Sunday, March 15, 2009

Eli Welding Playter (var. Ely) (1819-1893) – Oakland Mayor; Hardware merchant

[Photo of Playter house from Oakland Tribune; Photo of Playter obelisk by Michael Colbruno]

Playter was born on October 6, 1819, in Toronto, Canada, but his family moved to rural Niagara County, New York as farmers when he was a youth.

In 1852 he began studying law in Buffalo, but the same year he was offered a ticket to California, and he came, via Panama, and mined gold for a period before settling in San Francisco, where he became a prosperous hardware merchant (Dunham, Carrigan, and Co).

In 1860, he married Sarah Matilda Neville, a native of Ireland who had also lived in New York. They had two children Charlotte Playter and Grace Playter, who married Murrey L. Johnson. Charlotte lived in a house designed by Mountain View Cemetery denizen Julia Morgan, located at 612 Mountain Avenue in Piedmont.

Ely Playter relocated his residence to Oakland around 1865. A Republican and "devout Methodist," he defeated the Democratic candidate, John S. Drum, for the mayor's office in 1885, and the following year was re-elected by defeating the Democrat, Captain John Hackett, by a vote of 2,818 to 2,691.

Playter built a home in 1879 at 14th & Castro, which is pictured above. In 1906, the house became a refuge for “working girls” after being purchased by the YWCA. The house was torn down in 1948 to make room for a service station.

He later served as a commissioner on the Board of Public Works (1889-90) and president, Board of Police and Fire Commissioners (1892). Playter resided at 1167 Castro while mayor and for some years beforehand and afterwards.

He died January 9, 1893.

Subscribe to Michael Colbruno's Mountain View Cemetery Bio Tour by Email


Walker Zed said...

Thanks for the mini bio and pics of Ely Welding Playter. I have been trying to find out more about him and his family ever since I saw his name on a list of Mayors of Oakland. Steve Playter

MurrreyK said...

Hello Michael,
Thanks for the detailed bio our family heritage. I am the great grandson grace playter Johnson who lived in that house Julia Morgan designed. The correct address is 312 mountain ave. Please contact me so I may reach out to the person where you got the info from to correct it.
Best regards,

Murrey Kehrlein