July 4, 2007

Significance of Historical Sites in San Leandro

On January 26, 2000, Community Services Director (now Library Services Director) David Bohne submitted a staff report to City Manager John Jermanis entitled, "Historical Sites in San Leandro and Their Significance." Here is an opportunity to learn about the history of San Leandro as we celebrate the independence of the United States.

The complete text of the staff report is shown below. The photos below were taken in 2007 and are not part of the original report.



Date: January 26, 2000
To: John Jermanis, City Manager
From: David R. Bohne, Community Services Director
Subject: Historical Sites in San Leandro and Their Significance


This report is for information only, and no action is required.


The Library-Historical Commission has identified a variety of historical sites in San Leandro. The attached list is of sites that exist today.


1. Alta Mira Clubhouse
Alta Mira Clubhouse, San Leandro
The first brick house built ill Alameda County, the Peralta home was constructed in 1860 by W. P. Toler for Ignacio Peralta, an early San Leandro Spanish settler. The bricks were handmade from the Alameda Brickyard Slough. The original cost of the home was $3,000. It boasted a four-acre garden surrounded by an ornate iron fence, with a horseshoe-shaped main drive extending to E. 14th Street. The next owner, A. C. Peachy, bought the property in 1875 and added a wooden wing to the rear and front porch. It was covered with stucco in 1909 and was owned by C. L. Best before the Alta Mira Club acquired it in 1926. The home is California Landmark No. 285, and is also registered in the National Register of Historic Places. This was the final home of Ignacio Peralta.

2. Casa Peralta - 384 West Estudillo Avenue
The Casa Peralta was constructed in 1901 and has not been modified since exterior additions were added in 1925, which included many external and additional features of Spanish architecture. Some of the foundations and first floor may pre-date 1901 as remnants of the first dwelling built on this site around 1869; however, the most visible basic structure is that built in 1901. - The entrance and porch are decorated with tiles and adobe bricks from the original Antonio Maria Peralta adobe home in Oakland, dating to 1853. The interior of the Main Building remains exactly as it was designed in 1901. A few dormer windows have been added to the roof for decoration. The principal importance of this site derives from the Peralta family descendents who lived here: Ludovina Peralta Ivey, Maria Peralta Toler, and Herminia Peralta Dargie. The grounds are enhanced by three trees planted by the founder of the Golden Gate Park, John McLaren. The trees were called the "The Three Graces." The house is presently owned by the City and houses our City museum. City docents lead tours of the house and grounds.

3. Little Brown Church
The First Presbyterian Church was always known as "The Little Brown Church" to its members. Rev. James McKinney Alexander dedicated the church in April, 1867. It was the third church building constructed in San Leandro and is the oldest such structure remaining. The church stood on Clarke Street near W. Joaquin. In 1880, a room 12 x 16 feet was added to the church. This addition was the Sunday School and it is the building that you see today. The sanctuary portion of the building was moved to the Ashland area in 1935. It stood near Fairmont Hospital and was used as a church for the Latin community. In the early 1960's the site was needed for a new freeway, and the original Little Brown Church was demolished. The Sunday School building remained behind on Clarke Street. When the Clarke Street lot was sold, this Sunday School Wing was offered to the San Leandro Historical Society, provided that the building be moved. It was placed temporarily on a site on W. Estudillo and then moved to its current home on the back lot of Casa Peralta. Since the wing is all that remains of the original church, this portion is fondly known today as "The Little Brown Church." The redwood building seats about 50 people, its antique door and four stained glass windows are original. It is used by the San Leandro Historical Society as a meeting place.

4. Daniel Best House -1315 Clarke Street
Daniel Best House, 1315 Clarke Street, San Leandro
The Daniel Best home was built in the late 1870's by Joseph Demont. (It is noted that the assessor's office gave a probable 1900 construction date.) The second owner of the building, in 1886, was Daniel Best, an early developer of steam tractors and plows. His tractor firm eventually evolved into the Caterpillar Tractor Co. The home is a two-story Italianate Victorian with 15 rooms and a cellar. Occupying three City lots, the property also includes a large, old-fashioned garden, a Victorian carriage house, and a workshop. The wrought-iron fence was handmade in 1894. Daniel Best lived in the home until his death in 1922. At one time the Best House was a Bed and Breakfast Inn.

5. Manuel Garcia Home -1106 Hyde Street
This home of the first prominent Portuguese settler in San Leandro was built in 1875. Manual Garcia left the Azores aboard a whaling ship when he was only a boy of nine. In 1864, at the age of 14, he jumped ship in San Francisco Bay and ultimately settled in San Leandro. Garcia was the town's first dentist and one of the earliest businessmen. The home was used as both a residence and a business establishment. The original structure has been altered considerably as a result of various renovation projects, including the removal of a front porch and the addition of a side door.

6. Captain William Roberts Home - 526 Lewelling
This building is of notable historic significance as well as architectural value. There is no record of its construction date, but the house is noted on a map of early San Leandro circa 1878. The style is in the second French Empire tradition of Victorian period construction, but the addition of stucco over the original siding lessens its architectural value. Captain Roberts arrived in San Leandro in 1850 and established one of the first bay landings and produce wharves in the county. He built up a thriving trade in grain, vegetables, fruits, hay, and cattle at his landing. This home represents an era of San Leandro history which goes back 130 years - an era of bay landings, oyster beds, grain wharves, hay schooners, lumber shipments from San Leandro redwoods, fruit orchards, salt ponds, cucumber fields, general stores, and family life. Currently, there are plans for a hotel on the property with the house preserved and used for the caretaker or office.

7. Southern Pacific Railroad Station - 801 Davis Street
This railroad station was built in 1898. From the beginning, San Leandro was an important station. Southern Pacific's records show an agency and telegraph office located here as early as the 1870's. It is reminiscent of the single most important factor in the growth and development of San Leandro, the coming of the railroads in the late 19th century. The station is one of the last such buildings that served farmers and commuters in California before the arrival of autos and electric railways. Various interior alterations were made in 1953.

8. Little "Shul" - 642 Dolores (rear)
This is the first synagogue in San Leandro and possibly in the East Bay area. It is the fourth house of worship built in San Leandro and is in excellent condition. In 1889, $1 was paid by the San Leandro Hebrew Congregation for the land at 59 Chumalia Street upon which the Shul was built. The early Jewish residents who formed the San Leandro Hebrew congregation were prominent businessmen arid civic leaders. Sunday School classes arid religious services were held at the Little Shul for many years, attracting Jewish families from Hayward to Richmond. As San Leandro's population swelled during Second World War, it was obvious to the membership of the Little Shul that changes were needed. In 1949, construction of a larger synagogue began on this site. The Little Shul was moved from the Chumalia location by the Congregation of Temple Beth Sholom and beautifully restored at its present location behind the Temple Beth Sholom.

9. Holy Ghost Chapel and IDES Hall - 790 Antonio
Holy Ghost Chapel and IDES Hall, San Leandro
This site has been a Portuguese Community Center since 1889 and has been used ever since for the Holy Ghost celebration on Pentecost Sunday. The chapel was built in 1895. The initials I.D.E.S. translate as Brotherhood of the Division Spirit. The I.D.E.S. hall and chapel of Alvarado Street received its charter in 1882. The man most responsible for its establishment was Joseph Frances Focha. Born in the Azores, he immigrated to the United States aboard a whaling vessel. He and many other Azorean settlers in the San Leandro area raised funds for this land and this chapel and hall as a place to hold celebrations. Joseph and two of his brothers erected the buildings. The Holy Ghost Festa has been held here since 1882. The Holy Ghost Association moved from Dutton Avenue to the IDES Hall (originally an old barn) in 1889.

10. Tree at corner of Juana and Bancroft Avenues
This unusually shaped tree marks the site of the Gooch Estate and is considered to be of historical interest to many San Leandro citizens.

11. Best Building - Estudillo and East 14th Street
The Daniel Best Building had its formal opening on April 1, 1911. This neo-classical building was of mat-glazed terra cotta with a reinforced steel structure. The E. 14th Street side had an eight-foot arcade supported by 16-foot pillars. The arcade's floor was tiled and French glass was used throughout. The wainscoting of the lower floor and the stair entrances were of imported marble. The Best Building was restored to most of its former glory in 1973-1974 by the Best Building Partnership.

12. 308 West Joaquin Avenue. ,
The house on this site, built in 1896, is typical of California homes built in the 1890's. Its architecture is commonly referred to as the San Francisco style, which combines a variety of Victorian characteristics. Often, only the "freaks" and/or magnificent mansions of a given period are preserved, rather than the common homes that more accurately reflect an architectural and historical period. This "strick style" example of San Francisco architecture combines the scollops, stained glass, bay window and porch ornamentation into a conservative version of the Queen Anne design built during the Victorian period.

13. 1363 Hays Street
The blacksmith shop fronting on Hays Street and located at the rear of 308 West Joaquin Avenue has educational value as an illustration of one of the many home craft endeavors common to the turn of the century and since given way to mass productions.

14. 857 Estudillo Avenue
This home, built around 1890, is a reminder of a typical family home around the turn of the century. The house reflects elements on Italianate design with its bracketed rusticated corner quoins and pedimented window hoods. The carport is a modern addition.

15. 678 Juana Avenue
678 Juana Avenue, San Leandro - a Victorian home
This refurbished Victorian home adds flavor and color to the city. Because of the intriguing color combinations used, restored Victorian homes have been referred to as painted ladies. Victorian architecture as such does not really exist. It is a merging of a number of styles combined in many different ways. This house is a combination of Queen Anne and Eastlake, a style that was very popular from 1870 to 1890. The house, built in 1890, has boxed eaves and channel rustic siding.

16. 397 Maud Avenue
397 Maud Avenue, San Leandro
The comparatively plain house on this site is one of many built in the 1880's. It is an early Italianate style with a bay window, channel siding and a partial Mansard roof. The roof design represents the second empire styling, popular from the 1860's to the 1880's. During its restoration, the owners discovered two roof lines, leading to speculation that the present house may be an enlargement of an earlier structure. This one probably was built around 1880.

17. 310-312 Warren Avenue
The style of this structure, Queen Anne Revival, is the most frequently encountered form of Victorian architecture .. The house was built circa 1900 and is not pure in design as it exhibits details of other styles such as Eastlake and Romanesque. . The house was converted to two units in 1954.

18. 659 Estudillo Avenue
659 Estudillo Avenue, San Leandro - a Modern Colonial Revival home
This home is an example of the Modern Colonial Revival style. Notice the boxed eaves, oval window, mitered comers, and porch columns. The siding is lap and rustic. The garage is new and added in 1960. The house was built circa 1910.

19. Orchard Street Neighborhood (Kanaka Lane),
1348 Orchard Street
1349 Orchard Street
1350 Orchard Street
1364 Orchard Street
1376-78 Orchard Street
1427 Orchard Street
1470 Orchard Street
The historical-architectural value of these properties lies in their combination as a "period neighborhood." The area was settled and built by Portuguese immigrants. The sign reads "Orchard Avenue" but many know this street as "Kanaka Lane" or "Little Portugal." The names recall the settlers, who came from the Azores (Western Islands), the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and Portugal. San Leandro is infinitely richer for its Portuguese heritage. The people form a close-knit community. Family ties, religious beliefs, common language, and valued traditions are respected and honored. Like other ethnic groups, today's Portuguese strive to preserve their proud heritage despite great population shifts and ever-growing assimilation.

20. 444 Harlan Street
444 Harlan Street, San Leandro -home with a water tank house
Once, water tank houses like this example were far more common than they are today. The water tank is located at the rear of this property and originally was used to store water from a well below. It is typical of Northern California water tanks in that it has a "house" built around the tank - a pleasing architectural bonus not found in rural areas.

21. 383 Preda Street
This structure represents part of Northern California's unique vernacular architecture. Unlike most rural water tanks, this is enclosed by a "house," quite detailed in structure and style. Such water tank houses are rapidly disappearing from East Bay urban areas and should be preserved for their educational value, as well as for architectural attention.

22. 254 Callan Avenue
This structure represented part of Northern California's unique vernacular architecture. Unlike most rural water tanks, this is enclosed by a "house," quite detailed in structure and style. Such water tank houses are rapidly disappearing from East Bay urban areas and should be preserved for their educational value, as well as for architectural attention. This structure was torn down during the early 1980's.

23. 647 Juana Avenue - Redwood Trees
Redwood tree at 647 Juana Avenue, San Leandro
The redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) on this site and on the grounds of Bancroft Junior High School are over a century old and represent the last sizable redwoods that once covered much of the East Bay hills. Many early San Leandro buildings were constructed from local redwood. Early descriptions of this area did not mention any large tall trees. We must assume that these redwoods were not indigenous to this site.

24. 651 Juana Avenue - Redwood Trees
The redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) on this site and on the grounds of Bancroft Junior High School are over a century old and represent the last sizable redwoods that once covered much of the East Bay hills. Many early San Leandro buildings were constructed from local redwood. Early descriptions of this area did not mention any large tall trees. We must assume that these redwoods were not indigenous to this site.

25. Old Lamplighter's Home - 28 Dabner Street
Old Lamplighter's Home, 28 Dabner Street, San Leandro
The "Dabner's Addition," currently Dabner Street, was originally filed with Alameda County on May 16, 1871, just prior to San Leandro's incorporation in 1872. A study of county records revealed that the first house built in that new addition was built around 1872 on the northeasterly corner of Dabner and Davis Streets. The original owners were Mr. and Mrs. P. Mattos. Mr. Mattos was the new town's first official "lamplighter" for that neighborhood. In 1921, the home was moved back 75 feet to its present location at 28 Dabner Street. Prior to World War II, the house was owned by a Japanese family and used as a church when the family was sent to a relocation center. The home was also owned by the Mario Polvorosa family. The house is a two story wood frame structure. Its foundation is constructed of handmade brick and the house itself lies on 6 x 6 timbers on the brick foundation. Dabner Street was named for John Pimental Dabner who came from the Azores to San Leandro in the 1860's.

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at July 4, 2007 12:30 PM | TrackBack

This web page has more information, presented in more detail than the web page of the San Leandro Historical Center. thank you

Posted by: Jeffery Babineau at March 8, 2009 8:19 PM

My ancestors(Dabner and Focha) on my mother's side are the ones involved in the Dabner house and the Portuguese Community Center

Posted by: Roger W. Oeding at December 28, 2010 9:36 PM

Where are the pictures of the Spanish Hall? I remember sitting on the big lions out front. My mother told me Rita Hayworth, under her real name, sang there.
That is worth remembering.

Posted by: Roanna Costa Krisko at December 20, 2011 2:18 PM
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