Support local news in Alameda. Give Now!

Today’s Alameda Treasure – 1125 Morton Street, The Baldwin-Pell House, Part 5

Over the past four installments of this series, we’ve been exploring and uncovering the hidden history of 1125 Morton Street, the Queen Anne-style home built in 1889 by carpenter and builder J. A. Mitchell. It was first purchased for $3,000 by Dr. Sherman Charles Baldwin (1832-1902), a medical doctor who had offices on Market Street in San Francisco, as well as a small office in his home on Morton Street. As is always the case with these investigations, there ends up being more to the story than initially expected.

Alameda Post - 1125 Morton Street and an advertisement in a newspaper for J. A. Mitchell, a carpenter and builder
Left: 1125 Morton Street photographed in February 2024. This 1889 Queen Anne-style home has been the subject of our deep dive into its history over the past four installments of this series. The home was first purchased by Dr. Sherman Charles Baldwin for $3,000 and was owned by the same family for almost 110 years. Photo Steve Gorman. Right: An ad for builder J. A. Mitchell in The Daily Encinal, October 30, 1902. James A. Mitchell built 1125 Morton Street in 1889, and was still active as a builder as of this date in late 1902. Image via Newspapers.com.

Over the course of these articles, we’ve looked into age discrepancies and confusion about middle names (Part 2), the location of where a newly married couple actually lived after their wedding (Part 1), and even the existence of a previously unknown first marriage for the good doctor (Part 4). What started out as a look into the interesting architectural elements of a historic house led to the even more interesting and complex story of the people who’ve lived in the house. After all, the main purpose of a house is to shelter human lives, and so looking into those lives is at the heart of any “house history.”

Life goes on

By the end of our last chapter, Dr. Sherman Baldwin had long since passed away (in 1902), and while his widow Mary Elizabeth Baldwin went on to live 35 more years in the attic at 1125 ½ Morton Street, she too died in 1937. That left just her daughter Mary Pell Walton up in that attic along with cousin George W. Pell III. They survived the Great Depression and World War II, and then in May of 1960, Mary passed away, leaving George alone.



Alameda Post- a young boy on mule
An image from the happy days of George W. Pell III’s childhood in Colorado, before the deaths of his two parents. Taken in Boulder on a family camping trip in 1914, George was about 3 years old here. Had George not lost his grandparents and parents early in life, he may never have come to California and helped preserve the Baldwin-Pell family history for us to explore today. Photo from the Baldwin-Pell collection, now in the Carvalho collection.

64 years in an attic

After losing both his parents in Denver in 1923-1924, and finishing two years of college, George W. Pell III made his way to Alameda in 1931. He moved into the attic at 1125 ½ Morton Street, joining his aunt and cousin up there. After a long career with the Oakland School District and serving in the U. S. Coast Guard Reserve during WWII, by the mid-1990s George found himself in failing health. According to the family history compiled by current owner Ken Carvalho, in approximately 1995 George was having trouble climbing the stairs to his attic apartment, and moved in with his best friend Gene Braaten at 1703 St. Charles Street. You know you have a good friend when they take care of you when you’re sick, and that was the kind of friend George had in Gene.

George W. Pell III had spent 64 years living in the attic of a home he eventually owned after the passing of his cousin Mary. It’s ironic that the descendants of original owner Sherman Charles Baldwin never actually got to live on the main level of the home they inherited, and instead had to live in the attic in order to receive income from tenants on the first floor.

A friend receives an inheritance

Alameda Post - two men smile while one helps the other cut a birthday cake
George W. Pell III (left) cutting his birthday cake with good friend Gene Braaten (right). George moved in with Gene at 1703 St. Charles Street around 1995 when failing health left him unable to climb the stairs to his attic apartment at 1125 ½ Morton Street. After George passed away a couple of years later, he left the Morton Street home to Gene in his will. Photo from the Baldwin-Pell collection, now in the Carvalho collection.

George Walton Pell III passed away in Alameda on October 30, 1997 at 86 years old. The boy who started out with a happy life in Denver, then tragically lost both of his parents when he was just 12 years old, had managed to go on and make a life for himself in California. Since he had never married or had children, he deeded his house at 1125 Morton Street to his good friend Gene Braaten, who within a year sold it to current owners Ken and Connie Carvalho. In this way, Ken and Connie became only the second owners other than the Baldwin-Pell family to own this historic property. Technically, Gene did own it for a short time, but the house essentially remained a Baldwin-Pell property, with most of its original furnishings, décor and family photos still intact. The Carvalhos inherited much of that history and carefully preserve it to this day.

Pell family legacy

Although Dr. Sherman Charles Baldwin was the first owner of this home, it’s actually the Pell family that provides us with most of the rich family legacy. Other than what’s been shared in these articles, we don’t have much more information on the good doctor. We don’t even have a photograph of him or his wife Mary Elizabeth Baldwin. It’s mainly via the Denver connection to George W. Pell III that we have this treasure trove of family history to explore. Due to young George’s arrival in Alameda in 1931, and his 64-year residency in the house, it became a repository of all the history he had collected from his family in Denver, and what was left behind by Dr. Baldwin when he died.

A further stroke of luck was that no fire or flood ever occurred on this property, so most of this history survives in excellent condition. A final boon to historians is that Ken and Connie Carvalho have a keen interest in history, and have made extraordinary efforts to preserve and display not only the architectural integrity of this home, but also its human history. The story we are recounting here never would have been possible without the efforts of all these people over the years.

Alameda Post - a black and white photo of Pell's Oyster and Fish House
Pell’s Oyster House was a fixture of the Denver dining scene for 56 years. Photo Denver Public Library Western History Resources.

The pioneer establishes Pell’s Oyster House

The Pell family history in the west started with George W. Pell Sr. (1851-1911), the younger brother of Mary Elizabeth Pell Baldwin. Hailing from a pioneer family that traces back to the 1500s in Sussex, England, and then to the 1600s in Westchester, New York, George was born in Brooklyn, New York. He first visited Denver in 1870 while traveling with a circus, and again in 1879 when he was operating a stage coach line. He moved there in 1881 and opened his first restaurant along Arapahoe Street, between 13th and 14 streets.

Denver, being around a thousand miles from the nearest ocean, seemed like an unlikely place for an oyster house. But during the oyster craze of the late 19th century, “oyster saloons,” “oyster and coffee houses,” and “oyster bars” were popping up nationwide. It was the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 that had allowed for the importation of various foods once unknown in the hinterlands. Live oysters sat in water-filled containers, and were nourished with oatmeal and flour during the rail journey.

During the 1880s and 1890s, Pell’s Oyster House moved from place to place along 16th Street, finally finding a home at 520 16th Street, where it thrived from the late 1890s until around 1921 (see picture in Part 4). The restaurant was known for fresh oysters, lobsters, crabs, fresh and saltwater fish, and clams from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. George Sr. was considered very independent and eccentric, closing his restaurant every summer for vacation, and forbidding smoking in his establishment. He is reported to have thrown a wealthy customer out by his coat collar after the man lit up a post-dinner cigar.

Alameda Post - a black and white photo of a street in Denver Colorado near Pell's Oyster House
A view of 16th Street in Denver, Colorado, circa 1910. A caption with this picture describes it as a view of Denver Tramway car 190 heading south, near Pell’s Oyster House. The restaurant is not easily seen in this photo, but may be near the Regal Shoe store at left. In any event, this is the setting of the Pell’s Oyster House in 1910. Photo George Lyle (1868-1935), from the Western History and Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library.

The end of a dining era

George W. Pell Sr. died at St. Luke’s Hospital from a bout of “nervousness” on December 24, 1911, aged 60. Pell’s Oyster House continued to operate, managed by his wife Mary S. Pell and his son George W. Pell Jr.

After George Jr. died of a stroke in 1923 and Mary S. Pell died in an automobile accident in 1926, the restaurant was operated by a couple of different owners until it finally closed in 1937, due to high overhead costs and lack of profitability. During its 56-year run, Pell’s Oyster House was a fixture in the Denver dining scene, and takes its place in history as a significant part of the oyster craze of the late 19th century.

Fate is capricious

Perhaps if young George W. Pell III hadn’t lost both of his parents in Denver in 1923-1924, he would have remained in that city and continued to operate the family restaurant. But that is not how fate worked out, so the restaurant eventually closed and the Pell family history continued in Alameda instead. It’s just another example of how interconnected history is, and how events in one part of the world affect other parts. Though the deaths of his family members were tragic, the silver lining is the Pell family history he left us to explore.

Alameda Post - the gravestone and obituary of George W. Pell Sr.
Left: The heading of an article in the Rocky Mountain Daily News on December 25, 1911, reports on the death of well-known businessman George W. Pell. The photo depicts George at the age of 40, and the attached article goes on to describe him as enjoying “a reputation for excellence” in Denver, and having “instilled his ideas and methods into the mind of his son George W. Jr.” Image via Rocky Mountain Daily News archives. Right: The Pell gravestone at Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery honors the life of George W. Pell Sr. as a fish and oyster dealer. The unique, intricately carved granite headstone features relief images of fish, waves, and oysters. The stone at front left is for his son George W. Pell Jr. (1888-1923) and features the poignant phrase, “Mother’s Loved One Sleeping.” The stone at front right is for George W. Pell Sr. (1851-1911) and features the phrase, “A Diamond in the Rough,” perhaps a nod to his rough-and-tumble days with the circus and as a stagecoach driver. Photo from Find a Grave index, via FamilySearch.org.

Up next

After covering the history of 1125 Morton Street and the Baldwin-Pell family legacy, we are now ready to start pivoting to more recent history, and the changes and preservation efforts undertaken by Ken and Connie Carvalho after they purchased the home from Gene Braaten in 1998, shortly after the passing of George W. Pell III. They were inheriting an 1880s Queen Anne home in almost original condition, with much of its original furniture still inside. This presented a wonderful opportunity for the Carvalhos to embark on a years-long project that would preserve the best of this Victorian-era home while making it more livable for their growing family. We’ll look at the extensive yet tasteful changes they’ve made to this Alameda Treasure, including their ambitious but thwarted plans to restore the historic tankhouse, when our story continues.

Contributing writer Steve Gorman has been a resident of Alameda since 2000, when he fell in love with the history and architecture of this unique town. Contact him via [email protected]. His writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Steve-Gorman.

KQED Curated Content
Thanks for reading the

Nonprofit news isn’t free.

Will you take a moment to support Alameda’s only local news source?
Thanks for reading the

Nonprofit news isn’t free.

Will you take a moment to support Alameda’s only local news source?