from 1924 Polk's ad

Colonial Cafeteria was a cafeteria-style restaurant in Oakland for over 50 years, from 1909 until 1962. It was in a number of locations, but most notably at 1504 Franklin Street beginning in 1923. It was started by Sarah Greathead Hammond, and her sisters-in-law, Hulda H. Crane, and Jennie Hammond. 1 At the time it opened, it was the only cafeteria-style restaurant in California outside of Los Angeles.

The first location was in a refurbished livery stable on 13th St. where the Tribune Tower now stands. A branch was opened at 422 - 14th St. in 1915, and then moved to a newly constructed building at 1504 Franklin St. in 1923. 1

Hulda Crane died in 1928, but Sarah Hammond was still involved in the business in 1955 when she was 97, 1 and died in 1959. Emile F. Cuenin started work at the cafeteria in 1920 5 and was sole owner when the restaurant closed in 1962. 3 Some of the employees were with the business for many years: Manuel Ferreira (chef), 48 years; Amelia Kohn (cashier), 49 years; Vera Smith (bakeshop), 40 years. 3

Groups of all sorts met at the cafeteria. Although the Oakland Business and Professional Women's Club had their own clubhouse nearby, the board frequently met at the cafeteria over lunch or dinner.

1915 ad1946 ad1947 ad1949 adDorothea Lange photo, 1945-1954 8

Building

1924 Polk's directory ad1967 Oakland Tribune 9The 1504 Franklin Street building was specially constructed for the cafeteria and considered to be modern in every way. It was designed by A. Reinhold Denke, and opened in 1923. It even included electric hand dryers and air conditioning. The exterior had polychrome terra cotta.

The Oakland Tribune had a multi-page "advertorial" with articles plus advertisements for some of the companies that worked on the building and supplied the business:

  • James H. Cobbledick - interior decoration
  • A. Schleuter - "Wonder" electric dishwashers
  • Scott Co. - plumbing, heating and ventilating
  • Byrd-Rymer Co. - lighting fixtures
  • Fire Retardant Products Co. - "Retardo" fire-retardant paints
  • Lannom Brothers - millwork, counters and doors
  • Airdry Electric Service Co. - electric hand dryers
  • Miller & Alf - "Hoffite" flooring and sinks
  • Vulcan Iron Works - ice-making refrigerating plant
  • A. Levy and J. Zentner Co. - oranges, lemons and other fruit
  • Lagoria & Inguglia - seafood
  • F. Soares - eggs
  • Folger's Coffee
  • Hunt, Hatch & Co. - asparagus and lettuce
  • H. G. Prince & Co. - canned fruits, vegetables and catsup

Colonial Cafeteria closed in 1962 and Emile Cuenin retired. 3 In 1967, the building was "modernized" to the point it can only be recognized by the 3 large arches on the front and the Pacific Land Title Company moved in. 9 Since at least 2011, it's been labeled the Pacific Law Building. (ref: Google Maps street view). The 15th Street side houses a variety of businesses.

1939 Labor Troubles

ad from April 19, 1939While the 1923 articles and ads triumphantly described the business as being "much like a family that enjoys working together and playing together as well" 6 and having many long-time employees, the business had some labor troubles. Late in 1938, some of the employees went on strike, and the Culinary Workers Alliance No. 31 picketed the cafeteria. In January, 1939, the cafeteria filed for an injunction against further picketing, stating the cafeteria was a cooperative, and therefore couldn't have labor troubles. Emile Cuenin took out a 1/2 page newspaper ad saying as much; the union's attorneys responded by filing for contempt charges, saying he was interfering in the ongoing legal battle. 2 Representing the cafeteria was attorney Bestor Robinson. 7

Links and References

  1. Oakland Cafe Owner Marks 97th BirthdayOakland Tribune September 25, 1955
  2. Union Charges Cafe Violations Oakland Tribune April 24, 1939
  3. Colonial Cafeteria Closing Its Doors Oakland Tribune November 22, 1962
  4. New Structure Model Cafeteria Building Oakland Tribune May 9, 1923
  5. Trio of Women Are Originators of Big Success Oakland Tribune May 9, 1923
  6. Loyal Employees Will Be Moved To New Building Oakland Tribune May 9, 1923
  7. Union Parleys Bared in Strike Oakland Tribune February 9, 1939
  8. LNG45044.11 Online Archive of California from Oakland Museum of California
  9. Old Cafeteria Site New Home for Title Company Oakland Tribune September 17, 1967