Slough Becomes Lake Merritt  

Lake Merritt ca. 1905Originally Lake Merritt was a tidal slough, a wet marsh at low tide and a body of water at high tide. As the city began to grow up around it, it became a dumping ground for nearly 90% of the city's garbage. High tide wasn't so bad but low tide turned the area into a smelly eyesore.

In 1869, the energetic Dr. Samuel Merritt used his own money to build a dam across the mouth of the slough near 12th Street. Flood gates helped to contain clean salt water in the slough during low tide and create a lake--Lake Merritt. It should be noted that Merritt's large real estate holdings at the north end of the lake greatly increased in value once the marsh became a lake. But streams continued to deposit silt in the shallow lake, and the residents continued to deposit sewage. By the 1880s, plans had been created for a boulevard around the lake to prevent it from degenerating into a "miasmatic bog or frogpond." But it was not until 1907 that a million dollar bond issue was passed to create the lake and park we know today.

Ann Richter
Friends of OPRCA

Oakland Museum of California Logo  "Walk Along the Water"
  Oakland Museum of California, used with permission.

Explore this Topic:

Lake Merritt History - Camron-Stanford House

Dr. Samuel Merritt - Camron-Stanford House

link to view of Lake Merritt, ca. 1890sView of Lake Merritt, ca. 1890s. - Oakland History Room, Oakland Public Library


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