Take a stroll with us on St. Charles Street.
A wealthy merchant family and an association of German investors shaped much of what we know today as the “Gold Coast.” St. Charles Street once defined the western boundary of the Fitch tract. The Fitch family matriarch, Mary, saw fit to name the streets running north to south for the family’s patron saints. The next block to the west, Sherman Street, once bore the name St. George Street. Mary named two other streets St. John and St. Paul, and reserved the easternmost street for her patron, St. Mary. Neighboring Protestants did not care for streets named for Catholic saints. When they had a chance, they renamed these three streets Stanton, Benton, and Morton. St. Charles Street remained as part of a tradition of retaining at least one original name in a historic neighborhood. For example, the board of trustees had retained the names Eagle and Paru in “The Encinal and the Lands Adjacent.”
Alameda’s original parcels
Alameda historian Woody Minor reminds us that the property west of Sherman Street had been divided into large parcels. Minor says that this delayed development of the area until the early 20th century. The story of the development of the west side of St. Charles Street between Central Avenue and the bay shore begins in 1877. The Teutonia Park and Homestead Association, German investors, created an association of shareholders that allowed them to purchase land without using any real-estate companies to broker their deals.
Join me and the Alameda Post this Sunday, 10 a.m., for our walking tour of St. Charles Street and the surrounding neighborhood. We’ll learn how a wealthy merchant family and an association of German investors shaped much of what we know today as “The Gold Coast.” We will meet Sunday, February 12, at 10.a.m. in the 1200 block of St. Charles Street by the lagoon. Purchase tickets in advance for $20. Limited tickets may be available on the day of the tour.
Association president Jacob Remmel built the first home on Teutonia’s new property for his family. Members of this family, Julius and Bert, would later play key roles in developing Alameda in places well beyond the association’s holdings. Julius teamed up with Felix Marcuse to form what historian Woody Minor called “Alameda’s most prolific homebuilders of the 1890s.”
When Jacob passed in 1882, his wife Elizabeth sold what Minor described as “1,000 feet of combined frontage on St. Charles and Hawthorne Streets, stretching south from the family residence to the shoreline.” Alameda historian Woody Minor reminds us that the property west of Sherman Street had been divided into large parcels. Minor says that this delayed development of the area until the early 20th century.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the street
Christian Heinrich Strybing owned the east side of St. Charles Street from the shoreline to Central Avenue. Born in Germany in 1921, Strybing came to San Francisco in 1849 at the height of the Gold Rush, according to Minor. Strybing built a successful grocery business with his brother Henry. The two had an interesting relationship. Henry, born Joachim Friedrick Heinrich Strübing, didn’t live here. He lived in New York and did business in Lower Manhattan. He shipped goods to his brother in San Francisco, who sold them at his shop at 75 Jackson Street. Minor tells us that Christian sent his brother “payments in California Gold.” Many credit the Strybing brothers with breathing new life into the clipper ship trade.
When Christian died in 1895, he was a rich man. He left his wife, Helene, a fortune in cash along with property on the east side of St. Charles Street from Central Avenue to the bay, facing the Teutonia lots—two long blocks separated by San Antonio Avenue, totaling about 2,000 feet of prime frontage.
Minor puts all this in perspective: “Once part of the holdings of the Fitch family, … land lying between Sherman and St. Charles streets had been sold in the 1860s as five long, narrow strips; the blocks bounded by Bay Street and St. Charles Street took in three strips 100 feet wide.”
The homes found here form much of today’s Gold Coast.
Helene Strybing left San Francisco a nice parting gift before she passed in 1926—money to create the Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park, which we still enjoy. It is now known as San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum.
Join us this Sunday to learn more. See you there!
Dennis Evanosky is the award-winning Historian of the Alameda Post. Reach him at [email protected]. His writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Dennis-Evanosky.