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Sterling Avenue: What’s in a Name

Alameda Post - George Sterling and Jack London
Two of Alameda’s streets honor early 20th-century writers. Pictured on the far left is George Sterling. Jack London is seated second from right. This week we look into Sterling Avenue on the East End. Pictured with Sterling and London are writers Mary Austin and Jimmie Hooper. Photo Arnold Genthe.

In 1916 Dr. Chauncey Penwell Pond and his wife, Josephine Kibby Pond, filed a plat map with Alameda County. They had purchased the Hawley tract on the East side of High Street, South of Central Avenue.

Chauncey was born in Alameda on June 14, 1885, to Dr. Henry May and Jessie Stella Penwell Pond. Both his parents were California natives. Chauncey’s father was born in Downieville. His mother hailed from St. Helena. Henry and Josephine both graduated from University of California at Berkeley (Cal): Henry in 1876 and Jessie in 1879.

Henry received his M.D. from Cal in 1880. He and Jessie married that same year in San Francisco. They moved to Alameda where Henry set up a practice at 1424 Park St.

Chauncey grew up on Central Avenue with his parents and older siblings, Mary Helen and Henry Searles (known affectionately as “Harry”). In 1901 architect A.W. Pattiani built a home for the family at the gore formed by Alameda and Central avenues. (The family was living at this address, 1500 Central Ave., as early as 1890; Pattiani’s creation was torn down in 1970 and replaced with condominiums).

Alameda Post - 1500 Central Ave Pond residence
In 1901 architect A.W. Pattiani built this home for the Pond family at the gore formed by Alameda and Central avenues. The family was living at this address, 1500 Central Ave., as early as 1890. Pattiani’s creation was torn down in 1970 and replaced with condominiums. Photo courtesy Gary Lenhart, AlamedaInfo.com.

Chauncey and Josephine laid out a street and set to work converting open fields into a neighborhood of uniform houses. The late historian and researcher Lawrence Rand, who wrote under the pen name Quentin, has studied and written about the origins of most of Alameda County’s street names.

His research showed that Josephine chose to name the street “Sterling Avenue” to honor writer George Sterling.

We learn from Quentin that by the time the Chauncey and Josephine had filed their plat map, land owners in both Oakland and Berkeley had already named streets for Sterling — a colorful character, part of the Bohemian lifestyle that included Joaquin Miller, Ina Coolbrith, Jack London, Ambrose Bierce and Bret Hart.

The Poetry Foundation tells us the George Sterling was born in Sag Harbor, N.Y. After studying poetry and considering the priesthood as a vocation, Sterling moved to California to work in real estate. He was the author of many poetry collections, including The Testimony of the Suns and Other Poems (1903); A Wine of Wizardry and Other Poems (1909), Beyond the Breakers and Other Poems (1914), and Selected Poems (1923).

As a prominent figure in the Bohemian literary scene in San Francisco, he helped to start an artist colony in Carmel-by the Sea. Sadly, Sterling committed suicide in 1926. Chauncey followed in his father’s footsteps professionally and became a medical doctor, receiving his M.D. from San Francisco’s Cooper Medical College in 1906.

He married Josephine Kibby on Feb. 6, 1907. The couple exchanged their vows at Josephine’s family home on Eagle Avenue. The 1910 census shows the couple living at 1210 Grand St. with their one-year old daughter, Mary Kay. The census lists Chauncey’s occupation as physician. A son, Chauncey Jr., joined the growing family in 1911.

This Saturday, April 9 from 9 to 11:30 am. Alameda Post editor and award-winning East Bay historian Dennis Evanosky will lead a walking tour, “Don’t Call Them ‘Victorians,'” that highlights the East End’s Victorian-era architecture. The tour will include a look at the homes on Sterling Avenue, featured in this article.

The following year found Chauncey Sr. in Vienna, Austria, studying advanced medicine. Josephine accompanied her husband for what the Oakland Tribune called “an extended stay.”

By 1916 they were back in Alameda developing the neighborhood along Sterling Avenue. “It may interest architects to know that the old Sharp tract between High Street and Ferndale Avenue (sic) in Alameda was purchased recently by Dr. C.P. Pond, president of the Alameda Chamber,” wrote Western Architecture and Engineer, in 1918.

According to this professional journal, “Augustus Lauer, the architect of San Francisco’s old city hall,” once owned the tract. Lauer worked with fellow Alameda architect William Patton on that stately building destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire.

“Dr. Pond has cut a road through this tract and is putting bungalows for sale on the installment plan,” Western Architecture and Engineer told its readers.

Another professional journal, Domestic Engineering, informed its readers that “C. P. Pond of Alameda is planning to build low-priced workmen’s cottages He plans to build 20 one-story frame dwellings costing about $2,000 each on Sterling Avenue (in) Alameda.”

Building and Engineering News told its readers that “C.P. Pond, 1518 Encinal Ave., in Alameda is planning the construction of twenty one-story frame dwellings on Sterling Avenue in Alameda. Each will cost about $2,000. Construction will be carried on by day under the supervision of Dr. Pond.”

Alameda Post - Sterling Avenue
This view of Sterling Avenue shows some of homes the Ponds had built and one of the surviving street lights that the city’s Bureau of Electricity installed more than 100 years ago. Photo Adam Gillitt

They finished their Sterling Avenue project in 1917, and in 2017 the neighbors living along Sterling celebrated the 100th anniversary of Chauncey and Josephine Pond’s legacy.

After they finished with the Sterling Avenue project, Chauncey and Josephine moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains and settled in the town of Redwood. The 1920 federal census found them there and lists Chauncey’s occupation, not as a medical doctor, but as a fruit farmer.

Dennis Evanosky is an award-winning East Bay historian and the Editor of the Alameda Post. Reach him at [email protected]. His writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Dennis-Evanosky.

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