The fire bore a striking resemblance to the disastrous 1923 Berkeley fire which swept from the hills, destroyed 600 buildings and leaving 4000 homeless.
The fire started at 11am and was under control by 2:30 pm and officially out by 4pm.
More than 200 firemen from the Oakland and San Leandro fought the fire for over four hours with the help of the residents who lived in the area. At times the fire came within feet of homes and rained sparks on their roofs. The damage was held to the loss of two homes, brush and oak trees.
From noon until 2pm the battle was a see-saw affair
Oakland Tribune October 16, 1960
For the residents it was a battle to the death. They stood of roofs and garages pointing hoses with little pressure behind them at the walls of flame which roared through the brush and oak trees.
In the hills above Leona Street flames roared 50 feet into the air and came within that distance of homes. At one point police advised people advised the residents on Leona Street, Mountain Blvd and Mountain View Avenue to evacuate.
According to the tenants of the Peralta Villa housing projects in West Oakland, they first heard about the program when the a group of boys from the Alameda County Central Labor Council (funded by a grant from the War on Poverty) started demolishing the backyard fences and flower gardens.
The fences were removed, Housing Authority officials say, as the first step in a program of “beautification”
The tenants were really angry because some had paid the OHA for the fences and planted their gardens. No advance notice was given – the workers just started tearing everything up.
The War on Poverty ran into a major obstacle this week – the War on Poverty
As a part of the War on Poverty‘s a work-study program was funded to provide the salaries of University of California students to work with the tenants .
The students worked with the residents of Lockwood Gardens to help them develop a sense of community identity and to learn how to help themselves.
It was these students that encouraged the tenants to form the Lockwood Improvement League .
The program funded by the War on Poverty the same people funding the “Beautification Program” and removing their fences.
The tenants of Peralta Villas met at Cole school and formed the Peralta Improvement League. Thirty tenants volunteered to form their own “human fence” they wrote up a list of demands and began their fight to save their gardens.
Stop tearing down the remaining fences
Rebuild the fences already taken down
Reimburse the tenants whose private property was destroyed
Consult the tenants first before doing any further work
They were also upset by the lack of advance warning. They got 200 signature in favor of keeping the fences.
The Lockwood Gardens tenants were all for beautification but not at the expense of their backyards. One tenant was upset because he had just rebuilt his fence. Not all the tenants of the tenants took care of yards or kept their fences in repair. But they felt the OHA could work it out with those tenants.
The tenants of both Peralta Villa and Lockwood Gardens protested and managed to halt or limited the amount of work that could be done at either of the projects.
The OHA laid out a new backyard fence policy “Residents must keep their backyards neat and in repair; no new fences could be installed; no satisfactory fence will be torn down now, but eventual elimination of all fenced areas can be expected”
In August of 1965 the OHA board voted to poll each family of Campbell Village, Lockwood Gardens and Peralta Villa if they want a fence. Everyone was to be asked even the people who lived in the 2nd floor. There was a total of 916 total units in the three projects.
The tenants were given 2 choices in the questions asked :
It appears to be a lower-the-cost- maintenance program
The Pro-Fence group leader
In July 1966 all the fences had been removed and the place looked like a dump reported one tenant. The lawn was dead in most places as it wasn’t being watered.
Oakland in the Days When Oaks Were Here and the Peralta’s Owned all the Land
Oakland Tribune Feb 1891
The house was located at N. E. corner east Eighth Street and Fourth Avenue, East Oakland. The address was first 202 East Ninth Street. East Ninth Street was later renamed East Eight Street and house was renumbered from 202 to 404. The final address was 404 East Eight Street.
In Search of Gold
The lure of the gold drew Moses Chase and his son George to California in 1849. They sailed from Boston on aboard the Capitol on a 176-day voyage. He hoped to make his fortune panning for gold, then return home to marry Mary Ellen Clinton. They had no luck at finding gold and soon they found themselves back on the coast.
Chase then became the first white man to settle in Oakland and he first camped at the foot of what is now Broadway, in 1849.
He then leased land from the Peralta Family just east of what is now Lake Merritt. the land later became part of Township of Clinton which later became a part of Oakland.
It was on this land he built a small cabin of 14 feet wide and 24 feet, from ship timbers, driftwood and rough boards. He intended to bring his new bride back to California from Boston and live in the cabin. But she died before he arrived back home to marry her. The Township of Clinton was named in her honor.
In 1856 the front part was added. This would become the main section of the house. Over the years other alternations and additions expanded the cabin into a two-story building of 17 rooms during its 86-year occupancy by Chase, his son and his grandson. The original section, after standing intact until 1936 when it was cut in half and became the laundry room.
As you see in the photograph, the house is in first class condition today, October 5, 1928. Photo taken by Jesse B. Cook and Joseph A. Murray.
Chase spent the later years of his life a near recluse on Bay Farm Island, but he died in the family home February 17, 1891 at the age of 84. He was laid to rest at the Mountain View Cemetery.
A Wedding Takes Place
In May of 1925 Albert B. Chase was married in the same room he was born in 45 years before. Albert was the son of George Chase (1841-1919) the only child of Moses Chase.
At the time of his wedding Albert was the only surviving member of the Chase family. His older brother had died in 1924 and his sister in 1925.
Oakland 80th Birthday
In honor of Oakland’s 80th Birthday in May of 1932 the Clinton Improvement Association erected a sign on the home noting its historical significance. Oakland Tribune Apr 07, 1932
Razing the Old Home
In 1946 workman from the Symon Brothers Wrecking Company started razing the “old Chase home” a small rear portion of which was the original cabin to which Chase built in 1849.
Through three generations the old home continued at the family residence, until in 1936 Albert died. Albert’s widow sold the home to Guido Pacini, a trucking contractor. Pacini graded the adjoining lot for his trucking business. The old home was completing renovated and was use as a residence, most recently the home of Picini’s daughter and her husband.
A brush and timber fire that destroyed at least four Oakland hill area homes and menaced at least 50 more burned in the area of Pine Needle Road and Upper Broadway Terraceand came close to the buildings of the new Broadway Low-Level tunnel (Caldicott Tunnel). This was on September 25, 1937.
The photo below was taken at the hight of the blaze but before the fire jumped Tunnel Road.
Scores of families fled their homes in fear; others who sought to save the belongings were ordered out by fireman.
The fire started close to the home of Police inspector Jesse Jackson at 6019 Pinewood Road at around 3 pm September 25, 1937. During the first six hours, the fire had burned across the western edge of the Pinehaven district up Broadway Terrace to a point just below Skyline Blvd. and back down another canyon to the west.
The fire chief estimated the fire burned over 9 square miles of rolling hill county.
Hose lines Burned
Several hundred feet of hose laid across brushy areas to link the pumps to the fire area were destroyed by flames. Lack of water was a problem, they had used up all the water in reservoirs in the immediate area.
C.F. Humphrey – 13025 Broadway Terrace
Mrs. Marguerite Risley – 6493 Farralone Way
Homes Lost or Damaged
15030 Broadway Terrace – Ted Gould – gone
16060 Broadway Terrace – S. Albright – damaged
17014 Broadway Terrace – Ed Pohley – damaged
17044 Broadway Terrace – S. Sund – damaged
17050 Broadway Terrace – S.C. Purser – damaged
6539 Gwin Road – V. Sagues -damaged
6142 Pinewood Road – G. H. Cowles – damaged
6142 Ruthland – W.R. Powers – gone
Fire Started –
The fire started when a “backyard bonfire” got out of control.
There was a fire in November of 1929 in just about the same area. Some of the same homes were damaged then. The W.R. Powers home was saved in 1929 only to burn down in 1937.
The was a fire in 1933 with the loss of one home at 7135 Pinehaven Road.
I couldn’t locate the actual “Hampstead House”. I have included other houses in the area that were for sale during the same time period.
Prior to the opening of Hempstead House in Sheffield Village the H.C Capwells Company created a full scale floor plan model completely furnished in the furniture department on the fourth floor of their downtown store.
In 1874 Charles Low owned the property. A barn was located where Tobin Halls and the university’s gymnasium are today. He built a house for his family on the site where Brennan Hall stands today. You can see a map of the campus here.
In 1877 Peter A. Finigan (Finnegan) purchased the property from Low and built a second house near where Cushing Library is today.
In 1884 Thomas Magee of Thomas Magee & Sons Real Estate Firm purchase the farm. I bet Magee Avenue was named after him.
Magee added a second story to the house that Finigan built.
During the early years the Magee’s would spend winter at their home in San Francisco and summer on Alden Farm. After the 1906 earthquake and fire they made their home permanently at Alden Farm.
Alden Farm was considered one of the premiere showplaces in Oakland. Many social event and weddings were held there over the years.