Posted in Black History, Business, People

Stephens’ Family

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‘s Boalt School of Law in 1929.

Stephens Restaurant at 200 East 14th Oakland
Circa 1925 – photo by M.L. Cohen
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

The Stephens Family

William Stephens Circa 1901
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

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, he completed coursework at Heald College before taking a job with the Southern Pacific Railway in 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.

Pauline Stephens circa 1898
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

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

Oakland Tribune May 24, 1929

William died November 21, 1932

Oakland Tribune Nov 22, 1931

Stephens Restaurant

Group of men standing in front of Stephens’ Restaurant & Lunch Room at 110 East 14th circa 1920s
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

Eventually Stephens opened his own restaurant in Oakland. Known as Stephens’ Restaurant, it grew from small quarters into a large establishment seating over 200 people, occupying three locations near Lake Merritt.

William Stephens (right) and employee inside Stephens’ Restaurant circa 1920s
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

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.

The final location of the restaurant was 200 East 14th (now International Blvd) at 2nd Ave. I am not sure when it closed as it was still in business after Stephens died in 1932

Stephens Restaurant – 1925
Photo By ML Cohen
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.
Oakland Tribune 1930

Virginia Stephens

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 Stephens on the left -The Jewel City, San Francisco, 1915:
PIPE – 100 Years
Oakland Tribune May 01 1952

Virginia attended the University of California at Berkeley and received a bachelor’s degree in science in 1924.

Graduation Portrait of Virginia Stephens – 1929
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

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.

1929 Bar Card
MS005_B01_F01_004
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, 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.

Members of Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, University of California, Berkeley (left-right): Virginia Stephens, Oreatheal Richardson, Myrtle Price (in back), Ida Jackson (sorority president), Talma Brooks, and Ruby Jefferson (1921), 
 African American Museum and Library at Oakland. 

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:

Virginia Stephens Cokerundated
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

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.

More of the Stephens Family

The End

Posted in Black History, History, People, Then and Now, West Oakland

Royal E. Towns – Engine Company No. 22

Royal Edward Towns (February 10, 1899–July 23, 1990) was one of the first African American firefighters in Oakland and was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department.

Royal E Towns

Royal Towns joined the OFD in 1927 and was assigned to Engine Company No. 22, a segregated firehouse in West Oakland. The station was located at 3320 Magnolia Street.

Exterior of Oakland Fire Department Engine no. 22
3320 Magnolia Street

Three firefighters sitting in Oakland fire truck parked in driveway of fire Engine no. 22

Royal Towns was the 11th black Oakland fireman in 1927. The 12th wasn’t hired for another 15 years. In 1971 there were only 35 black firemen. Towns became the first to be promoted in the OFD. He became a chief’s operator in 1941 and retired as a lieutenant in 1962.

Royal E. Towns (center) and his colleagues with Engine Company No. 22
of the racially segregated Oakland Fire Department. (1943)

Towns was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department. He helped train many other black applicants to pass the fire department test

Royal Towns on the left with Oakland firefighters standing in front of fire engine no. 22 – Circa 1943

Personal Life

Royal Towns was born in Oakland on February 10, 1899, to William Towns and Elizabeth Towns.

Towns married Lucille Dennis May 26, 1920. Together they had three children. The family lived in various locations within Oakland

Royal E. Towns died July 23, 1990 and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery

More Photos

The photos are courtesy of the Royal E. Towns papers, MS 26, African American Museum and Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California. Photos at Calisphere

3320 Magnolia Street Oakland – Then and Now
It is no longer a Fire Station
Rolling Hoses in front of Engine No 22
Two firemen attaching hoses to fire hydrant, firefighters practicing with fire hoses in park in the background – on Peralta Street
Peralta Street – Then and Now
Firemen holding fire hose in street next to
Gleason and Company building – Circa 1950s
at the corner of Magnolia and 34th Street

34th and Magnolia – Then and Now
Firemen holding fire hose in street next to Gleason and Company building
Circa 1950s – 34th and Magnolia
Across from the Gleason Company today
Firemen holding fire hose in street next to Gleason and Company building
Circa 1950s – 34th and Magnolia
Looking down Magnolia towards 34th St.
Circa 1950s
Looking down Magnolia towards 34th St.
Then and Now
Dog climbing ladder to get apple in front of Oakland Fire Department Fire Engine No. 22 – circa 1950s
Fireman jumping off ladder in front of Oakland Fire Department fire Engine no. 22

More on Royal E. Towns

Posted in Buildings, Oakland, People

First Framed House in Oakland

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.

From the 1884 directory
From the 1912 Directory
Oakland Tribune May 01, 1932
Okland Tribune Nov 13, 1949

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.

The Cabin

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.

Showing the original home

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.

Bancroft Library – Jesse Brown Cooke Scrapbook
http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf7k40107n 
BANC PIC 1996.003:Volume 27:089–fALB 
I0051808a.tif 

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. 

Bancroft Library – Jesse Brown Cooke Scrapbook
http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf3f59p0hs 
BANC PIC 1996.003:Volume 27:090–fALB 
I0051809a.tif 

See: While Oakland was Finding its Place on the Map of the World – Oakland Tribune May 01, 1932

First Settler Laid to Rest

The Oldest Inhabitant has Gone to Rest

 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

Another view of the home

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

Oakland Tribune July 02, 1946
Oakland Tribune 1948

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.

Cook Brothers Equipment Distributors began a 10 year lease of old homestead after it was cleared.   Oakland Tribune July 02, 1946

Oakland Tribune 1948
Showing the 404 East 8th Street in 1951 – Sanborn Map

More on Moses Chase

The End

Posted in Claremont, Estates, People, Rockridge, Tract or Subdivisions

The Pines

The Pines “ was the beautiful home and the surrounding gardens of Mr. & Mrs. Philip E. Bowles. The home was built in 1910 and it stood at what is now No. 2 Bowling Drive.  

Oakland Tribune Apr 04, 1910

Mr. and Mrs P.E. Bowles on a garden path at The Pines

Views of “The Pines”Estate by Gabriel Moulin, ca. 1927 https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf0k4006n4/
Location of The Pines

Land Purchased

In 1909, Philip E. Bowles purchased 51 (58 acres in some publications) acres of land in “Claremont hills” adjoining the Horatio P Livermore Homestead. Bowles was the president of the First National Bank of Oakland and a Regent of the University of California from 1911-22.

The house and grounds had an entrancing view of the bay and all of the surrounding country. 

The view from “The Pines”

The Golden Gate in The Distance c 1927
Photo By Cheney Photo Advertising
Where the Setting Sun Meets the Golden Gate c 1927
Photo By Cheney Photo Advertising

The Bowles Home

 He signed a contract for the erection of a residence to cost  $31,000.  The Architect was L.B. Dutton. He engaged an expert landscaper. who designed the grounds of the estate in accordance with Bowles own plans.

Oakland Tribune March 1909
Photo c 1928 Cheney Photo Advertising
Photo By Cheney Photo Advertising

The home was built in the Italian Villa style with twenty-two rooms and a full basement.  It had six master bedrooms, dressing rooms, five bathrooms, three sleeping porches, a library, a drawing room and a conservatory .

Inside the home

Views of “The Pines”Estate by Gabriel Moulin, ca. 1927
https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf0k4006n4/

A Bedroom

Views of “The Pines”Estate by Gabriel Moulin, ca. 1927 https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf0k4006n4/

Gardens

The home was surrounded a veritable forest filed with quail and dotted with miniature lakes stocked with large rainbow trout and a well stocked bass pond. There was a Japanese Tea garden, with pools containing rare goldfish, golden carp and unusual aquatic plants. There was also a tennis court, a swimming pool, large garage, and a horse stable with a trotting park. 

Mr. Bowles purchased from all of the world, he bought the best. The Rhododendrons were especially lovely.

SF Chronicle July 28, 1913
Views of “The Pines”Estate by Gabriel Moulin, ca. 1927 https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf0k4006n4/

The swimming pool and bathhouse.

Views of “The Pines”Estate by Gabriel Moulin, ca. 1927 https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf0k4006n4/

A garden path

Photo By Cheney Photo Advertising
Claremont Pines was housing development built around 1927
Photo By Cheney Photo Advertising

Architecture & Engineer

In 1911 the home was featured in January issue of Architecture & Engineer of California Magazine.  It states the architect was L.B. Dutton.  Architecture & Engineer of California Jan 1911 pg. 204

Jan 1911 – Architecture & Engineer

High Society at The Pines

Many dances and social events were held at The Pines.

Oakland Tribune June 17, 1910

In 1912 the Bowles daughter Amy married Hiram Johnson Jr. the son of Governor Hiram W. Johnson. The wedding was held at The Pines

The extension grounds surrounding the Bowles mansion were transformed into a fairyland

Oakland Tribune May 30, 1912
Oakland Tribune May 30, 1912
Oakland Tribune Sep 20, 1923

Death of P.E. Bowles

On January 20,1926 Philip Bowles died at the age of 67.

Oakland Tribune Jan 21, 1926

Possible Park

The city of Oakland Park board was urged by Mayor Davie to purchase land and home for $700,000for a public playground or park.  That fell through.

Oakland Tribune Oct 15, 1926

Claremont Pines

In  May of 1927, a year after Philip Bowles died,  Mrs. Bowles sold the entire estate to a group of men from southern California and they hired the York Company, Inc. of Oakland to handle to development and the sales.

The York company subdivided the land and called it Claremont Pines.  The name Claremont Pines came from the nearby district called Claremont and the name of the Bowles Estate .

Claremont Pines Placed on the Market

New Owner

In about 1927 or 1928  Andrew Williams of the Andrew Williams Store, local grocery chain purchase the home which was located at No. 2 Bowling Drive.    

Oakland Tribune Feb 26, 1928

After spending two years remodeling and adding new furniture including expensive Persian rugs, Williams put the home up for sale in 1932

Ad for No. 2 Bowling Drive 1931
Oakland Tribune Sept 05, 1932

Bowles Hall – UC Berkeley

In 1928 in memory of her husband Mrs Bowles donated $250,000 to the University of California to be used to build a dormitory for men, appropriately and completely furnished, on or near the University campus, in Berkeley. The dormitory is known as Bowles Hall.

The Wrecking Ball

In 1938 the main house was destroyed by the wrecking and sold off piece by piece. A sad ending to a home that was just 28 years old.

Oakland Tribune Fev 1938

Caretaker House

The was a caretaker house located at front gates of estate. It stood at the portal through the high metal-spiked fence around the estate. The five room bungalow which formally served as the guardian of the estate was used as the tract office from 1928- 1948.

It was at this little cottage where the street car once stopped.

In 1948 the cottage was sold to Charles Ray Jr. of 1028 85th Avenue and he will be placing it on lot next to his.

More on The Pines:

Photographs

The End

Posted in Buildings, History, Oakland, People, Streets

Alden Farm

Official and historical atlas map of Alameda County, California. Compiled, drawn and published from personal examinations and surveys by Thompson & West. Oakland, Cala. 1878.
Res. & farm of P.A. Finigan, Brooklyn Tp.

The Alden Farm (Alder Farm) once stood on the land where Holy Names University is located today.

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.

Oakland Tribune May 1877
Oakland Tribune Nov 28, 1877

In 1877 Peter A. Finigan (Finnegan) purchased the property from Low and built a second house near where Cushing Library is today.

SF Examiner Jun 30, 1877

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.

Oakland Tribune Jul 04, 1900
Oakland Tribune Jun 04, 1911
Oakland Tribune Jul 08,1922
Oakland Tribune Aug 10, 1924
Oakland Tribune Apr 24, 1932

Many Fires

Oakland Tribune Sep 08 1904
Oakland Tribune 19, 1931
Oakland Tribune Aug 1945

Fire Destroys Alden Farm

Oakland Tribune Mar 01, 1953
Oakland Tribune Mar 01, 1953
Oakland Tribune Sep 16, 1953

Holy Names University

Oakland Tribune Feb 04, 1955
Oakland Tribune Oct 06, 1955

Deaths of the Magee’s

More Info
Posted in Home Building, Montclair, People

On Moraga Avenue

An Enterprising Family and Their New Home in the Montclair District.

Oakland Tribune

Mr. and Mrs. John W Martinsen’s like many others in the area took on the task of building their own home.

Mrs. Martinsen would serve a hot lunch for them from a cabin they had built in the back of the lot.

The home is located on the corner of Moraga Avenue and Estates Drive.

1923
1930
From the 1943 Directory

They lived there until sometime in the mid-1940s.

She dresses in a regulation feminine hiking costume, and is able and effective assistant to her husband

Oakland Tribune

Photos

Intersection with Estates Drive c 1950
Public Works Photo,
Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey, Oakland City Planning Department
intersection with Estates Drive, this east image from 1951
Public Works Photo,
Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey, Oakland City Planning Department
From Google Maps

Location

The Martinsen Home – Google Maps
  • 5901 Moraga Avenue at the corner of Estates Drive
  • John W. Martinsen – builder and owner
  • $10,000
  • 1922

More…

Oakland Tribune Nov 03, 1930

The End

Posted in Early Montclair, Montclair Tracts, People

$20,000 Log Cabin – Fernwood

Fernwood was the beautiful country estate of Col. Jack C. Hays and his wife Susan in 1852.

Residence of Col. John C. Hays, Oakland, Alameda County, California.”
(Published by Thompson & West, Oakland, Cal., 1878)
from Oakland History Room

After Hays’ death in 1883, the estate was sold to William J. Dingee. Dingee built an opulent 19-room Queen-Anne style mansion, and had additional landscaping done with gardens, terraces and waterfalls. He also added such features as a deer park and an elk paddock.

Sadly, the home and countless artworks were destroyed in a fire in 1899. Oakland Tribune Oct 19, 1899

In 1915 Dr. and Mrs. Nelson M. Percy of Chicago, Illinois purchase the former W.J. DIngee home “Fernwood” for an undisclosed amount.

Oakland Tribune Oct 10, 1915
Oakland Tribune 1915
Oakland Tribune 1923
Oakland Tribune 1923
Oakland Tribune 1923
Oakland Tribune 1923
Oakland Tribune 1923
Oakland Tribune Aug 04, 1923
Yellow arrow shows the log cabin, green arrow the pool and blue arrow the tennis courts

More of Fernwood –