Alameda History

Alameda was dubbed Bolsa de Encinal by Spanish explorers because it was a peninsula shaped like a purse (bolsa) and covered with oak groves (encinal). The area was a small portion of the Rancho de San Antonio , five leagues of land (about 45,000 acres) granted in 1820 by Spain to Don Luis Peralta for his meritorious service as a soldier.

In 1842 Peralta subdivided the land, giving Bolsa de Encinal to his son Antonio. The peninsula was used for cattle grazing until the 1849 Gold Rush, whose zealous argonauts needed sustenance and fuel. Demand for these commodities spurred San Francisco entrepreneurs to cross the Bay, where they leased much of Bolsa de Encinal to cultivate fruits and vegetables and to cut down oaks for firewood and charcoal.

In 1851 attorney William Chipman and carpenter Gideon Aughinbaugh established a town called Alameda (avenue of trees) at the east end of the peninsula. Later, other villages grew up: Woodstock in the west end and Encinal in the middle. The three were incorporated as the City of Alameda under the charter of 1872.

Excellent transportation and temperate weather made Alameda a popular home for San Francisco commuters. A.A. Cohen's steam railroad and ferry line began service in 1864; the South Pacific Coast Railroad opened up in 1878. Eventually taken over by the Southern Pacific, both lines stopped at fetchingly designed stations, whose locations are commemorated by signs along Lincoln , Encinal, and Central Avenues. Clusters of homes and commercial, civic, and religious structures were built. Thousands of these structures are still intact, a remarkable legacy for a city as small as Alameda .

Alameda became an island in 1902, when completion of a tidal canal severed the peninsula from Oakland . Later developments included the now demolished Neptune Beach amusement park at the foot of Webster Street and major bayfill projects-the Naval Air Station (1940), South Shore (1950s), and Bay Farm Island tidelands (1960s).

[Sources: Alameda: A Geographical History by Imelda Merlin, 1878 Historical Atlas of Alameda County, Historic Commercial Buildings of Alameda by Woodruff C. Minor.]