Alameda is a city in Alameda County, California, United States. It is located on Alameda Island and Bay Farm Island, and is adjacent to and west of Oakland and in eastern San Francisco Bay across from San Francisco and South San Francisco. Bay Farm Island, a portion of which is also known as "Harbor Bay Isle", is not truly an island and is connected to the mainland adjacent to the Oakland International Airport. At the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 73,812. Alameda is a charter city, rather than a general law city, meaning that the city can provide for any form of government. Alameda became a charter city and adopted a council-manager government in 1916, which it retains to the present.
The island that Alameda occupies was originally a peninsula connected to Oakland. Much of the peninsula was low-lying and marshy, but on higher ground the peninsula and adjacent parts of what is now downtown Oakland were home to one of the largest coastal oak forests in the world. The area was therefore called Encinal, Spanish for "oak grove". Alameda is Spanish for "grove of poplar trees" or "tree-lined avenue", and was chosen in 1853 by popular vote.
The inhabitants at the time of the arrival of the Spanish in the late 18th Century were a local band of the Ohlone tribe. The peninsula became part of the vast Rancho San Antonio granted to Luis Peralta by the Spanish king who claimed California. The grant was later confirmed by the new Republic of Mexico upon its independence from Spain.
Over time, the place became known as Bolsa de Encinal or Encinal de San Antonio.
The city was founded on June 6, 1853, and originally three small settlements were located in the town. "Alameda" referred to the village at Encinal and High Streets, Hibbardsville was at the North Shore ferry and shipping terminal, and Woodstock was on the west near the ferry piers of the South Pacific Coast Railroad and the Central Pacific. Eventually, the Central Pacific's ferry pier became the Alameda Mole, featuring transit connections between San Francisco ferries, local trollies and Southern Pacific (formerly Central Pacific) commuter lines.
The first post office opened in 1854. The San Francisco and Alameda Railroad opened the Encinal station in 1864. The Encinal area was also known as Fasskings Station in honor of Frederick Louis Fassking. Encinal's own post office opened in 1876, was renamed West End in 1877, and closed in 1891. The West End area was originally called Bowman's Point in honor of Charles G. Bowman, an early settler.
The Alameda Terminal was the site of the arrival of the first train via the First Transcontinental Railroad into the San Francisco Bay Area on September 6, 1869. The transcontinental terminus was switched to the Oakland Mole two months later, on November 8, 1869.
The borders of Alameda were made co-extensive with the island in 1872, incorporating Woodstock into Alameda.
In 1917, an attraction called Neptune Beach was built in the area now known as Crab Cove. Often compared to Coney Island, the park was a major attraction in the 1920s and 1930s. The original owners of the facility, the Strehlow family, partnered with a local confectioner to create tastes unique to Neptune Beach. It is not widely known that both the American snow cone and the popsicle were first sold at Neptune Beach. The Kewpie doll, handpainted and dressed in unique hand-sewn dresses, became the original prize for winning games at the beach – another Neptune Beach invention. The Strehlows owned and operated the beach on their own, even filling in a section of the bay to add an additional Olympic-size swimming pool and an exceptional roller coaster which must have given riders a tremendous view of the bay. The Cottage Baths were available for rent.
Neptune Beach's two huge outdoor pools hosted swimming races and exhibitions by famous swimmers such as Olympian Johnny Weismuller, who later starred as the original Tarzan, and Jack LaLanne, who started a chain of health clubs. The park closed down in 1939 because of the Great Depression, the completion of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, people circumventing paying the admission price and in general, the rise of car culture. Once the Bay Bridge was complete, the rail lines, which ran right past the entrance to Neptune Beach on the way to the Alameda Mole and the Ferry, lost riders in droves. People began using their cars to escape the city and the immediate suburbs like Alameda and traveling further afield in California. Alameda lost its resort status as more distant locations became more attractive to cash-rich San Francisco tourists. Youngsters in town became aware of ways to avoid paying the dime for admission to the park. Strong swimmers or even waders could sneak in on the bay side, just by swimming around the fence.
Some of the resort homes and buildings from the Neptune beach era still exist in present-day Alameda. The Croll Building, on the corner of Webster Street and Central Avenue, was the site of Croll's Gardens and Hotel, famous as training quarters for the some of the greatest fighters in boxing history from 1883 to 1914. James J. Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jim Jefferies, Jack Johnson, and many other champions all stayed and trained here. Today this beautiful preserved building is home to Croll's Pizza and the 1400 Bar & Grill Restaurant. Neptune Court, just a block away on the corner of Central Ave. and McKay Ave., provides another glimpse of what resort life was like in Alameda in the 1920s. A short walk near Crab Cove will reveal many more historic gems.
The vast majority of the Neptune Beach structures – the hand-carved carousel from the world-famed Dentzel Company, the Ferris wheel, the roller coaster, and other rides – were auctioned off in 1940 for mere pennies on the dollar of their original cost. Today, Alameda resident Michael Schiess seeks to preserve some of the historic artifacts from the Neptune Beach era at the Neptune Beach Amusement Museum. A consequence of the Neptune Beach closing around 1940 was a total dearth of quality, clean swimming facilities in town. A grass roots effort to create swimming pools at two high schools and two city parks would continue into the early 1960s.
When the railroad came to town in the 1860s Park Street developed into the major thoroughfare of the city and the location of the main Alameda train station, residents of Old Alameda pulled up stakes and moved across town to the new downtown. The street's location was chosen by two landowners who wished to attract tenants and development to their land. As a result they designated their mutual property line as Park Street.
The need for expanded shipping facilities led to the dredging of a canal through the marshland between Oakland and Alameda in 1902, turning Alameda into an island. Most of the soil from the canal was used to fill in nearby marshland. The area of Alameda called Bay Farm Island is no longer an island, but is attached by fill to Oakland. In his youth, author Jack London was known to take part in oyster pirating in the highly productive oyster beds near Bay Farm Island, today long gone. The Alameda Works Shipyard was one of the largest and best equipped shipyards in the country. In the 1950s, Alameda's industrial and ship building industries thrived along the Alameda Estuary, where the world's first-ever, land-based, containerized shipping crane was used. Today, the Port of Oakland across the estuary serves as one of the largest ports on the West Coast, using the shipping technologies originally experimented with in Alameda. As of March 21, 2006, Alameda is a "Coast Guard City," one of seven in the country.
In addition to the regular trains running to the Alameda Mole, Alameda was also served by local steam commuter lines of the Southern Pacific (initially, the Central Pacific) which were later transformed into the East Bay Electric Lines. Southern Pacific's electrified trains were not streetcars, but full-sized railroad cars which connected to the mainland by bridges at Webster Street and Fruitvale (only the latter bridge survives today). The trains ran to both the Oakland Mole and the Alameda Mole. In fact, one line which ran between the two moles was dubbed the "Horseshoe Line" for the shape of the route on a map. Soon after the completion of the Bay Bridge, Alameda trains ran directly to San Francisco on the lower deck of the bridge, the ferries having been rendered unnecessary. Alameda was the site of the Southern Pacific's West Alameda Shops where all the electric trains were maintained and repaired.
In the 1930s Pan American Airways established a seaplane port along the fill that led to the Alameda Mole. This was the original home base for the famous China Clipper flying boat. In 1929, the University of California established the San Francisco Airdrome located near the current Webster Street tube as a public airport. The Bay Airdrome had its gala christening party in 1930. The airfield was a busy place, as an early home base for Coastal Air Freight, Varney Air Lines, West Coast Air Transport, Western Air Express, the transbay Air Ferries, and Boeing's Pacific Air Transport. The Airdrome was closed in 1941 when its air traffic interfered with the newly built Naval Air Station Alameda (NAS Alameda). With the advent of World War II, a vast stretch of the marshy area southwest of the Alameda Mole was filled and the NAS Alameda established. This major Naval facility included a large airfield, as well as docks for several aircraft carriers. It closed in 1997.
In the late 1950s the Utah Construction Company began a land fill beyond the Old Sea Wall and created South Shore.