History of Alameda


What and where is Alameda?

Alameda is a city in the state of California, situated in Alameda County, located on the Alameda and Bay Farm islands. To more easily spot Alameda, you can find it near the San Francisco Bay Area on the east and Oakland on the west.


American Indian early inhabitants and the Spanish claim to the island

Location in the state of California and Alameda County


Alameda, like the city itself, has a very interesting history to offer. Alameda is a 2,200 acre peninsula connected to Oakland. The Miwok or Ohlone Indians used to live in what is now known as Alameda for about 3500 years until the Spaniards arrived in the late 18th century. A man named Luis Peralta was gifted with 35 square miles of land – the vast Rancho San Antonio – as part of the land grant from the Spanish king who claimed California. The Rancho San Antonio’s expanse included portions of El Cerrito, Berkeley, Albany, Piedmont and Alameda. Don Luis later divided the land between his surviving sons. One of his sons was Antonio Maria Peralta, who claimed Alameda and much of Oakland.


Land grant confirmed by Mexico

The country that is now called Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1821. Upon its independence Mexico later confirmed the land grant. Over time, the place was later named Bolsa de Encinal or Encinal de San Antonio or simply Encinal. Encinal is a Spanish word that means “forest of evergreen oak.” Encinal’s connection with trees is not too far from Alameda, which means “grove of poplar trees” or “tree-lined avenue.”


Growing communities in Alameda; the town’s incorporation

In 1850, a man named William Worthington Chapman arrived in San Francisco via Panama. He struck a partnership with a man named Gideon Aughinbaugh. Together the two men bought 160 acres of Encinal from Don Antonio Peralta for $14,000 in 1851. From there, three communities were established: Encinal, Old Alameda, and Woodstock. These settlements made up of the town simply called Alameda, the name which was chosen through a popular vote in 1853. In 1854, the town was finally incorporated as a city, and in the same year Alameda’s first post office opened its doors to the public.

Many immigrants had come to Alameda, and they were of diverse ethnic groups: Italians, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Germans, Scandinavians and other Europeans. They made a life there by raising their own farms, working for wealthy families, being employed as handymen and gardeners, building the Transcontinental Railroad, and working on the Alaska Packers fleet.



The building of Alameda

As the construction of the San Francisco and Alameda railroads took place, Alameda was slowly growing its own kind of prosperity. The Encinal train station was built in 1864, and some years later establishments such as schools, churches, and stores began popping up in the area. The first bridge there, built in 1874, was a wooden cantilever bridge that put a boundary between Alameda and Oakland. The rail and ferry services contributed to the town’s development. The Alameda pier was built in 1884 and featured a transportation connection for rails to ferries. The Central and Southern Pacific railroads merged in 1894, leading the pier to be called as the Alameda Mole. In 1872, Woodstock became part of Alameda.

During the First World War, Alameda’s shipbuilding industry first began and developed, thanks to the generous funds and support from Moore, Bethlehem Steel and Todd companies.


The Alameda Theatre in 2006 prior to expansion and restoration


Growth of establishments in Alameda, and the Neptune Beach

Alameda continued to grow and prosper. Along with the business establishments, there came the development of recreation and sporting events. Parks were made, and resorts that were built along the coastline providing “baths” for people to swim, starting with the establishment with the Terrace Baths in 1870 and the Cottage Baths in 1893. These baths were frequently attended by celebrities, from stage and film stars to renowned book authors.

Neptune Beach, the city’s amusement park, was built in 1894 on the San Francisco Bay shore. It occupied an area now known as the Crab Cove, and provided a nice place for private picnics with more amenities such as a clubhouse, a couple of outdoor pools, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and barbeque pits. Its most famous attractions were the hand-carved carousel and the giant Ferris wheel. Neptune Beach was often compared to New York’s Coney Island. But Alameda lost its “resort appeal” when more distant places became more attractive to the more moneyed San Francisco visitors. Neptune was closed in 1939 and was auctioned off a year later.


Advancements in transportation

In 1928, a passenger airport was established in Alameda. The Pan American Airways built and operated the famous China Clippers – which were Martin M-130 flying boats, very much like seaplanes that were running on four engines – for commercial flights over the Pacific. In 1935, a China Clipper took off from Alameda on its bid to deliver the first airmail cargo across the Pacific Ocean.

Alameda was also once home to the now-non-existent companies which flourished then: the Borax Soap Company, Pacific and Standard Oil, and the original terminal for the Central Pacific Railroad.

Steam commuter lines also came to Alameda, provided by the Southern Pacific Transportation Company (which was formerly Central Pacific). These steam-run commuter lines were transformed into trains that were generated by electricity, which was provided by the now-defunct East Bay Electric Lines. These trains were not streetcars or trams that you usually see in San Francisco, but were actual railroad trains that ran to both Alameda Mole and Oakland Moles.


Alameda as a Navy city

Alameda made its mark as a Navy city when the Alameda Naval Air Station (NAS Alameda) officially opened its doors in November 1940. This naval airfield operated for the next 56 years until its closure in 1997, and is now a tourist spot (where its main attraction is the aircraft carrier USS Hornet) or, occasionally, a film shooting location. However, since 2000 the Alameda city government has been exerting efforts to re-develop the naval air station.


The Naval Air Station Alameda, California, USA, about 1946-1947.



1973 disaster

A tragedy occurred in 1973 when a fighter jet, doing its routine training mission from the Naval Air Station Lemoore, suddenly caught fire in mid-air. It plummeted toward Alameda, finally crashing into the city’s Tahoe Apartments. Eleven people, including the pilot, perished in the crash and the fire.


1973 air disaster


Alameda today

During the Second World War, Alameda’s population multiplied. In 2010, Alameda reported its population count of 73,812. As of 2014, Alameda is home to 75,500 (estimated) residents of different races and ethnic groups. This has made Alameda a melting pot of diverse races and cultures.

Now, Alameda is a prosperous, vibrant city. The city’s strategic location and proximity to the San Francisco Bay has made Alameda not only as a place for business and commerce, but also a place for recreation, entertainment, arts and culture.