Friday, August 14, 2015

John Watkins: Civil War Veteran; Grave marked 75 years after death

John Watkins
John Oliver Halstead Watkins was born in Mendham, New Jersey on April 28, 1847 to John and Phoebe Pitney Watkins. On January 19, 1873, he married Amelia Augusta Pinney, with whom he had two daughters. His wife died in 1921.

His father was killed in the Burnside Expedition of the Civil War at age 39 in New Bern, North Carolina on December 13, 1864, which the Union Army had taken from the Confederates two years earlier. His brother died in the Battle of Williamsburg under General George McClellan. There were 2,283 Union casualties and 1,682 Confederate casualties. 

Watkins enlisted with Company B of the 37th New Jersey Volunteers at the age of 15 against the protestations of his mother, who had already lost her husband and other son. The regiment was under the command of Colonel Burd Grubb and contained more than 700 men. They were put to work unloading supply trains near the Appomattox River. They were later asked to lend support on the front lines at the Siege of Petersburg where 37 members of the regiment were killed. 

Artillery at the Siege of Petersburg during the Civil War
At the time of his death in 1937, there were only 18 Civil War veterans remaining in Alameda County. His grave remained unmarked until April 28, 2013, when two chapters of the Sons of the Union Veterans, Wright Camp 22 and Pleasanton Camp 24, obtained a marker from the United States government and held a ceremony at Mountain View Cemetery.

Watkins came to California after traveling around Cape Horn aboard the City of New York in 1867. The voyage took 150 days. Upon his arrival, he was appointed to a position in the paymaster's office at Mare Island, where he remained employed for 33 years. He also owned a strip of land in Oakland extending from Piedmont Avenue to Moss Avenue.

His uncle Reverend Isaac Brayton, was a prominent Oaklander, who ran the Brayton School and sold 200 acres to the trustees of Oakland’s newly formed Mountain View Cemetery. Watkins was also the cousin of United States Supreme Court Justice Mahlon Pitney on his mother's side of the family. Pitney authored the majority opinion in New York Central Railroad Co. v. White, which upheld a New York state workman's compensation law and laid the foundation for the expansion of these programs nationwide.

Watkins' health began to fail a year before his death after he fractured his arm in a fall from a street car. The injury was so severe it necessitated his arm being amputated. He was bedridden until his death. His funeral services were led by the Grand Army of the Republic and the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War. 

Sources: Oakland Tribune,, Sons of the Union Veterans, Wikipedia

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"LIves of the Dead" is now a book.

In celebration of the150th anniversary of Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery, the Alameda Sun press has released a book version of "Lives of the Dead." The book was co-authored by noted historian Dennis Evanosky and Michael Colbruno, the "Lives of the Dead" blogger. Both men are also docents at the cemetery and lead regular tours.

The book covers many of the noteworthy people interred at Mountain View Cemetery, including stories about the cemetery founders, early Oaklanders of note, famous photographers, notable African-Americans, famous pioneers in various fields and a field guide to many of their homes.

You can order online at or send a check for $30 made out to Alameda Sun to 3215J Encinal Ave. Alameda CA 94501

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Rosalinda Labastida de Coney (1844-97) and Dr. Ignacio Herrera y Cairo: Buried Heart

Rosalinda Labastida de Coney
One of the more unusual burials at Mountain View Cemetery has to involve Dr. Ignacio Herrera y Cairo, the former Governor of Jalisco, Mexico and Grand Master of the Masonic Veteran Association of the Pacific Coast.

Dr. Ignacio Herrera y Cairo was an arch-enemy of the Catholic Church for having imprisoned a group of Carmelite friars who he maintained were plotting against the government. The Catholic Church never forgave him and Herrera feared for his life from that day on.

In 1858, a group of men showed up at his ranch and exacted their revenge. Anticipating his eventual death, Herrera asked his fellow Mason brothers that if he was ever murdered they should  preserve his heart to show that he had the heart of a man who had died for his devotion to Masonic principles.

Thirty-five years after his murder, his heart was transported from Mexico to Oakland by his sister Rosalinda Labastida de Coney and kept at the Masonic Temple. When his heart was ready for burial thousands of Masons gathered at the gates of Mountain View Cemetery and along with four Knights Rose Croix escorted his copper casket, draped in the Mexican flag, to its final resting place. The casket with the heart was placed beneath a granite monument where Rosalinda ensured that all of his final wishes were properly honored. The Masonic Choir sang the "Martyr's Hymn" and Edwin Sherman delivered a eulogy that blasted the Catholic Church and charged them with his murder.

When she died in 1897, Masons turned out in droves for her funeral, with each person placing a red rose on her grave. Her foster son, the acclaimed artist Xavier Martinez designed the plaque that graces her grave.

Sources: Sacramento Daily Union (6/25/1894); Bancroft Library; Sunday Herald (6/25/1894)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fulgenzio Seregni monuments at Mountain View Cemetery

Seregni family mausoleums for Delger, Colton and Main (photos by Michael Colbruno)

Some of Mountain View Cemetery's most iconic structures were designed by Italian immigrant Fulgenzio Seregni who is almost forgotten to time. Famous architects like A. Page Brown, who designed the Crocker Family Mausoleum, are far better known to architecture and history buffs, but the most photographed structures at the cemetery are works of Seregni.

Fulgenzio was born, raised and educated in Milan, Italy. He worked for seven years for a Russian prince from whom he learned marble cutting. In 1851 he immigrated to New York City. After traveling across the Isthmus of Panama in 1858, he settled in San Francisco where he taught penmanship, drawing, and writing Pacific Business College for the next 18 years. He then established a marble business in San Francisco with business partner Ettore Bernieri, which produced some of the finest statuary on the West Coast. 

Seregni designs, Kohl mausoleum at Cypress Lawn, St. Brigit's alter and his losing design for a monument
Seregni & Bernieri had studios in San Francisco and Carrara, Italy. Their work included the alter for Archbishop Riordan at Holy Cross Church in San Francisco, the alter at St. Brigit Church in San Francisoco, the marble alter at the Memorial Church at Stanford University and the pedestal for the Goethe-Schiller monument in Golden Gate Park. On the East Coast, he designed monuments for Jay Gould, Thomas Scott, Judge Asa Parker, Rhode Island Governor Seth Pedelford, as well as the Firemen's Monument. On the West Coast, he designed monuments honoring Louis Strauss, Governor  Henry Huntly Haight, San Francisco Mayor Thomas Selby and Nevada Senator William Sharon.

Seregni & Bernieri were finalists for the design of a monument honoring great Californians which now sits between the San Francisco Library and Asian Art Museum. The monument designs commemorated the transition of California from the Spanish to the Americans, and featured James Lick, John Fremont, General John Sutter and Commodore John Sloat. The firm submitted two proposals, but they lost out to a design by Frank Happersberger.

A.K.P. Harmon's monument at Mountain View Cemetery
The Colton mausoleum, which is guarded by two Greek sphinxes, was designed by Seregni in the basic Greek Revival Temple style with Corinthian columns and pilasters. Although sphinxes and Greek Revival Temples are considered pagan architectural forms they continue to be among the most popular types of funerary architecture.

According to historian Doug Keister, Mrs. David D. Colton had this mausoleum built for her husband following his death in 1878. As a statement of her continuing grief, she had the mausoleum built in a location that would be plainly visible from her Nob Hill residence across the bay in San Francisco.

Frederick William Delger and his family rest in and around a grand Gothic Revival aediculum (or small mausoleum), which sits right next door to Charles Crocker on Mountain View Cemetery's Millionaire's Row. Delger, who is considered Oakland's first millionaire, made his fortune in real estate and the retail shoe business. At one time he had three streets in Oakland named after him, Frederick St., William St. and Delger St.

The Monteverde designed angel in Rome (left) and Seregni knockoff at Mountain View (right)
The Crocker and Schmidt angels have become the unofficial icons of Mountain View Cemetery. These angels were likely known to Seregni from angels that he had seen at a cemetery in Carrara, Italy designed by Giulio Monteverde (1837-1917). The figure is known as the Angel of the night, with the most famous version at the grave of Primo Zonca at the Verano Monumental Cemetery in Rome. Other similar statues exist in cemeteries in Genoa and Madrid.

These melancholic androgynous angels, sitting on a grave with, their wings folded back and looking to the sky, represent an untimely death.  There is a drawing of in the cemetery files of a sketch of the angel, which hints that it may have been copied from another monument. Albert Schmidt, a prominent real estate developer, erected this angel in memory of his daughter who died young from a bout with acute appendicitis. Henry Crocker ran successful stationery and book-binding businesses in Sacramento and San Francisco.

Other Seregni & Bernieri monuments at Mountain View Cemetery are those designed for the families of A.K.P. Harmon and James Latham. The angel at the top of the Latham monument glances downward awaiting the arrival of the departed.

Sources: San Francisco Call; Master Hands in the Affairs of the Pacific Coast; Mountain View Cemetery by Dennis Evanosky; OaklandWiki

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Captain Christian Kirketerp (1817-1897): Captain and Businessman

Kirketerp grave (photo by Michael Colbruno)
Christian Kirketerp was a successful captain and businessman, who struck it rich in the gold mines. 

He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on April 23, 1817 and studied sailing. At the age of 18 he arrived in Boston after spending two years honing his skills on the sea. On December 28, 1849, he sailed from Boston to San Francisco aboard the sailing schooner Roanoke. The trip took him 150 days and he, and a group of investors, sold the ship and its provisions upon landing on the West Coast.

An advertisement for Haste & Kirk
In San Francisco, Kirketerp formed a business which freighted provisions from San Francisco to Sacramento and Marysville. When competition from river steamers made making a profit difficult,  he joined the gold rush and began panning for gold on the west bank of the Feather River.  Frustrated during his first few days of panning for gold, Kirketerp almost quit. He kept at it for two weeks, eventually pulling $15,000 worth of gold from the river ($455,000 in today's dollars). 

He returned to San Francisco and founded the firm Haste & Kirk at 21-17 Beale Street, which dealt in coal and pig iron. He shortened his name from Kirketerp to Kirk, because he believed his name was too long for a business name. After his retirement, he petitioned to change it back. He was also a member of the San Francisco Vigilance Committee, a group of citizens who took the law into their own hands to fight rampant crime and corruption in the municipal government.

He died on March 1, 1897.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Louis Kempff (1841-1920) - US Navy Admiral; Boxer Rebellion Hero

Louis Kempff
Kempff, Louis (Oct. 11, 1841-July 29, 1920) was born in Belleville, Illinois, the son of Henrietta and Friedrich Kempff. 

After attending the local schools in Belleville, Kempff entered the U.S. Naval Academy in September 1857 at Annapolis, Maryland. Towards the end of his senior year at Annapolis, the American Civil War erupted and Kempff was detached from the Naval Academy and called into active service in May 1861. Midshipman Kempff was assigned to the Wabash, a steam frigate in the Atlantic Blockading Squadron. On November 7, 1861, Kempff participated in the Battle of Port Royal, near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. On August 1, 1862, Kempff was commissioned as a Lieutenant and subsequently assigned to the Connecticut. At the close of the Civil War, Kempff was aboard the Suwanee in the Pacific Ocean.

In February 1893 Kempff became a member of the navy's Examining and Retiring Board in Washington, D.C., before being appointed to several other boards of inquiry and court-martial tribunals. In May 1895 he entered the U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, where he completed the advanced course the following year. He then returned to the Examining and Retiring Board and was advanced to rear admiral in March 1899. He was posted to the Mare Island Navy Yard as commandant until March 13, 1900, when he became senior squadron commander, U.S. Naval Forces, of the Asiatic Squadron.   

In May 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, Kempff commanded the U.S. flotilla ordered to Chinese waters in support of allied ground operations and distinguished himself during the fighting in and around Ta-ku, at the mouth of the Pai (Pei-ho) River. Upon his arrival, he ordered a combined landing force of navy bluejackets and marines ashore to protect the American legation in Peking (Beijing). The American landing force was joined by troops from Britain, Germany, other European countries, and Japan. The combined forces endured skirmishes and ambushes along the route to the Chinese capital, where they were attacked by large numbers of Boxers and turned back. When ships from the other allied countries were positioned at the mouth of the Pai River in order to bombard the fortresses there, Kempff refused to go along. 

Boxer Rebellion
He later explained that the "Chinese government had not committed, so far as I am aware, any act of open hostilities toward the foreign armed forces." Citing Kempff's refusal to fire on the fortresses, Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, in a telegram to the admiral, expressed "the satisfaction with his conduct which was felt by the Administration and the recognition of his discreet conduct in not joining in the fire on the forts." Relieved of command of the USS Newark in February 1901, Kempff transferred his flag to the USS Kentucky and proceeded to the United States, where the navy commended him for his successful tour while in the Far East and for his actions during the Boxer Rebellion.   

Steamboat Boat Inspection Service badge
After a brief period of convalescent leave, Kempff assumed command of the Twelfth Naval District, which at that time encompassed the entire Pacific Coast. Concluding forty-six years of continuous naval service, he retired on October 11, 1903. Despite his retirement, he accepted positions as inspector, Steamboat Boat Inspection Service, in 1904 and as a member of a naval board of inquiry in 1909. After completely retiring from active naval service in 1909, Kempff died in Santa Barbara, California.  

Kempff's career as a naval officer followed the normal pattern of both sea and shore duty with special assignments, such as participation in tribunals and on examining and retirement boards. His skillful handling of the situation of Ta-ku, China, during the Boxer Rebellion demonstrated his solid professionalism as both a naval officer and a diplomat, skills not uncommon for naval officers during this era.   

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Folger Family: Coffee barons who were victims of Manson Family

James Folger and Folger's Coffee advertisement
Plot 31, Lot 12

James A. Folger (1835 - 1889) was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Brown Folger and Nancy Hill. His father was a master blacksmith who had invested in tryworks* and bought two ships. They had nine children of which James was the second youngest. The Folger family roots can be traced back to England. On July 13, 1846 a 33-acre fire broke out in Nantucket's business section and burned the works and ship. 11 year old James helped in the reconstruction.  

After the discovery of gold in California, 14-year-old James, along with his older brothers Henry and Edward set out in the autumn of 1849 on a ship bound for the Isthmus of Panama. After a raft and hiking journey across the Isthmus, the brothers waited at Panama City for quite a while before catching the Pacific mail steamer Isthmus on April 10, 1850. They entered the Golden Gate on May 5, 1850. 

J.A. Folger Coffee in San Francisco and gravemarker
As an enterprising teenager he started selling coffee to the gold seekers and by 1855 he had become confidential clerk and bookkeeper in the Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mill founded in 1850 by fellow Mountain View Cemetery denizen William H. Bovee.  Bovee, then just a 27-year-old entrepreneur, was looking for a carpenter to build his first mill at Pioneer Steam Coffee in San Francisco. Because Folger was skilled in carpentry, Bovee hired him to erect the mill.

After working at Bovee's mill for nearly a year, Folger had saved enough money to stake a claim and headed out to mine for gold. He agreed to carry along samples of coffee and spices, taking orders from grocery stores in the mining country until he arrived in a town called Yankee Jim's in 1851.
Upon his return to San Francisco in 1865, Folger became a full partner of The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills. There were other partners including August Schilling, but by 1872,  Folger had bought them out. He renamed the company J.A. Folger & Co. and controlled most of the market on the West Coast.

Although commercially roasted coffee was available in New York shortly before the beginning of the 19th century, it was still a luxury for big-city dwellers and was entirely unknown to the population at large. As for ground coffee, it was unheard of at the wholesale level.

His son, James II., succeeded him, and by 1890 Folgers was the largest coffee and spice maker west of Chicago.   

He and his wife, Eleanor Laughran of Vermont, moved to Oakland in 1866 and lived in a fashionable area near Lake Merritt. Folger was also active in the organization and development of Oakland’s schools.  

* A trywork, located aft of the fore-mast, is the most distinguishing feature of a whaling ship.  In two cast-iron trypots set into a furnace of brick, iron and wood, whale oil was rendered from the blubber of whales, much as lard is rendered from frying fatty pork. The use of tryworks on whaling ships allowed them to stay at sea longer since they did not have to carry unprocessed blubber home.

The Folger Family plot and Peter Folger
Peter Folger (December 26, 1905 – August 27, 1980) was an American coffee heir, socialite, and member of the prominent Folger family. He was also the longtime Chairman of the board and President at the Folgers Coffee Company. He is the grandson of founder James A. Folger, and the father of Charles Manson murder victim Abigail Folger. 

Born and raised in California, Folger studied business and graduated from Yale University where he was an athlete on their football, track and field, and polo teams. Peter Folger later served in World War II as a Marine Major.  

In 1963, after having helped to build the family firm into the third largest coffee wholesaler in the United States, Folger sold the company to Procter & Gamble for 1,650,000 shares of common stock. However, he and the Folger family continued to operate Folgers as a Procter & Gamble subsidiary. Since 2008, the company has been owned by the J.M. Smucker Company.

Folger married twice in his life. The first being to Ines Mejia, the daughter of the consul general for El Salvador and member of a prestigious California land grant family. They went on to have two children, Abigail, born in 1943 and Peter, Jr, born in 1945. Ines filed for divorce which was granted in 1952. They shared joint custody of their two children.

On June 30, 1960, Peter married his then 24-year-old secretary Beverly Mater. They had one daughter together, Elizabeth, in January 1961. Peter and Beverly lived with their daughter at the Folger mansion located in Woodside, California until 1974 when they moved to a newly built home on Roberta Drive. The murder of his eldest daughter, Abigail, in 1969, was said to have dimmed Peter's desire to continue living at the Woodside estate, where she grew up.

Daughter Abigail was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery
After Abigail died, Peter conducted his own investigation into her death and spent the rest of his life protecting her from being the subject of salacious gossip, threatening legal action against anyone who tried to use her name in damning articles or books about the Tate-LaBianca murders. As a result, very little information is available about her.

Folger died from Prostate Cancer at his home in Woodside, California, at the age of 74 on August 27, 1980. He was survived by his wife, Beverly. She never remarried following his death and died in 2001 at age 65.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thomas Henry Selby (1820-1875) - 13th Mayor of San Francisco; Founded Selby Smelting & Lead

Thomas Selby
Thomas Selby was the thirteenth mayor of San Francisco, serving from December 6, 1869 to December 3, 1871.

Selby arrived in California in August 1849 to make his fortune. He had been in a failed business venture in New York with his brother and a man named Peter Naylor. Selby was under pressure to make money quickly in order to pay back his creditors, which prompted him to join the Gold Rush. 

Upon arriving in San Francisco, Selby saw the potential for making his fortune in the city. In 1850, he built one of the first brick buildings in San Francisco at California Street near Montgomery, where he opened Thomas H. Selby and Company. This company dealt in the import and export of non-precious metals and other commodities. 

In 1856, Selby would found the Selby Smelting and Lead Work at First & Howard Street, which was the first smelting operation for metals other than gold and silver on the West Coast. His company enlarged their facility to forty furnaces and Selby quickly became the largest metal smelter in America. The 200-foot tall structure known as the Shot Tower became a well-known city landmark, which could be seen from miles away. In the shot tower, lead was heated until molten, then dropped through a copper sieve high up in the tower. The liquid lead solidified as it fell and formed tiny spherical balls as a result of the surface tension.

Shot Tower at 1st & Howard
Selby became very active in both politics and civic life. He was elected as an Alderman of the Fifth Ward in 1851 and was influential in reorganizing the police department. He left office for one term to return to his business, but was elected to the same seat the following term. Seven of the eight Alderman elected that year were members of the Whig Party, including Selby. The Alderman met at the Jenny Lind Theater at 750 Kearny Street, which later officially was purchased by the city and became City Hall. In December 1869, he reluctantly ran for the city's highest office and was elected the 13th mayor of San Francisco, serving for two years.  

During his time as an Alderman, the Board of Education was composed of the Mayor, one member from each branch of the Common Council, and two citizens at large. Selby represented this body from the Board of Aldermen, and worked tirelessly to create free public schools, an issue that he was passionate about. 

Selby also helped build the Presbyterian Church at Stockton near Broadway and the Calvary Church on Bush Street. 

He died in San Francisco on June 17, 1875 of pneumonia. 

Thirty years after his death, Selby's smelting company was sold to the American Smelting and Refining Company.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Edward Payson Heald (1843-1925) - Founder of Heald Business College

Edward Payson Heald
Receiving Vault (Behind Main Mausoleum)
Section 15 Tier 2

Edward Payson Heald was one of ten children born to Abel Heald and Mary A. Sterns on February 5th in Lovell, Maine. Heald spent his youth in Maine where he took advantage of the educational opportunities afforded him, eventually becoming an instructor at the Portland Business College in Portland, Maine. Although young, Edward was highly regarded among both the faculty and students. Eventually he decided to leave his native state of Maine and travel to the West Coast. In 1863, at the age of twenty, he traveled to San Francisco, California.  

Upon his arrival to California, Heald set to work establishing Heald Business College in San Francisco, the first institution of its kind in the western part of the United States. Edward’s ability as a teacher and executive helped Heald Business College soon become a leader in the   educational and business activities of the west.   

The original Heald College and a contemporary school in Concord, CA
Edward Heald was an educational pioneer in many ways, especially when it came to women’s education. Heald Business College was one of the first schools that afforded women the   opportunity to gain practical business training and played a major role in paving the way for women to enter into the business world. Also, as the industries of the world changed, Heald Business College changed along with them, introducing the study of the various branches of engineering, mining and even automotive repair to the course catalog. Heald College’s mission was, and continues to be, to prepare students for successful careers by providing them with career education that focuses on practical, hands-on learning.  

Heald College has persevered since 1863, weathering two major earthquakes and two World Wars, always remaining true to its original mission. As the needs of the workplace have changed, the Heald College curriculum has evolved from business courses to include technology, healthcare and legal degrees.   

In addition to the establishment of the college that bears his name, Heald was also heavily   involved in many philanthropic and benevolent organizations and lent his influence and co- operation in support of efforts promoting the general good of the community. He was also involved in agriculture throughout the state including the operation of a large raisin vineyard near Fresno and a fine stock farm in Napa County, where he made a specialty of breeding high- grade roadsters, trotters and carriage horses. He also served as president of the Pacific Coast Trotting Horse Breeders' Association. 

Edward Heald passed away in 1925 and is still regarded as a pioneer of education in the state of California. Heald College continues today with twelve campuses throughout California, Oregon and Hawaii and celebrated its 150th anniversary this year.

Walter Blair (1830 - 1888) - Early settler of Piedmont; Noted businessman

Walter Blair and his home on Highland
Walter Blair (1830 - 1888)  Plot  28, Lot 11

Walter Blair and his brother William, Vermont natives, came to California via Cape Horn in 1852, and settled in Alameda County in 1853.

The area that is now Piedmont, and parts of Oakland, was originally a community of ranches. The Beard Ranch is now Trestle Glen; the Biglow and Gladding ranches are now Pleasant Valley and Vernon Heights. Walter Blair created the largest of these - 600 acres for which he paid the Peralta family the grand sum of $1.25 per acre.  

James Gamble & "The Highlands," home of the Requa family
Other landowners included early Piedmont pioneers Isaac Requa, Hugh Craig, Jesse Wetmore and James Gamble. The estates generally were self-sufficient with their own water, fruits & vegetables, livestock and chicken.

A farmer and dairyman, Blair’s dairy farm property ran from the cemetery wall (on the Moraga Avenue side) to and beyond Blair Avenue in Piedmont. He bought the land from the US Government, which now owned most of the original Vicente Peralta land grant. 

Blair’s Dairy was at the southwest corner of what is now El Cerrito and Blair Avenues. The dairy supplied milk and butter to the surrounding area and San Francisco. He raised cattle and planted wheat and barley. Old-timers referred to it as “Blair’s Pasture.” 

Boundaries of Blair Park
In 1862, Walter married fellow Vermont native Phoebe Harvey, with whom he had two daughters – Ethel (aka Florence) and Mabel. They lived in a house on Highland.

Blair and his brother planted Eucalyptus trees, which still provide the border between Mountain View Cemetery and Piedmont. These trees were known as “Blair’s Gum Trees” and ran from Moraga Road to Montclair. They were removed in 1936 for street widening. 

The Blair Quarry #1
Diagonally across from the dairy, Blair developed a quarry where Dracena Park was later located, and sold the basalt and chert to pave streets in Oakland and Piedmont. Some of the rock from the quarry can still be seen at MVC where it was used to make gravestones. When the quarry filled with water, the quarry became a favorite swimming hole. When someone drowned in the 1920s, the city filled the quarry with construction debris. 

Blair Park Trolley and Piedmont Cabel Car
Blair made his major mark was made in the field of transportation. Along with Montgomery Howe, he founded the Broadway & Piedmont Railroad horsecar line. He was also involved in lines that ran up H Street, Market and Adeline. Both James Gamble and Montgomery Howe were investors in his transportation companies.

Not only did the streetcars provide service for Oakland, but it brought prospective property owners and homeowners to Piedmont. This was also why both the Key System, developed by Borax Smith in the 1890s and early 20th century, and rail lines in L.A. built by Henry H. Huntington at the turn of the 20th century were built.

The Key System served a number of neighborhoods, particularly where development was happening.
·      The B served Lakeshore and Trestle Glen
·      The C served Piedmont
·      The E served Claremont

It was Blair who designed the cable car grip that replaced the original one of Hallidie’s -- the basic design still in use today. 

Piedmont Springs Hotel and visitor Mark Twain (taken by Eadweard Muybridge)
In 1870, Walter Blair built the Piedmont Springs Hotel where natural sulpher springs bubbled from the ground. The hotel became the terminus for one his streetcar lines. The streetcars ran hourly, connecting the hotel to Piedmont Avenue, where riders could transfer to Oakland or head to the ferries to travel to San Francisco.

The hotel had 20 bedrooms and five dining rooms. The main dining room featured a crystal chandelier, fine china and velvet drapes. It could seat up to 35 guests. The water of the spring was thought to have curative powers. Wealthy San Franciscans journeyed to the hotel during to visit "the country" and often stayed for a week. It was considered one of the finest resorts in California at the time. One of the most famous visitors was Mark Twain, who arrived in 1871. 

Blair Park Bridge and Entrance (that's possibly Walter Blair on the bridge)
In 1884, in Moraga Canyon, at the end of his Oakland and Piedmont Railroad horsecar line where the hotel now stood, Blair developed a 75-acre amusement park, Blair’s Park. This was an inducement for people to ride his street railroad, which took someone 25 minutes to travel by horsecar up the hill from downtown Oakland to Blair's Park. At the park you could sail small boats, ride ponies, watch acrobats hang from hot air balloons, have a picnic by one of the waterfalls and listen to music.

1n 1890, the Consolidated Piedmont Cable Company leased the park from Blair’s widow and added attractions to lure more riders to their cable cars. The offered free concerts on Saturday and Sunday and built a dancing pavilion. There were also plans for a 3-story casino with a large veranda, but it was never built.
Newspaper ads for the Park and Hotel
The Park eventually saw it’s demise due to a number of circumstances, including competition from other amusement parks (Bushrod, Idora and Shell Mound), problems with “hoodlums and hooligans,” and a tragic balloon accident involving a 6-year-old boy named Bertram Hills. 5,000 people witnessed the boy fall 1,000 feet from the sky. Newspaper accounts claim that Mrs. Edna Olney fainted when she saw the boy fall from the sky. In 1897, Blair’s heirs put the park up for sale. It was purchased in 1902 by Frank Havens’ nephew, the poet George Sterling. By 1904, it was owned by the Havens Realty Syndicate and developed with homes around 1917.

In January 1891, the women of Piedmont led a temperance movement to block the sale of liquor at the Piedmont Springs Hotel, which was increasingly getting complaints about noise and public drunkeness. They petitioned the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to withdraw the liquor license granted to the owner of the hotel. The liquor controversy ended quickly with the Piedmont Springs Hotel fire in the early morning of November 17, 1892. The absence of any water supply left the occupants of the doomed building no other recourse than to sit down in the shade and watch the building burn. The closest fire station was 5 miles away in Oakland and the horses had a difficult time getting the fire equipment up the steep hills.

Mountain View Cemetery purchased the land between the lower and middle lakes.

This is not the same Blair Park that we know today off Moraga Ave, although it shares some of the same footprint. 

The Gamble House
In 1877, Blair sold 350 acres to James Gamble, then president of Western Union Telegraph.  James Gamble built a large home on the property on Hillside Avenue, established the Piedmont Land Company and planned to sell the rest of the property for homes. The President of the Company was George Beaver, with Gamble as VP. Investors involved in the venture included S.P. Van Loben Sels, T.L. Barker, James de Fremery and L.A. Booth. Directors included Booth, as well as  James Gamble, Henry Bigelow and Arthur Bowman.

With the development of homes, schools were needed. The nearest school was miles down a dusty country road at 28th & West St. Walter’s brother, William, drafted a petition in 1878, which was submitted to the Alameda County Board of Education. The state required that 5 students were required to start a school. 

Piedmont School
George Hume, a local millionaire had two school age children. Along with Walter’s two children and one other local child they met the requirement.

George Hume’s sister-in-law, Zylphia Raymond, was a teacher and was appointed as Piedmont’s first school teacher. The first classes were held in the Hume home. Three years later the first school was constructed at what is now Piedmont Ave and Pleasant Valley Rd. Mrs. Raymond ran the school until 1880, when the attendance “swelled” to ten students and a schoolhouse had to be built. The school was built on land purchased from Montgomery Howe (near what is now Mather Road). 

Not all kids attended the school, as many had home tutors.

Walter Blair did not live to see his ranch become the city of Piedmont.

Centennial Hotel
In 1876, he built the 3-story Centennial Hotel at the corner of 14th and Clay in Oakland, and lived there at the time of his death in 1888. His wife insisted that get away from the lonely and isolated country life of Piedmont. He would die in his apartment there 11 years later at the age of 57 of complications from diabetes

[Biography by Michael Colbruno, Stafford Buckley and Gail Lombardi]