Map of Oakland and vicinity: Alameda, Berkeley, Fruitvale and Piedmont.
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The most spectacular early map of the East Bay that we have ever seen, plotting everything from shell mounds to railroads to real estate holdings and more.
A rich tapestry of real estate holdings, property tracks, public works, and long-lost railroads, this is a gorgeous late 19th century folding map of the East Bay. It constitutes an important document for the history of Albany, Berkeley, Oakland, Piedmont, Brooklyn Township, and Alameda. It measures an impressive 34 inches wide by 27 inches tall, folds up on its original linen and comes with its original case. The map’s combination of lovely original color and intricate details means that it would make both an excellent display piece and a key addition to any serious collection of Californiana.
Large-format maps centered on Oakland began to appear from the 1870s. Many were linked to William J. Dingee, the so-called “Cement King,” one of the dominant California businessmen of his era. Dingee is responsible for our map as well, as is apparent by the prominent appearance of his name in the title. Dingee’s wealth came from real estate and water rights, and thus it comes as no surprise that the map meticulously details the names of property owners throughout the area. In doing so, the map provides a snapshot of the East Bay’s complex settlement history, at a time when it was growing at a dramatic pace.
Albany and Berkeley
Looking more closely at the map, we start in the north, where the scope extends as far as present-day Albany. We see a large swathe of undeveloped land marked “Pacific Improvement Company,” which was an affiliate of the powerful Southern Pacific Railroad. The town of Albany was incorporated in 1908; the original name of the City of Ocean View was changed in 1909. Our map depicts a kind of proto-Albany, where the most prominent feature is the California and Nevada Railroad line running north off map to El Sobrante. The president of the California and Nevada R.R. was J.S. Emery, namesake of the town of Emeryville. Running parallel to the tracks we find San Pablo Avenue, a lonely dirt cart road at the time. The rest of the area is relatively featureless – even Solano Avenue has yet to be planned.
At the limits between Albany and Berkeley, we see the neighborhood of Peralta Park, the fascinating history of which we explored for this 1878 subdivision map. Peralta Park was created for real estate development purposes, and in this sense, it is indicative of the broader story told by our map. Moving into Berkeley proper, we find a significantly developed street grid, filled with homesteads, private plots, and tracts of all sizes. The prevalence of the name ‘Peralta’ serves as a reminder that this area was once all part of Luis Maria Peralta’s massive Rancho San Antonio, granted to him by the Spanish Crown.
By the time our map was published, much of the land had been purchased by a new generation of American businessmen, many of whom were born in the eastern United States and made their way out West in the decades following the Gold Rush. The natural landscape was transformed at a relentless pace, and population growth and settlement brought its familiar institutions. The private College of California collaborated with the State of California to acquire a large section of land astride Strawberry Creek at the base of the Berkeley hills. On our map this area is labeled simply ‘State University,’ but of course we know it today as the University of California at Berkeley. Surrounding the university we find several large land holdings by the Alameda Water Company, a reminder of the varied interests staking claim to this vital corridor of development. Nearby we find the “Asylum for Deaf, Dumb & Blind,” which was founded in 1867, and a large plot of land belonging to John Ballard. A portion of this property would become the site of the famous Claremont Hotel (Ballard sold the land in 1905 to Louis Titus on behalf of the Claremont Hotel Company for approximately $37,500).
Oakland, Emeryville, and Piedmont
Shifting south into Oakland, we find an even more complex palimpsest of ownership demarcations. Temescal Creek runs down the hills from the Contra Costa Water Company reservoir, flowing southwest towards the Bay. Before it reached the shore, however, the creek was directed into an underground culvert beneath a feature labeled ‘Oakland Trotting Park.’ This was a mile long racetrack built in 1871 by Edward Wiard, at which gambling was legal. Much of the old Trotting Park land now comprises the campus of Pixar Animation Studios. The track was renamed as the ‘New California Jockey Club’ in 1896, which helps us understand that our map was published before that year. Also in 1896, the town of Emeryville was incorporated, and the racetrack fell within the limits of the new town. This change also occurred after our map was published, which simply depicts plots owned by J.S. Emery, the aforementioned president of the California and Nevada Railroad.
Adjacent to the Oakland Trotting Park, between it and the shoreline, we find Shell Mound Park. Today known as the ‘Emeryville Shellmound,’ this was a ceremonial burial site for native Ohlone, a Native American people of the Northern California coastal region. The mound was over sixty feet tall and three hundred fifty feet in diameter, built up over millennia by piling up discarded shellfish and animal remains. Visitors from all over the Bay Area came to the large amusement park that operated on the site from the 1870s to 1924. All that remains today is a small memorial located in the Bay Street Shopping Center in Emeryville.
For its part, Piedmont was still a decade away from incorporation when this map was published. We find much of this area, especially higher up on the hills, owned by powerful interests, including an area called ‘Piedmont Heights’ – owned by Dingee himself. Other interests include the Piedmont Springs Water & Power Company, Red Gate Farm, and the estate of Walter Blair. Running through the Blair Ranch, the mapmaker has traced the Piedmont Cable Company rail line. This cable car railway was constructed in 1890 and ran up to the Piedmont Springs Hotel, also marked on the map. It included a gravity loop that began at the end of Vernal Avenue. The railway was privately owned by the Blair Family at the time our map was published. Also delineated is Mountain View Cemetery, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and is the resting place of a long list of notable figures.
Alameda and Brooklyn Township
As we move further south towards Alameda, a notable feature is the number of railroad lines in this area. This includes Southern Pacific Coast Railroad lines extending out along the long wharves into San Francisco Bay. Long before the construction of the Bay Bridge, these wharves represented the terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad. For a passenger traveling across the nation, this was the penultimate stop; from here he or she would take a short ferry ride to San Francisco. The map depicts proposed lines, rights-of-way, and important real estate holdings belonging to the railroads.
Interestingly, the waterway separating Alameda from the mainland is labeled ‘Oakland Harbor’ rather than the traditional San Antonio Creek. This designation likely reflects the expansive development taking place along the waterfront. This was an era in which all throughout San Francisco Bay, water lots were surveyed, sold, and infilled to create new investment opportunities. This was certainly true of the East Bay; indeed, large sections of the map colored purple were designated to be reclaimed, and the mapmaker has already superimposed a street grid over some areas. One need only compare the size of Alameda shown on the map with its present-day limits to see the extent to which marsh land and water lots comprise the foundation of the modern town.
Across the ship canal we see the district of Brooklyn, which was named to commemorate the ship that brought Mormon settlers to California in 1846. Brooklyn was founded in 1856 and annexed by Oakland in 1872. Nearby, at the water’s edge, is Bay Farm Island, home to today’s Oakland International Airport (on expanded reclaimed land). The salt marsh that formerly extended between this island and the mainland was drained and infilled, turning the former island into a peninsula at the same time that Alameda was separated from the mainland by the Tidal Canal, which connected the Oakland Estuary to San Leandro Bay.
This map was engraved as a chromolithograph by the H.S. Crocker Company in San Francisco. It is rarely available for sale on the antiquarian map market. It was sponsored by William J. Dingee and compiled from official surveys and records by T. W. Morgan, City Engineer of Oakland.
Separated from cover, some discoloration and spotting on map. Backed on original linen. Cover splitting and worn.