-town news corporation) in the 1970s.

    In response to the lack of a local news source, Alameda realtors John Crittenden and John McNulty decided to combine their two publishing efforts into a new East End voice, Alameda Journal, in 1987. Crittenden had published a real estate homes list to real estate agents, while McNulty was known for the Island Journal, which focused on local news, history, humor and advertising. The new publication found itself the hometown paper of choice. It was sold to the Hills Newspapers chain owned by Chip and Mary Brown. The Browns, Oakland residents, had assembled a chain of five East Bay weeklies and biweeklies: the biweekly Alameda Journal, the biweekly Montclarion (serving the Montclair district of Oakland), The Piedmonter (Piedmont), The Berkeley Voice and The Albany/El Cerrito Journal.

    In 1997, the Hills Newspaper chain was bought by Knight Ridder, at the time, the second-largest newspaper chain in the U.S. Following the buyout, former Hills Newspapers employees recognized the lack of a local community voice in Alameda, and again formed a new locally-based newspaper, the Alameda Sun, in 2001. In 2006, Knight Ridder announced its impending sale to McClatchy Corp., a Sacramento-based publishing firm. McClatchy Corp. has put the Contra Costa Times, which under the Knight Ridder reorganization included all five of the original Hills Newspapers, up for sale. The current owners of the Alameda Times-Star, MediaNews, Inc., based in Colorado, have announced a strong interest in buying both the Contra Costa Times chain and the San Jose Mercury News, consolidating the daily newspaper market of the East Bay, effectively under one owner. The California State Attorney General began in June 2006 an investigation into the sale of the former Knight Ridder properties to MediaNews in the event of a potential breach of anti-trust laws. The upshot of the sale to MediaNews would be the original victor of Alameda's newspaper wars losing in the end, being bought out by the newspaper company once considered vanquished.

    The Alameda community is currently served by two locally owned and operated publications.

    • Alameda Sun - Home-delivered free of charge every Thursday with a current circulation of 20,000, the Alameda Sun prides itself on focusing solely on Alameda news, events, people and causes.
    • Alameda Magazine - Alameda Magazine is a four-color glossy magazine that is published seven times a year by the Alameda Publishing Group. The magazine's website is a member of the City & Regional Magazine Association's online network.

    [edit] Alameda Power and Telecom

    Unlike surrounding communities, Alameda has a municipal power and telecommunications service, Alameda Power and Telecom, (APT) that delivers services directly to consumers.

    During the California electricity crisis of 2000 and 2001, Alameda Power and Telecom did not raise electricity rates, while residents in most of the state endured significant price increases.[11]

    Alameda Power and Telecom produces 84% of its energy from renewable sources, primarily geothermal plants located near Calistoga, California, and hydroelectric sources on the North Fork of the Stanislaus River. The utility also uses wind and solar power. Recently, APT has entered into agreements with four municipal landfills to capture methane released from the landfills (which is otherwise released into the atmosphere as greenhouse gas), and convert it into energy. In November 2008, AP&T sold its cable television and high speed internet services to Comcast.

    [edit] Arts and culture

    The Alameda Arts Council (AAC) serves as the local Alameda City arts council.

    Alameda has been home to many movie sets. Some of the movies filmed on the island have included Bicentennial Man, The Net, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix: Revolutions, Bee Season, the original 1968 Your, Mine and Ours and the movie musical Rent. Parts of Alameda High School were animated for the Animatrix episode "Kid's Story". A massive hangar at the former Naval Air Station Alameda was used to film special scenes requiring computer-generated imagery for movies such as Bicentennial Man, Flubber, What Dreams May Come, Mission: Impossible II and many scenes from the Matrix trilogy, including the signature bullet time scene. The open space of the decommissioned naval base often hosts MythBusters' more dangerous experiments.

    [edit] Alameda Civic Ballet

    The Alameda Civic Ballet and its affiliate school, the Alameda Ballet Academy, were founded in 2003 by former Oakland Ballet principal ballerina Abra Rudisill. Since their founding, both the academy and school have grown steadily, offering a full schedule of classes for dancers of all ages in downtown Alameda.

    [edit] Alameda Civic Light Opera

    The Alameda Civic Light Opera, which performs Broadway-style musical productions. was founded in 1996.

    [edit] The Altarena Playhouse

    The Altarena Playhouse, which performs comedies, dramas and musicals, was founded in 1938 and is the longest continously operating community theatre in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    [edit] Dance Arts Project

    The Dance Arts Project was founded by noted instructor and choreographer Michaela Lynch and has offered classes and performance opportunities for Alameda's children for more than a decade. Still under the direction of Ms. Lynch, the Dance Arts Project has become a fixture in the community and the premier locality for performance arts training in Alameda.

    [edit] Shining Stars In The Arts

    Held in May, Shining Stars In The Arts is an evening event that celebrates community members who have made an outstanding contribution in the arts in the city. It features a fundraising silent art auction, food, and music, and concludes in an award ceremony for the Shining Star honorees.

    [edit] Sister cities

    Since 2004, Alameda participates in a sister city agreement with Wuxi, China.

    Another sister city is Lidingö, Sweden. The initiative came from Alameda in 1959 and was part of President Eisenhower's people-to-people-movement, whose purpose was to develop better understanding among people from different countries after World War II. Both Alameda and Lidingö are islands with a bridge connecting them to a big city.

    [edit] Famous residents

    [edit] Schools

    [edit] Community College

    [edit] Private schools

    [edit] Public schools

    Like almost all cities in California, the municipal government and the school administration are two separate entities. The Alameda Unified School District has the same boundaries as the City of Alameda, but has a separately elected board to oversee its operations, and its funding comes directly from the county and state governments without oversight by the city council. The AUSD educates approximately 10,000 students each year, in eight elementary schools, three middle schools, two traditional high schools, three alternative learning schools, one continuation school, and one high school within the College of Alameda. Most high school students attend Encinal High or Alameda High. The district also operates an Adult School and a Child Development Center. Two elementary schools were closed at the end of the 2005-2006 school year. However, a new elementary school, Ruby Bridges, opened for the 2006-2007 school year.

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