William Watts was known in Oakland for having a tract of land named for him.
The land was 158 acres running from Chestnut to the Bay, and from 28th to 38th Streets. Looks like it now considered Clawson.
William Watts was born in Chelsea, Mass, in 1808. In 1831 he married Maria Francis Rollins. They had a son William Augustus Watts born in 1833.
In 1850 Watts traveled to California, via the “Horn.” After mining in Tuolumne County, he returned to San Francisco.
On May 04, 1858, William Watts took the title of 158 acres from Francisco Sanjurjo, who had acquired the property from the daughter of Domingo Peralta. Mr. Watts paid $5000 for the land and built a large ranch home at what is now the corner of 34th and Chestnut Streets. He farmed the property until 1876.
William Watts passed away on January 16, 1878, and the ranch was passed on to his son William.
The family also owned a Tannery that was a close to their ranch.
In 1874, 60 acres were subdivided, and a map of the Watts Tract was drawn up.
Watts’ Tract Auction Sale
In December of 1876, an auction sale was held at the Watts’ station, on the Berkeley Branch Railroad. Two hundred twenty-eight lots were sold in two and one-half hours.
Streets Named For
Four streets in the “Watts Tract” are named for the daughters of George Washington Dam. A friend of the family.
In 1906, a branch of the Art and Industrial Club was formed and devoted itself to the arts and to “uplift of the race.”
Deeds Not Words”
Mother’s Charity Club
Founded in 1907
Lift as We Climb”
The Mother’s Charity Club was founded in 1907. They were dedicated to philanthropic endeavors. During its earliest years of activity, the Mother’s Charity Club fed and cared for many children and sick and needy persons.
Elmhurst Progressive Club
The Elmhurst Progressive Club was founded in 1912.
Imperial Art and Literary Club
The Imperial Art and Literary of Oakland was founded in 1912. They provided charity and promoted art and literary work.
Love and Truth“
Self Improvement Club
Self Improvement Club of Oakland was founded in 1916. Their goal was to improve humanity and the surrounding communities.
He who is true to God, is true to Man”
Rhododendron Self Cultured Club of Oakland
The Rhododendron Club was formed in the early 1950s
Like Ivy we Climb–Lifting as we Climb
Fidelis Art and Culture Business Women’s Club of Oakland
The Art Social Club of Oakland
Royal 10 Society Club of Oakland
I only found this photo. I will update if I find more.
Linden Street YWCA
In 1920, a group of African American clubwomen formed The Linden Street branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA).
They provided religious training, counseling services, vocational training, art classes, adult education classes, and all types of cultural events.
Located at 828 Linden Street, the branch was housed in a two-story building with four club rooms.
By 1938, the Linden Street “Y” had a membership of over 750.
In 1944 following a new national policy, the board of directors of the central Oakland YWCA integrated the Linden Street YWCA.
“to make its program available to all women and girls irrespective of race, creed, or color.“
It was renamed the West Oakland Center of the YWCA. The two-story building was razed in the early 1960s
Phillip Richard Springer (1874-1952) was the first black man in Oakland to own a taxicab. He was born in Barbados, in the British West Indies and left home at age 16. At first he operated under a jitney permit in Oakland, but he later had the license changed to a taxicab permit. By 1915, Springer’s Cab Company was well established.
Her father was born a slave in South Carolina and was freed in 1838, he traveled to California during the Gold Rush, settling in Oakland.
In 1854 her mother founded California’s first Negro School in Sacramento and was the first teacher. She also founded a private school for minority groups in Alameda County in 1858, when Indians, Negroes, and Chinese were not allowed in White public schools. The school was at their home at 1335 East 15th Street in Oakland.
The Flood’s had son George who is believed to be the first African American child born in Alameda County. Elizabeth and Isaac Flood were not only one of the earliest African American families in the Oakland area, but they were also one of the most prominent and progressive.
In 1871 her father, a leader of the Colored Convention, successfully fought to have Negro children admitted to public schools.
The Oakland School Board passed the following resolution:
In 1872 his daughter Lydia became the first student to attend the Swett School (later the Old Bella Vista School). Then she attended night school at Oakland High and later married John William Jackson in 1889.
Activist and Clubwoman
Jackson was a member of the Native Daughter’s Club and the Fannie Jackson Coppin Club for forty-two years. Jackson was also a leader in the California Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. While a member of the Federation, she on them to demand women’s suffrage. While addressing the organization’s 1918 state convention, she told her audience.
Today we are standing on the threshold of a great era looking into futurity to the mid-day sun of Democracy”
In this series of posts, I hope to show Then and Now images Oakland Schools. Along with a bit of history of each school, I highlight. Some of the photos are in the form of drawings or postcards, or from the pages of history books.
Note: Piecing together the history of some of the older schools is sometimes tricky. I do this all from home and online — a work in progress for some. I have been updating my posts with new information or corrections.
Let me know of any mistakes or additions.
King Estates Junior High School
In 1956 the city of Oakland and the Board of Education (OUSD) agreed to purchase a 46-acre tract on Mountain Blvd. near the Oak Knoll for future development as a combined school and recreation area.
They purchased the land from the heirs of Arthur Dale King a Hillsborough millionaire, who died in 1952.
Under the agreement, 19 acres of the total 46 were for the two new schools.
In June of 1958, the Board of Education approved the plans for the new King Junior High School on Fontaine Street.
The estimated cost of the school was $1,638,445. The school was designed by the firm of Confer and Wills.
In October of 1960, the board ok’d the name “King Junior High” for the new school in King Estates.
In March of 1973, 15-year-old Leonard Key watched his mother die by a sniper’s bullet outside the school gym. Leonard’s mother, Mrs. Kay Key, and two sisters had just seen him play in an all-star basketball game.
Police arrested two 15-year-old boys who confessed to firing random shots onto the campus with a sawed-off shotgun and a .22-caliber pistol.
King Junior High Today
In 2005 two small highs schools opened at the campus; they are the Youth Empowerment School and East Oakland Community High School.
Now Rudsdale Continuation School and Sojourner Truth School are there.
The school named for Ralph Johnson Bunche (1903-1971). He taught Political Science at Howard University and was the first African American to get a Ph.D. in political science from an American university. He worked with helped Martin Luther King Jr. He was the first African American to be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. He helped form the United Nations and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President John F. Kennedy.
Bunche Visits the School
In 1966 Ralph Bunche paid a visit to the school that bears his name.
“I have been waiting to come and see you since the school was established.I’ll try not to do anything that would anything that will embarrass you.”
Ralph K. Bunche 1966
Ralph K. Bunche 1966
Ralph K. Bunche 1966
He spoke to the 450 students in the play yard of the school. He then spent about an hour shaking hands with all the children and signing autographs.
After the event, some of the children said:
“He’s real nice, I liked the way he talked,” said Claudia Mason age 10
“He’s an intelligent man,” “He’s a real fine gentleman “
said Wayne Jackson age 10
Tribute to Bunche
Ralph Bunche Day was held on November 19, 1971. The children of the school paid tribute to the man the school is named after.
The Board of Education approved plans for the new school in February of 1927.
The plans called for a two-story steel and concrete structure at an estimated cost of $260, 000. The “Spanish type” building constructed in the form of an L and had 35 classrooms, a gymnasium, shops, and an auditorium.
Westlake Junior High was known as Lakeview Junior High.
The formal dedication of the school was held on March 14, 1928.
Renaming the school became necessary to avoid conflict with Lakeview elementary school.
The students wanted the school named after Col. Charles Lindbergh. The board decided against that. Lakeview Junior High became West Lake Junior High in May of 1929
One hundred sixty-two students graduated from West Lake Junior High on June 06, 1929. “The Biggest Class Ever.”
In 1970 Saundra Brown was the first black woman accepted for the Oakland Police Department’s Recruits Academy.
I ‘m kind of optimistic”
Saundra Brown December 1970
Saundra Brown December 1970
Born and raised in Oakland. She felt she knew the problems of the young here. She said, “in a city like Oakland, with its Black Panthers and militant groups, there is a special need for minority police officers.” She worked with teens during her college days.
Saundra graduated from Fresno College with a degree in sociology. She always had her eyes set on working with juveniles and looked into law enforcement as a possible field. She applied to OPD immediately after her June 1969 graduation. No opening existed.
She was working as a claims adjuster when she heard that OPD was looking for a “black policewomen.”
At that time, a MALE recruit needed only a high school diploma or a score of 262 on a GED course. WOMEN must have a four-year college degree or four years’ experience in law enforcement. She had that.
She attended the same 15 weeks Police Academy as the 22 males in her class. She was expected to compete with the males.
She took courses in criminal law and report writing, first aid traffic investigation, and the Oakland penal code. There were also defensive tactics, involving strenuous activities such as calisthenics, some judo, a little karate.
Oh, I did alright I guess” she laughed. I can throw the biggest guy in the class.
Saundra Brown – December 17, 1970
Saundra Brown – December 17, 1970
During the course, she learned for the first time in her life, to handle firearms.
I used to be scared of guns,” she laughed,. “but now I feel safer with a gun in possession because I know how to use it”
Oakland Tribune Dec 14, 1970
Oakland Tribune Dec 14, 1970
On December 18, 1970, she accepted her star and the congratulations from Police Chief Charles Gain as the only woman in the police academy of 24.
She finished near the top of her class. She hoped to be assigned to the juvenile division. However Chief Gain had other ideas
As the only minority-group policewoman, she joined a slightly more significant minority. There were 710 men on the force; only 7 women.
At that time, women were not allowed to compete with men for advancement. Fascinated with the legal issues she encountered on the job as a policewoman, Saundra decided to attend law school while continuing to serve her hometown of Oakland as a police officer until 1977.
She was a judicial extern, California Court of Appeals in 1977, and was a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California from 1978 to 1979 and from 1980 to 1982. From 1979 to 1980, she was a senior consultant to the California Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice.
She was a trial attorney of the Public Integrity Section of the United States Department of Justice from 1982 to 1983. She then served as a Commissioner on the Consumer Product Safety Commission from 1983 to 1986, and on the United States Parole Commission from 1986 to 1989.
She was a Judge on the Alameda Superior Court, California, from 1989 to 1991.
On April 25, 1991, Armstrong was nominated by President George H. W. Bush to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of California vacated by William Austin Ingram. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 14, 1991, and received her commission on June 18, 1991.
She earned a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from the Pacific School of Religion in 2012, and she assumed senior status on March 23, 2012
The world’s largest and fully mechanized mail handling facility designed to serve central California and the Pacific ocean area
Postmaster General – Aug 1959
It was announced the facility would be built on a 12-block site in West Oakland bounded by Peralta, 7th and Wood Streets, and the Southern Pacific railroad yards.
The postmaster general officially named the Oakland project “Project Gateway”
City officials were excited that construction will begin in about one year. They expected an Oakland payroll of some 750 workers and the clearing of some 20 acres of sub-standard homes for a significant redevelopment project.
Oakland Mayor Clifford E Rishell noted that the post office project presents some significant problems – chiefly the relocation of some 300 families (about 1000 people) in the project area.
The Oakland Redevelopment Agency was in charge of the relocation. A survey at the time determined that half of the 300 families had moderate incomes that will permit them to rent or purchase a home in other sections of the city. The other half will probably require public housing.
The job we face isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible
Arthur Hoff – Oakland Redevelopment Agency
One of West Oakland’s most revered landmarks was lost with the razing of the New Century Recreation Center and the adjoining school property at Atlantic, Pacific, and Peralta Avenues.
Also lost in the project would be a junkyard, few businesses, and McFeely School, which opened in 1949.
In a March 1960 special meeting of city officials and postal officials were told 34 families had already received eviction notices. The families lived in homes already sold the government by Southern Pacific. 21 families had already found new homes.
August 1, 1960, was when they were to begin clearing the site,
A squadron of bulldozers was set to plow into the 12-block place of buildings. All put 12 parcels of the 187 total had been acquired in negotiation. Commendation orders were entered for the holdouts.
The postal officials were perplexed when building wrecker Aldo S. Allen submitted a low bid of $64,000 to clear the 20-acre site for Project Gateway. He was $10,000 lower than the next lowest bid and $50,000 lower than the highest bid.
“I got an idea” Allen a one time midget car racer explained.
Aldo S. Allen – 81st Ave Oakland CA
His idea consisted of $2,000 purchasing a surplus Sherman Tank of World War II vintage, a 73,000- pound dreadnaught powered by a 500 horsepower engine. The tank would be much more powerful, faster, and safer.
He was Right!
Aldo climbed into the tank, which was in front of a row of six houses. He first practiced on a tree.
SNAP! Down went the tree.
Without pausing, he went towards the first house and bore a tunnel through the house. The second story remained intact. Again he aimed for the home, there was a roar, and the second story came down burying the tank for a moment.
10 Minutes Flat! The time to clear the first house
It took 90 minutes to flatten and remove all 6 houses
Post office Site Now A Dump
In 1963 after five year of post office promises the city demanded action. The site had become a 12-block dumping ground. The city was losing money $22,000 in tax dollars and $50, 000 lost in additional school taxes. They were told that construction was set to begin in 1964.
The William M Stephens family was a very successful African American family from Oakland. They owned the Stephens Restaurant, and Virginia, their daughter, won acclaim at the age of fourteen when her name “Jewel City” was selected for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition buildings in a competition sponsored by the San Francisco Call-Post. Virginia went on to be the first African American woman to receive a law degree University of California Berkeley’sBoalt School of Law in 1929.
The Stephens Family
William Stephens was born in 1870 in Accomack County, Virginia. He moved out to California while still a child and attended school in Oakland and San Francisco. After graduation, Stephens completed coursework at Heald College before taking a job with the Southern Pacific Railwayin 1886. Beginning as a Sleeping Car Porter, he worked his way up to a clerkship under H.E. Huntington, assistant to the company’s President.
In 1894 he lived at 1132 Linden Street in West Oakland.
In 1898, Stephens resigned from Southern Pacific and took a position with the Crocker family, traveling with them throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Through these travels, Stephens learned about the hotel and restaurant business.
In 1901, he married Pauline Logan (1874-1929) of Tehama, California.
Pauline gave birth to one daughter, Annie Virginia (who went by Virginia), on April 7, 1903. Due to his daughter’s health problems as a young girl, Stephens resigned from his post with the Crockers and began working at an Oakland social club. He moved on from this position in 1915 to manage the clubhouse at the Hotel Del Monte Golf and Country Club in Monterey County.
Pauline died in May of 1929
William died on November 21, 1932
Eventually, Stephens opened his own restaurant in Oakland. Known as Stephens’ Restaurant, it grew from small quarters into an ample establishment seating over 200 people, occupying three locations near Lake Merritt.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the restaurant enjoyed great success and was usually filled to capacity. Stephens took great delight in employing African American high school and college students so they could earn money for their education.
Stephen’s daughter, Virginia, won acclaim at the age of fourteen when her name “Jewel City” was selected for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition buildings in a competition sponsored by the San Francisco Call-Post.
Virginia attended the University of California at Berkeley and received a bachelor’s degree in science in 1924.
Encouraged by her father to attend law school, she enrolled in Boalt School of Law at UC Berkeley and earned a degree in 1929. At that time, she was only the second woman to receive a law degree from the school and the first African American woman to complete the program. Virginia passed the California Bar in the same year, the first African American female Attorney in California.
While at Berkeley, Virginia and Ida L. Jackson were charter members Rho Chapter in 1921 and Alpha Nu Omega, a graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. These were among the first Greek sororities for African American women west of the Mississippi.
Virginia married attorney George Coker (1906-1970). The Cokers helped tutor African American students for the State bar exams. They moved to Virginia and maintained a private law practice there for almost a decade.
In 1939 after working in private practice for ten years, they moved back to California, settling in Sacramento. Virginia received an appointment as Attorney in the State Office of the Legislature Council in Sacramento in May 1939. In this capacity, she helped with drafting and amending legislative bills, and worked under four different legislative councils:
Upon her retirement in 1966, Virginia had attained the position of Deputy of the Indexing Section. Virginia died in Sacramento at the age of 83 on February 11, 1986.