Oakland's Birth on the Waterfront  

The oak groves and marshes that once covered the site of Oakland and Alameda provided a rich hunting ground for the original inhabitants. Ohlone Indians had settlements in Indian Gulch--now called Trestle Glen--as well as near Holy Names College and in the Temescal neighborhood. With the founding of Mission de San Jose in 1797, most Indians in Alameda County were moved from their homes and concentrated in settlements around the mission. By 1820, when all of what is now Oakland was granted by the Spanish government to Don Luis Maria Peralta, few Indians remained in this area.

Don Luis called this land Rancho San Antonio, and it extended from present-day El Cerrito through San Leandro. The Peralta family built the first boat landing on their waterfront at the foot of what is now 13th Avenue. It was called Embarcadero de San Antonio and was first used to ship hides and tallow produced on Rancho San Antonio. When commercial logging began in the redwoods up on the hills in the 1840s, this landing was one of the places along the waterfront where lumber was loaded for shipment to San Francisco.

In 1850, Horace Carpentier arrived at Rancho San Antonio and, along with others, settled on land along what is now Broadway. Although the land belonged to the Peraltas, Carpentier began selling lots and laying out a town.

It seemed Carpentier sensed the lucrative potential in a town, its waterfront and transportation. On May 4, 1852, he persuaded the new California state legislature to incorporate Oakland as a town. And on May 17, he persuaded the new town's trustees to pass an ordinance "for the disposal of the waterfront belonging to the town of Oakland, and to provide for the construction of wharves." Thus, the waterfront from West Oakland to the Lake Merritt channel was deeded to Carpentier along with the exclusive right to construct wharves, piers and docks. He was now in position to levy a toll on nearly every person, animal or item of cargo entering or leaving Oakland.

It was not long before the people of Oakland realized the importance of the treasure they had given away. Throughout Oakland's history, whoever has controlled the waterfront has had a major impact on the political and economic development of the city. But despite political petitions, legal suits and even riots, Carpentier held onto the waterfront.

From Beth Bagwell, Oakland, The Story of a City

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