The Gaskill neighborhood derives its name from an early owner of a large tract in the area. DeWitt Clinton Gaskill purchased around 17 acres of land north of Oakland on July 1, 1870. He bought the land from his brother, Rollin, who had purchased the land in November 1869 from George Parsons, a pioneer farmer who had settled in the area in 1851.
Both Gaskill brothers, immigrants to California from Vermont, had been living in or near Forbestown, a mining town in Butte County, where they'd run a mining supply business, engaged in some mining themselves, and purchased other land holdings beginning around 1849. Rollin Gaskill moved to the Bay Area first, and seems to have bought the Oakland land simply to transfer it to his brother, with no intention of holding it himself.
D.W.C. Gaskill's 17-acre tract was bounded by:
- San Pablo Avenue on the west
- present-day Lowell Street on the east
- present-day Aileen Street on the north
- present-day 55th Street on the south
Aside from San Pablo, none of those streets existed at the time. The northern and eastern boundaries were existing boundaries between large tracts, initially carved out of the Peralta Rancho San Antonio in the 1850s. The southern boundary was simply where George Parsons chose to divide his land.
The land sat untouched for over six years after D.W.C. Gaskill purchased it. He remained in Butte County, only coming to Oakland briefly in 1876. He subsequently traveled back east with his family, and returned to Oakland in early 1877. The area around the intersection of San Pablo and Stanford Avenue was undergoing a boom in subdivision, and Gaskill followed suit. He subdivided his land almost immediately, filing a map in late January or early February, and began selling lots. Most of the 112 lots in the Gaskill Tract were 50 feet wide and between 90 and 110 feet deep. It would take several decades before all of the lots had buildings on them.
In his subdivision of the tract, Gaskill created four new streets. Running east-west were Menlo, Sutter, and Parsons (named for the farming family that still owned the land on the other side of it). Running north-south through the middle of the tract was Park Street. After the area was annexed to the City of Oakland in 1897, the City changed the street names to conform with its existing numbering system and to reduce duplication. Menlo became Aileen, Sutter became 56th, Parsons became 55th, and Park became Gaskill Street.
Overlap With Other Neighborhoods
Some people consider Paradise Park and Gaskill as part of Golden Gate due to the lack of community associations. However, Greenstreets, the de facto authority on neighborhoods, lists them all as independent neighborhoods.
The Gaskill Tract was certainly a separate subdivision when it was first laid out and sold, but what makes something a "neighborhood" is more subjective. There does not appear to be any specific "Gaskill" identity in the area now. The name lives on mostly in the street, and in the designations still attached to the lots in real estate records (e.g. "lot 12 of block A of the Gaskill Tract").
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