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Alameda, California (Images of America Series)

Alameda, California (Images of America Series)

by Greta Dutcher

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Through its many incarnations, Alameda has never lost its charm and ability to draw people from all walks of life. Originally a peninsula inhabited by Native Americans, it was purchased by Don Luis Peralta in 1818 and developed into a bedroom community of San Francisco. Alameda became an island in 1902, and a short time later, it was a new home to many refugees


Through its many incarnations, Alameda has never lost its charm and ability to draw people from all walks of life. Originally a peninsula inhabited by Native Americans, it was purchased by Don Luis Peralta in 1818 and developed into a bedroom community of San Francisco. Alameda became an island in 1902, and a short time later, it was a new home to many refugees from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. The Neptune Beach amusement park attracted tourists who enjoyed the bathing, beaches, and rides, making Alameda “the Coney Island of the West.” Modern transportation carried people and cargo in and out on ferries, trains, ships, and planes, which landed at the busy Airdrome. The creation of the Naval Air Station in 1938 and World War II made Alameda a military town. The 1990s brought Alameda back to its first purpose, as a small town amongst big cities, its streets lined with graceful Victorians and with a diverse and lively population.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Title: New Book Unveils Alameda's Past

Author: Dennis Evanosky

Publisher: Alameda Sun

Date: 1/8/2009

Greta Dutcher and Stephen Rowland's latest offering continues a journey they began four years ago with their tome Alameda in Arcadia Publishing's "Postcard History Series." This time they've written a book with the same title in Arcadia's "Images of America Series."

"We have more variety in our images besides postcards," the authors explain in the introduction. This includes their "personal Holy Grail": the only known photograph of a certain Alameda landmark." Without revealing this "Holy Grail," suffice it to say having this photograph in a book on your shelf is definitely worth the price of admission.

The book includes ephemera — that written matter we so cavalierly throw into a waste bin, but that some, fortunately, choose to stow away. Among this transitory stuff Dutcher and Rowland have included a page from a 1909 Evening Times-Star calendar, an advertising card for the "Welcome Clothes Dryer" (a device that never caught on, by the way) and a Roaring '20s admission card "good at any gate" to Neptune Beach.

Readers can smile at Lillie MacMahon's monthly report from Notre Dame Academy. In August 1886 she scored 100 percent in politeness, but could only manage a 98 percent in conduct and a mere 88 percent in scholarship. Lillie was absent five days and tardy four days, the report reveals. We can only wonder if her parents, John and Anne MacMahon who lived on Sherman Street, approved of that 88 percent mark.

Anyone interested in seeing how Alamedans dressed at the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries can have a look at the folks sitting on Felix Santillier's porch on Morton Street. The "Baths and Neptune Beach" chapter reminds us how modestly people once dressed to go for a swim; some dared not show a knee.

William and Anne Phillips take a moment for the camera in front of the long-disappeared E. M. Derby Lumber Yard at Alameda Wharf. Members of the 40/8 pose in their unusual garb. (The authors explain the origin of the organization and the meaning of the term 40/8).

Dutcher and Rowland have generously peppered postcards throughout the book. These postcards recall Alameda's business and commerce, its public buildings, as well as its parks and recreation areas. They also guide the reader along the Estuary and the Bay Shore and around Bay Farm and Government islands.

There are letters to read, movie schedules to peruse and advertising to smile at (laundry done for 7 cents a pound; starched for 8 cents) in this enjoyable trip around Alameda and into the minds and hearts of Alamedans in a time long past.

Title: 'Images of Alameda' delight

Author: Lucinda Ryan

Publisher: San Jose Mercury News

Date: 1/8/2009

A photograph shows a crowd of businessmen men in hats and overcoats holding briefcases gathered at 1606 Park St. They're either waiting for or have just disembarked from a train at the Central Pacific Railroad depot.

Behind them is a building sign with the legend "Alameda Stables" and below it another declaring the "Best Smoke On Earth."

There are no women in the picture; perhaps they are at home, doing their domestic tasks rather than going to the stable to rent "gentle horses for ladies' driving."

This was Alameda in the late 1890s. The photograph is one of some 200 pictures and postcards in the book "Images of America — Alameda," written and compiled by Alamedans Greta Dutcher and Stephen Rowland (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99).

Descriptions below the photos in the book provide a real sense of life in Alameda from more than a century ago to some scenes from the 1960s and 1970s.

Dutcher worked with Rowland, who was unavailable for an interview, for about six months on the book, which is not their first. In 2005 they compiled images of Alameda postcards throughout the century for a book.

Dutcher, an Oakland native, said she and husband Pete Rypins were driving through different Bay Area towns about 13 years ago and after driving into Alameda, she said, "It chose us."

"The No. 1 thing is the Victorian houses," she said. "My father is an architect. I was instilled with a love of dwellings and grew up in 1908 craftsman. Being a flamboyant person, Victorians suit me better. They're busy with all those doodads."

Dutcher and Rypins are Grand Street residents who live in a Victorian with housemate Rowland.

In addition to writing, Dutcher also has a band, though she requested it not be named to keep her writing and musical identities separate. Music and writing have to wait until evenings and weekends because she has a day job in a Berkeley office.

Her husband also has varied interests. A warehouse supervisor by day, he plays guitar in the band and is a handicapper at a local race track.

Dutcher has chihuahuas and likes to walk them through the neighborhood.

"Alameda is a great walking town," she said.

A walk along some of the many spots shown in the book will evoke wonder at how certain structures — including the First Presbyterian Church, Historic Alameda High School, the Veterans Memorial Building, Tilden Mansion and several beloved old homes — have remained nearly unchanged. But the book also has photographs of many once grand homes that have vanished, along with the railroad stations that commuters used to go to San Francisco.

The book includes photos and details about the Estuary, commerce, the once renowned Alameda Hotel, Bay Farm Island, Neptune Beach, streetcar lines, the former Naval Air Station and Government Island (where the U.S. Coast Guard is still stationed) and more Alameda highlights, such as the original Elks Lodge "shack."

Some street names also changed throughout the years, Dutcher said. In the area of Paru Street were other streets named after fish. The Paru is a type of angelfish. Why it was the only street that retained its fishy moniker is unclear.

Watch for announcements about upcoming book signings and readings, Dutcher said. She said she enjoys those events, both for the fun of informing people of Alameda's history and because the old-timers like to come and tell stories of their recollections of Alameda's history.

The book is available at local bookstores.

Product Details

Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date:
Images of America Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.52(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.44(d)

Meet the Author

Drawn from the collections of Greta Dutcher and Edmund Clausen, this book contains over 180 photographs, postcards, and other ephemera, recounting the history of Alameda in vivid form. Authors Greta Dutcher and Stephen Rowland are both Island City residents; Dutcher is a California native and third-generation Oaklander who has been living in Alameda for over a decade, and Rowland is a transplant from Kentucky.

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