Hall of Records (1892)

The Hall of Records for Alameda County was located on the east side of Broadway between Fourth and Fifth Streets. It was built in 1879-1880 on what was originally laid out as Franklin Square in 1852, and was later used as the parade grounds of the Oakland Guard. 2 The building was designed by William Stokes, and Haskell and Smilie were the main contractors.

Two wings were added later; county architect Henry H. Meyers designed the north wing in 1916. 3

NB: The 1964 article about the building being torn down 2 has some errors. It was not built in 1875, but 1879-1880. Meyers did not design the original building, he designed the north wing in 1916. William Stokes was the architect of the original building and supervised the construction. 4

photo by Frank B. Rodolph 16

1928, from UC Berkeley Bancroft Library 11

Construction Problems

There were numerous problems during construction, and later, questions about the cost. Some of the issues are listed below:

Then in July 1880, William Stokes was charged with perjury and arrested, accused of lying about having made payments to get his plans approved. 5

There were also questions about the costs. In January 1881, supervisor J.J. Hanifin raised questions during meetings, and noted that by his estimation, the building had cost in excess of $132,000, vs. the $75,000 that had been originally approved. 6

Another grand jury in 1881 brought indictments against William Stokes (5 charges of perjury and felony), builders Robert Smilie and Randolph K. Haskell (1 charge of perjury), ex-county supervisor John F. Smith (3 charges of felony), and current county supervisor Frederick F. Myers. 8 Stokes was acquitted, as was Smith. 10

Despite all this, the building was finally completed. A July 1880 article in the Tribune gushed about the layout and finishes. 7


According to the 1887 directory, the following individuals worked in the Hall of Records:

  • County Recorder — Firman D. Hinds. Term of office expires first Monday in January 1889
  • Deputy Recorders — W. B. Hamilton, R. B. S. York
  • Copyists — John C. Cohrman, Charles L. Neale, Levi S. Bixby
  • County Clerk and Auditor — Charles T. Boardman. Term of office expires first Monday in January, 1889
  • Deputy Clerks — James H. Pond, Rod W. Church, Robert Edgar, Frank J. Krauth, W. M. Gilcrest
  • Public Administrator — James Stanley. Term expires first Monday in January 1889. Office, 969 Broadway
  • Coroner — George M. Fronk. Office, 1232 San Pablo Avenue. Term expires first Monday in January 1889

Building Updates

The south wing of the building was added in 1894-1895, and the north wing in 1916. Although not as extensive as the problems when constructing the main building, there were problems with the construction of the south wing, too. 9

The new county courthouse completed in 1936 included a hall of records. By 1937, 420 Broadway was the Alameda County Charities Commission. 15 The 1940 reverse directory lists the commission at 420 Broadway and the Federal Works Agency - Works Project Administration District Office at 440.

The building was remodeled again in 1945 when the welfare and school departments took over the location. An annex was added in 1956. 14

In 1957 a structural engineers report determined that nothing more could be added without the building collapsing. 2

1889 Sanborn excerpt1903 Sanborn excerpt1950 Sanborn excerpt1957 Sanborn excerpt


In 1963, the welfare department moved to a new building on the other side of Broadway. The lion statues guarding the front entrance were moved to the Oakland Zoo by the board of supervisors. 12,13 The building was demolished in 1964 to make way for a new building for the probation department. 2

1963 131964 2

Links and References

  1. Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room and Maps Division
  2. OId Hall of Records To Come Tumbling Down Oakland Tribune March 11, 1964
  3. Addition to Hall of Records Oakland Tribune February 1, 1916
  4. The Hall of Records Oakland Tribune March 18, 1879
  5. Perjury Charge Oakland Tribune July 27, 1880
  6. The Hall of Records Under Fire Oakland Tribune January 11, 1881
  7. A Brief Description of the Splendid Building Oakland Tribune July 1, 1880
  8. Grand Jury: Their Scathing Report in Full Oakland Tribune May 28, 1881
  9. Poor Work Oakland Tribune February 12, 1895
  10. Smith Acquitted Oakland Tribune February 11, 1882
  11. Alameda County Hall of Records UC Berkeley Bancroft Library
  12. Lion Statues at the Oakland Zoo waymarking.com
  13. Stone Lions Really Made From Metal Oakland Tribune May 11, 1963
  14. Structural Tests Ordered On Old Hall of Records Oakland Tribune March 13, 1957
  15. Pension Cases To Increase Oakland Tribune July 26, 1937
  16. Image used with permission by UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library

Stokes' Trial