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.
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.
Hays Canyon or sometimes called Jack Hayes Canyon was the area in hills behind Piedmont. It was named for Col. John “Jack” Coffee Hays (1817-1883) who lived in the area from 1856-1883. His estate Fernwood was located approx. where Moraga Avenue, (Hays Canyon Rd.) Hwy 13 and Thornhill Drive (Thorn Road) meet.
Hays (Hayes) Canyon was in the Piedmont District and both the Brooklyn and Oakland Townships.
The main road to the or through the canyon was called the “Hays (Hayes) Canyon Road” which traveled the route of present day Moraga Avenue. According to one article the beginning of Hays Canyon was at Bonita Avenue in Piedmont.
Hays Canyon Road is now known as Moraga Avenue
Hays Canyon is now Montclair.
In 1891, the S.F. Call described Hays Canyon “the romantic valley just beyond the ridge that receives its name from the famousColonel Jack Hays” and “the beautiful home of W. J. Dingee” and the “fine places ofMrs Kohler, Judge E.M Gibson and Mrs. Fields and others.
Colonel John C. Hays – Fernwood
Hays died at home April 22, 1883, at the age of 66. After his death Fernwood was sold to William J. Dingee.
Wm J. Dingee – Fernwood
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.
After the Fernwood burned Mrs. Adeline Percy built a modern log cabin on the property. In the 1920s the property was sold and subdivided.
Judge E. M. Gibson – Cote Brilliant
Judge E.M. Gibson owned the property the just beyond Thornhill School. It was latter owned by E.M Boggs. The house burned down in 1910. Dr. Mark Emerson bought the land in the mid-1920s and built a lovely home and lived there until the late 1950s. St John’s Episcopal Church is now there.
J. B. Fields
Joseph B. Fields was born in England. Prior to moving to Hays Canyon he was an Oakland Police officer for 12 years.
He owned 25 acres of farming land next the the property of Judge Gibson. His land was in the general location of Aspinwall Road is today.
She died at her home in Hays Canyon on November 27, 1894. Her funeral was largely attended by the old settlers of the county and was held at her home on November 30, 1894. She is buried at Mountain View Cemetery alongside her husband Andrew and her daughter Louisa (1849-1854) who died at the young age of 5.
Glen Kohler was designed by architects the Samuel and Joseph C. Newsom (Newsom Brothers) in 1885. The residence was 18 rooms, in what was know as the “free style”. At a cost of about $10,000.
I don’t know what happened to Glen Kohler after Mrs. Kohler died. It is possible it was used at a Sanatorium (more on that later).
A couple of years ago someone in a Facebook group I belong to asked if anyone else remembered a story or rumor that went around Montclair in the mid-50s. It was a story about a guy the ran repair shop on La Salle Ave who was a spy for the American Government or something like that. It took me a while but I found it.
Undercover Agent – Asked to Join
The tall shapely women said she joined the Communist Party after an FBI agent approached her and said:
Would you like to do this? There will be nothing it for you, but you would be doing your country a great service.
San Francisco Examiner April 1953
Joins Party to Help FBI in Roundup of Subversives
The tall shapely women was Sylvia Hill the wife of Dickson P. Hill of the Montclair District. The Hill’s lived had 3 children and lived on Snake Road. Mr. Hill owned Montclair Radio & TV Service at 6127 La Salle Ave.
From the outside they were your typical 50s family.
Dickson P. Hill said he and his wife were approached by Communists in 1944 and ask the FBI ( I think the FBI was already watching them) what they should do. The FBI told them to try to join the party so they could do the country “a great service.”
They joined the Communist party in 1945 at the request of the FBI, and rose to the positions of membership chairman and education chairman receptively, while serving as undercover agents.
Hill and his wife lived “double lives” as Communists for the FBI for about four years. He said he named more than 50 people in Oakland-Berkeley area he had met personally and identified them as Reds. He also identified 36 organizations as Communist Party clubs during his membership 1945-1949. Dec 03, 1953
Reds Call Labor School ‘Ours,’ Witness Testifies
California Labor School of Alameda County
The California Labor school presented a Russian film “One Day in Soviet Russia” with English narration.
1857 – 1888: Ellis A Haines purchased the property from the Peralta’s
In 1888, Frederick C. Talbot of the San Francisco lumber firm of Pope & Talbot purchased 133- acres from Ellis A. Haines in Elmhurst near San Leandro and adjacent to the Souhter Farm ( now the Dunsmuir Home) for $15,000.
Depending on who wrote it or what you read the total acreage seems to change. Above you will see in one clipping has the total acreage as 133- acres and in the other it as 153 -acres. It has been as high as 453 acres. I have always understood it to be the same land that both the Oakland Zoo and Knowland Park, but who really knows?
Nestled in the hills surrounded by the choicest fruits and flowers, “Edenvale” as the name suggests is a veritable paradise.
The estate was 140-acres (different acreage) of rich land used for farming and orchards. 60 acres were planted with almonds, cherries, oranges, walnuts, lemons, prunes, apricots, peaches and olives. 80 acres of choice farming land.
The garden was laid out with rare trees and a variety of plants and lighted pathways. There was a large pond with a bridge the crossed it. The pond was large enough for a small rowboat.
The main house was a modern elegant colonial structure of 12 rooms, with 4 baths running water and gas throughout. It Burned down in 1921.
There was a large modern stable, a greenhouse, servants quarters. There was a home for the caretaker which is still standing today. A brooder for chickens and pen for pigs. Oakland Tribune Mar 22, 1902
Barn Burns –
Talbot Farm for Sale
R.C. “Cliff” Durant Purchases Estate
Durant purchases the Talbot estate “Edenvale” . The estate comprises of 470-acres (different acreage) and sold for $200,000.
The above says 478-acres and below says 200-acres. They are dated a year apart.
A Map showing the location of R.C Durants/F.C. Talbots Mansion
The Estate Becomes A Park
In 1929 the city of Oakland council voted to purchase the the former country estate of the late F.C. Talbot from the Park Commission. The 350-acres ( different acreage) would cost the city approximately $662,000. That deal fell through. The whole story is confusing . Durant Park opens to the public in 1932.
In 1935 Sidney Snow took possession of the 475-acre (different acreage) Durant Park and started building the zoo. He ran it with a some help from the city of Oakland. – From A History as Told by the Founder’s Daughter”
In 1937 Durant Park is now called the Zoological Gardens and Arboretumof Metropolitan Oakland. I bet they still call it Durant Park.
In 1950 Durant park is dedicated as the “East Bay State Park” under the California park system. In a dedication speech it was noted the there were many trees and plants from F.C Talbot estate and they were included in the Historical Arboretum which is separate park from the Oakland Zoo.
A row of mature Canary Island Date Palms mark the part entry. Stately Mexican Fan Palms, Chilean Palms and exotic Bunya Bunya frees from Australia dot the formal meadows of the existing picnic grounds. These Arboretum’s specimens were planted at the turn of last century (I bet before that) as part of the Talbot Estate grounds. There is also collection of 8 species of palms, native and exotic oaks, redwoods and many other specimens from North Africa, the Himalayas, Chile and the Canary Islands. – From the Zoo Master Plan 1996
In 1962 a fire destroyed building that had been home to Effie the elephant until 1959. The building had been marked unsafe. The building was built in 1890, was part of the Talbot Estate.
The Estate Today
On the below map the large red square shows where most of the estate was . The smaller green box shows the location of caretaker home that was apart of the Talbot Estate. When Sidney Snow ran the zoo he and his family lived there. Now is it used by zoo employees . The meadow by the main gate still has some of trees planted by Talbot over 100 years ago. They are part of theKnowland State Arboretum and Park. I need to check this out.
I am working on getting copies of the real photos as opposed to copies of copies. I am also checking on the what’s up with the Knowland State Arboretum and Park. Does it still exist. I know on real crowded days they allow parking on the meadow, where some of the historic trees are.
Again while researching something else I came across this and I had to share it. I was looking into the Haines Ranch and found this article about Mountain George.
Old Mountain George Died Where He wanted to Die
On the 15th day of July 1887 Jonathan Murphy was riding over the ridge close to (or on) the Haines Ranch (now the Oakland Zoo) or Mills Seminary (now Mills College) when he decided to to check on ‘Old George” at his cabin. He found George dead in his bed. His old gun and hound dog lay by his side. There was a letter addressed to his sister along with other papers scattered on a table in the middle of the room.
Everybody in East Oakland knew the tall, gaunt man with long grey bread as “Mountain George”. But few knew him as George Clinton Tisdale, a former resident of New York. He was about 63 years old and had lived in the hills for years, killing whatever game he could find.
He used to occupy a cabin on the E.A. Haines ranch, but recently had lived in a hut on Colonel Simpson’s ranch, about four miles back of Mills Seminary on the old Redwood Road.