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Take a Stroll Down Grand Street

Grand Street presents a textbook of architectural styles that made Alameda so attractive—none of them “Victorian”

The street now known as Grand Street was once part of “Town of Encinal and Lands Adjacent.” Dr. James Hibberd signed a deed and promised to pay for the large tract of land—some 667 acres—that stretched from the Brooklyn Basin on the north and the San Francisco Bay on the south.

Alameda Post - an early map of the peninsula and who each section was sold to, including Chipman, Aughinbaugh, Hibbard, Foley, and others
Imelda Merlin’s map defines how Gideon Aughinbaugh and William Worthington Chipman sold the portion of the peninsula. Buyers included San Francisco Sheriff Jack Hays and his deputy John Caperton; James J. Foley; James E. Hibberd; and William Sharon and Henry Fitch. Photo courtesy Friends of the Alameda Library.

Hibberd laid out a town in the midst of his holdings. He centered his creation on a wharf that stretched into the Brooklyn Basin from the foot of Leviathan Street (today’s Grand Street). He laid Condor Street (Clement Avenue) along the shoreline of his town. Quail Street (Santa Clara Avenue) was the town’s southern boundary. The streets Hibberd laid out to define the east-west boundaries were Mullet and Paru streets respectively. Mullet Street was renamed Oak Street.

By the way, the good doctor—who has a street named for him—never paid William Worthington Chipman and Gideon Aughinbaugh a dime of the $4,666 that he owed them for his property. The city did spell his name wrong when they named the street for him. Touché.

Alameda Post - an illustration of a very large, grand house
E. H. Miller Jr. lived in this home on Grand Street and Central Avenue in the heart of the Oak Park Tract. Image Alameda Argus.

Hibberd protested to no avail when he learned that Chipman and Aughinbaugh had officially created the Town of Alameda in 1854. It remains unclear whether Hibberd was still “in town” when the Board of Trustees agreed to formally named the entire peninsula “Alameda” in 1872. It appears that Hibberd had absented himself by 1875, when the Town of Alameda decided to rid itself of all but two of Hibberd’s bird-and-fish street names.

Perch became Hibbard (yes, it’s misspelled), Dolphin changed to Minturn, Pike became Union. Other changes included Trout, Salmon, Pampino, and Bass becoming Schiller, Lafayette, Walnut, and Willow. Let’s not forget Hibberd’s birds. Falcon, Dove, and Linnet streets became Buena Vista, Pacific, and Railroad avenue. Paru Street and Eagle Street remained in place although the latter was renamed Eagle Avenue to conform with the city’s layout.

Alameda Post - a large home at Palmera Court
A side trip down Dayton Avenue to Palmera Court will introduce us to George Emmons who planned a landfill project that predated Utah Construction by 40 years. Photo Google Earth.

Property lines that Thompson and West presented on their 1878 map shows Hibberd’s holdings carved into tracts. By then, the new property owners were selling this land. Of particular interest to our story is the Oak Park Tract, which Grand Street runs through from Bay shore to the Brooklyn Basin, a portion of today’s Oakland Estuary.

The April 28, 1878, edition of the Oakland Tribune told its readers, “On dit that Senator Sargent, who last week purchased a block of land in the Oak Park tract, will come to Alameda to live at the expiration of his term of office.” Newspapers used “on dit” (French for “one says” or “it is said”) to hint that what they were reporting was hearsay or rumor. This grapevine news was all about United States Senator Aaron Sargent, a ’49er who lived out his days in San Francisco. He never lived in Alameda.

Alameda Post - two black and white portraits
Left: A. W. Pattiani built homes throughout Alameda, including three of interest on Grand Street. Photo Daniella Thompson, courtesy Pattiani family . Right: Charles Frederick Crocker, son of Central Pacific Railroad magnate Charles Crocker invested in Alameda real estate along with his father’s business partner, E. H. Miller Jr. Photo

On September 28, 1878, the Tribune reported that, “E. H. Miller Jr. sold one lot in the Oak Park Tract to A. W. Pattiani.” This presents two names of great interest to our story. Miller was an executive at the Central Pacific Railroad. He and another man whose name we associate with the railroad—Crocker—had a hand in buying and selling property in this tract. Miller and Colonel Charles F. Crocker’s names frequently appeared in the Alameda Argus and Oakland Tribune as both buyers and sellers of Oak Park Tract property.

Miller lived in the heart of the tract at Grand Street and Central Avenue. The “Colonel” was Charles Crocker’s son. Dad was one of the “Associates,” the Central Pacific Railroad’s Big Four, along with Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Collis Huntington.

Explore the architecture of Grand Street with the Alameda Post’s Adam Gillitt and Dennis Evanosky as they take a leisurely stroll down the street once known as “Leviathan” on Saturday, May 11 (postponed from May 4, due to rain) or Sunday, May 12.  They will show you first-hand how the street developed and became one of the most desirable addresses in Alameda. We will produce a video presentation on the topic and make the link available to ticket holders before their tour. Join us on Saturday May 11, or Sunday May 12. We will meet at Rittler Park. The tours start at 10 a.m. and tickets are $20 each. More tour information.

Retired Alameda Museum Curator George Gunn tells us that Pattiani built his home in 1884 at Cottage Street at Central Avenue. The home was moved six years later to where it still stands at 1101 Morton Street. Our walking tour will include three of Pattiani’s creations in the 900 block of Grand Street: two residences he designed and built in the Queen-Anne style, and another that Pattiani created in the Colonial Revival style.

From the late 19th into the early 20th century, Grand Street became a showpiece of elegant homes. Along the way, we’ll stop, admire, and discuss many of these, including a trio of homes that Gunn calls “a string of pearls.” We’ll learn why not a single home on the street or anywhere else for that matter is “Victorian.”

Alameda Post - two large, grand homes in Alameda
Left: We’ll learn about this home’s architectural style when we stop to admire George Gunn’s “string of pearls” on Grand Street. Photo Google Earth. Right: A. W. Pattiani built this Colonial Revival gem, one of three homes the prolific architect designed along Grand Street. Photo Google Earth.

We’ll visit a pair of streets with elegant Roaring ’20s homes built out on landfill in what was once Joseph Leonard’s backyard. We’ll glimpse the palm trees that once sheltered the Clark family’s grounds from stormy southeasters, visit a spot once home to Fassking Gardens, and cross a pair of streets where a railroad and streetcars once ran. You could take the train from here all the way to Santa Cruz.

In 1915, Effie Izah Hawkins wrote A Survey of the School System of Alameda, California. In this work she described the Oak Park Tract as Alameda’s “choicest and prettiest residence district.” We invite you to come along on our walk. We think you will agree.

Dennis Evanosky is the award-winning Historian of the Alameda Post. Reach him at [email protected]. His writing is collected at

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