Temescal in 1873

Car number 59 was one of the earliest electrified streetcars to see service on Telegraph Avenue. Photo circa 1895, courtesy of Ray Raineri.

Car number 59 was one of the earliest electrified streetcars to see service on Telegraph Avenue. Photo circa 1895, courtesy of Ray Raineri.

A lot can be learned about a place by glancing at the local newspaper. Take Temescal in 1873, for instance.

The area was buzzing with activity—the bridge over Temescal Creek had recently been completed, there were at least a half-dozen saloons in the area, and the Berkeley Railway which transported people between the nearby cities of Oakland and Berkeley was running every 15 minutes. But it was also a town experiencing growing pains—Telegraph Avenue was a mess of mud, and the schoolhouse needed a lot of work, especially in fixing a leaky roof.

We tracked down three newspaper clippings from 1873 to give a glance of what Temescal was like that year:

Oakland Transcript, January 4, 1873:

“A correspondent who signs himself “Onida” furnishes us with some interesting items from our northern suburb, Temescal:

Humboldt Park Hotel with its fine garden, attracts many visitors, especially on Sundays.

The French restaurant here supplies as fine a meal as can be obtained in the city over the Bay. There are further in full blast now three grocery stores and two butcher shops. The latter are patronized by country men for miles beyond this precinct.

Although the drinking saloons number six, a drunkard is rarely seen on the street, and now are almost unknown.

There is a snug school house for the 400 inhabitants constituting the population of the village and country immediately adjacent thereto.

Here is the town terminus of the Berkeley Railway, over which cars run every fifteen minutes during the day.

Mr. Lusk is the proprietor of a pickle factory and fruit-canning establishment not far from the railroad. He employs both white and Chinese workmen.

Many prominent citizens have fine residences here, among them we may mention the names of Messrs. Zach. Montgomery, Alden and many others.

There are three blacksmith shops in the place, one of whom is employed by the Railroad Company.

Babcock’s wagon and carriage factory turns out nice jobs.

The Road Master, Mr. Morse, has just completed a substantial bridge over the Creek. It was finished just in time for the recent storm to test its strength and for travelers to profit by its convenience.”

Oakland Transcript, January 15, 1873:

“Among the reports of the teachers, we find the following from the Temescal School, which is certainly a very graphic account, and though not ‘set down on the bills’ warrants the attention of the Board of Education. Speaking of the school house and the teacher states: “The windows and ceiling are covered with the dirt of several years growth, so that all are compelled to look on the dark side of everything. When the wind blows, the rattling and squeaking reminds one of the ghosts and hobgoblins. When it rains we receive a shower bath—gratis. If any one doubts that the surroundings of teacher and scholar in Temescal School-house (or barn) are discouraging, let him visit the place and see, and I think he would say “What have I done to endure all this?” and more if he came on a rainy day. If he did not lose his boots in the mud and his patience in his efforts to keep his equilibrium, then I see through a glass darkly.”

Oakland Daily News, December 17, 1873:

“The condition of Telegraph Avenue has been referred to several times lately, and always in that Christianity spirit which soars above the petty ills of life and ordinary sufferings of humanity. The meekness with which we have alluded to the mud sloughs and adobe chasms that abend in that thoroughfare has been of that peaceful, placid character which we flatter ourselves entitles us to favorable mention in the next edition of Fox’s Book of Martyrs.”


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