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 –

Posted in Early Montclair, History, Home Building, People

Residents of Hays Canyon – Now Montclair

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.

From Google Maps

Hays Canyon Road is now known as Moraga Avenue

Hays Canyon is now Montclair.

In 1891, the S.F. Call described Hays Canyonthe romantic valley just beyond the ridge that receives its name from the famous Colonel Jack Hays” and “the beautiful home of W. J. Dingee” and the “fine places of Mrs Kohler, Judge E.M Gibson and Mrs. Fields and others.

S F Call – Mar 22, 1891

Colonel John C. Hays – Fernwood

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

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.

Athens of the Pacific” 1896

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

After the Fernwood burned Mrs. Adeline Percy built a modern log cabin on the property. In the 1920s the property was sold and subdivided.

Oakland Tribune March 12, 1916
Yellow arrow Percy Log Cabin, green arrow pool, blue arrow tennis courts.
Oakland Tribune Aug 19, 1923

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.

Map showing the locations of the Gibson and Fields land
Oakland Tribune April 23, 1887
Oakland Tribune Jun 1888
Oakland Directory 1889
Oakland Tribune 1888
1891

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.

Oakland Tribune April 16, 1890
SF Chronicle Jan 25,,1891

Mrs. C.A. Kohler – Glen Kohler

Glen Kohler the home of Mrs.. Kohler was located about where Thornhill Drive, Pinehaven Road and Woodhaven Way meet.

Cordelia A. (“CA”) Kohler was the widow of Andrew Kohler (1819-1885) of Kohler & Chase Pianos,  who had a fine home Hays Canyon on Thorn Road (Thornhill Drive) she named it  Glen Kohler.

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.

Oakland Tribune Oct 17 1885

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.

Oakland Tribune Nov 14, 1885
Oakland Tribune Feb 12, 1886
S F Call Nov 29, 1894

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).

More on Hays Canyon

The End

Posted in Montclair, Oakland, People

Living Double-Lives in Montclair

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

Wilmington Daily Press Apr 23 1953

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.

Oakland Tribune Dec 1953

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.

Double Lives

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

Santa Cruz Sentinel Dec 02, 1953
Oakland Tribune April 16 1953

Reds Call Labor School ‘Ours,’ Witness Testifies

Oakland TribuneJan 26 1956
Oakland Tribune Jan 25, 1956

California Labor School of Alameda County

Oakland Tribune Sep 17,1944

The California Labor school presented a Russian film “One Day in Soviet Russia” with English narration.

Oakland Tribune Aug 12 1945

Lectures on the ‘Roots of Fascism’

Oakland Tribune Nov 29, 1945

More Info:

The End

Posted in Buildings, East Oakland, History, Oakland, People, Uncategorized

Edenvale – The Talbot Estate

From Eden of the Pacific, Oakland Tribune 1898

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. 

San Francisco Chronicle Jul 28, 1888
Oakland Tribune Jul 30,1888

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?

Oakland Tribune aug 08, 1890
Oakland Tribune Sept 14, 1888

Edenvale –

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.

Talbot Home –
Cheney Photo Advertising
C 1915
View of Edenvale from the hillside
Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History 
OutWest
A Magazine – Of The Old Pacific and The New
Page 125 -July 1907


In the picture you can see the caretakers home in back (the taller one). This house is still standing today.

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

Unknown Talbot Family Members at EdenVale c 189?
Photo by I.W. Taber
Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History 

Barn Burns –

San Francisco Dec 21, 1901
Oakland Tribune May 18,1900

Talbot Farm for Sale

Oakland Tribune March 10, 1902
Town Talk March 22, 1902
Note it is 140 acres

Meanwhile…

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.

Oakland Tribune Nov 25 1919
San Francisco Examiner Feb 08, 1920

The above says 478-acres and below says 200-acres. They are dated a year apart.

Oakland Tribune Nov 23, 1919
Oakland Tribune Dec 21, 1921

A Map showing the location of R.C Durants/F.C. Talbots Mansion

Oakland Tribune 1921

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.

Oakland Tribune April 19, 1929

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 Arboretum of Metropolitan Oakland. I bet they still call it Durant Park.

Oakland Tribune May 22, 1950
To read the entire article go here

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.

Oakland Tribune 1957
The row of Canary Island Palms

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 1951 the park was renamed “Joseph Knowland State Arboretum and Park . Now called Knowland State Arboretum and Park and the Oakland Zoo.

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 the Knowland State Arboretum and Park. I need to check this out.

From the Zoo Master Plan 1996
Sidney Snow’s Home
Circa 1939
Google Map 2019 showing the caretakers home still standing in Knowland Park

Links :

A couple of things:

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.

The End for now..

Posted in East Oakland, History, People

Old Mountain George

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.

First Dentist in Oakland?

I will have to research this.

Note on cabin door “Man shot in the Gulch”

Autopsy on “Mountain George”

San Francisco Examiner July 22, 1887

A “suitable burial” in the Potter’s Field.

San Francisco Examiner July 1887
Oakland Tribune July 22, 1887

More on Mountain George

Oakland Daily Evening Tribune July 16, 1887

Mountain George Arrested before for stealing a Cow

Oakland Tribune May 1879

El Sobrante Ranch – Mountain George – Oakland Daily Evening Tribune Aug 30, 1880

1880 Federal Census he lists himself as a hunter.

I will probably be updating this sometime soon.

The End