Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 8, 2021

Guest blog: Did the City name our first park, “Alameda Park”?

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

by Rasheed Shabazz

In his 2001 book Alameda at Play: A Century of Public Parks and Recreation in a Bay Area City, Woodruff Minor details the “modern” history of the site of the park then-known as Jackson Park. According to Minor, Alameda’s first park derived “its name from the short-lived Alameda Park hotel,” established by the San Francisco & Alameda Railroad. In 1867, Alfred A. Cohen created a real estate subdivision, the Alameda Park Tract and “In 1870, Alameda Park was subdivided into smaller lots and renamed Alameda Park Homestead.” Of the park name, Minor writes, “Originally a private commons attached to an 1860s subdivision, the property was acquired by the city in 1894 and opened the following year as Alameda Park. The name was changed to Jackson Park in 1909.” 

In 2018, I relied on this book when I wrote to the Recreation and Parks Commission and called on them to rename Jackson Park. Briefly overlooking the park’s history as private property and Minor’s omission of Andrew Jackson’s historic treatment of Black and Indigenous peoples for another discussion, I have recently questioned whether or not the City government ever adopted the name “Alameda Park.” According to Minor, “The landscaped grounds, christened Alameda Park, served as the city’s only municipal park for the next fourteen years.” However, although the subdivision and its park was sometimes called “Alameda Park,” the City may not have actually adopted a name for the park until 1909. Newspaper articles from 1890 through the 1909 christening of Jackson Park show that papers referred to the park by multiple names.

Newspapers often referred to the park by its location. For example, in 1890, when the Oakland Tribune reported the Alameda Brass Band’s first concert. “The members have begun fitting up a temporary band stand in the park on Park Avenue.” In 1894, the Alameda Daily Argus reported that the City Trustees would be improving “the Alameda park,” but the article’s headline was, “The City Park.” Announcing the July 4, 1895 park opening celebration, the San Francisco Call reported the event would take place “in the city park.” Similarly, the Argus announced a 1906 concert “in the city park on Park Avenue, Alameda.” 

Newspapers reporting the bestowing of Jackson Park do not reference any former name. A 1909 San Francisco Call article notes, “The old park in Park avenue that was generally known as the City park will hereafter be known as Jackson park.” Similarly, the Alameda Times-Star and Daily Argus referred to the recently obtained land as, “the Park Avenue park.” 

The Oakland Tribune reported in 1909 that the Park and Playground Board of Commissioners “officially adopted names for the parks in Alameda,” including the park “between Park and Regent streets, from Encinal avenue south, “Jackson Park.”.” The May 16 Tribune article noted the official adoption of names by the Commission, but did not reference any previous name or a renaming.

At the May 17, 1909 meeting, the Parks Commission advised the City Council that it had named … “the Park located between the eat[sic] and west side of Park Avenue as “Jackson Park”.” If the park had been officially named “Alameda Park” by the City, wouldn’t newspaper articles or city council records likely refer to the park by its former name or at least mention that the park was being renamed? 

In 2020 correspondence insisting the park name “revert” to Alameda Park, Minor asserts, “While it is true that prior to 1909 Alameda Park was sometimes referred to informally in newspaper articles as “the city park” or simply “the park,” since there was no other, it seems evident from the record that the private park’s historic name morphed naturally into the public park’s official name.” Minor also cites a 1897 Sanborn Fire Insurance map. The private maps, nor the 1895 court order condemning the subdivision land for a public park; however, determine that the City formally adopted a name for our first park prior to 1909. 

While it is clear that real estate interests called park formerly known as Jackson Park Alameda Park, it had also been known as the city park and the park on park avenue, until the City chose to honor Andrew Jackson. Public memorials like place names are not necessarily “natural.” As a name to replace Andrew Jackson Park goes forward to the City Council in 2021, it is important to have an accurate accounting of our first public park’s history and name–beyond local myth and folklore.

Rasheed Shabazz is a member of Rename Jackson Park. In 2018, he started the petition to rename Andrew Jackson Park.

For citations referenced in this post, please visit Rename Jackson Park.

9 Comments »

  1. Woody Minor is used by the dog whistle Alamedans to legitimize their racist undertones. Woody is also a conceited asshole, unwilling to accept when he’s wrong, especially under pressure. The name “woody” is also an afront to an exceptional Pixar character,…although perhaps fittingly, that character was voiced by a racist maga actor.

    Comment by DaveIsDumb — January 8, 2021 @ 6:27 am

    • Woody is voiced by Tom Hanks. Maybe you’re thinking of Buzz Lightyear?

      Comment by Lauren Do — January 8, 2021 @ 8:23 am

    • What an odd handle DaveisDumb. And you are calling out someone who uses the nickname “Woody” when his given name is “Woodruff” and something he used well before there was a Pixar. I am not sure how much you have actually interacted with Mr. Minor to be calling him these names. Some people with an agenda to name the park “Alameda Park” used his words in the “Alameda at Play” book to try to justify adopting that name again, but how that says that he is “unwilling to accept when he is wrong” I don’t know.
      If you read what he wrote, he does not advocate for the name Alameda Park being applied to the park now, only that he believes that it was an official name. For exactly what Mr Minor said about the origins of the name of the park, as well as Mr. Shabazz’s original questions about it, with citations, go to this page: https://alameda-preservation.org/get-involved/advocacy/current-preservation-issues/

      Comment by Kevis Brownson — January 11, 2021 @ 7:09 pm

  2. Thank you for the detailed, primary document-sourced history. It’s informative.

    This is also a good reminder that history didn’t begin in the Victorian era, which some of our most ardent preservationists seem to believe.

    Comment by Gaylon — January 8, 2021 @ 8:08 am

    • Thank you, Gaylon. Hopefully those folks will read with an open mind. Hopefully we can all continue to expand our understandings of history, especially Alameda’s histories.

      Comment by Rasheed Shabazz — January 9, 2021 @ 11:12 am

  3. Thanks Rasheed for your historical perspective. As someone who appreciates history, it’s really nice to have your perspective. Years ago when I was researching the history of my house, I had coffee with Woody Minor in one of my favorite coffee shops to discuss history and architecture in Alameda and I found him to be like you, very committed to his work.

    I also found him to be a little on the stubborn side and not very flexible as it relates to interpretation of history, but none the less I did purchase a couple of his books and enjoyed them, and enjoyed the opportunity to share my perspective with him.

    Thanks again for the work you do.

    Comment by Karen Bey — January 8, 2021 @ 8:48 am

    • Hi Karen. You’re welcome.

      I wont comment on that second observation, but i think the attached letter and citation addresses some of that.

      Comment by Rasheed Shabazz — January 9, 2021 @ 11:14 am

  4. This is great research. It’s interesting that a number of the references to Alameda park use a lower-case p, suggesting it wasn’t a formal title. And, even was it called Alameda Park at some point, so what? It can be renamed. As Gaylon notes, history didn’t start with someone building tract homes in the nineteenth century.

    PS where is nowyouknow? Oddly silent about things in DC. I was expecting a link to something saying it was all Antifa.

    Comment by BC — January 8, 2021 @ 1:10 pm

    • Maybe nowyouknow went to DC and got COVID from the unmasked people and is unable to type.

      Comment by Kevis Brownson — January 11, 2021 @ 7:10 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post.

Say what you want

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.