from 1924 Polk's Oakland

The Polytechnic College was founded in 1898 as the Polytechnic Business College, and chartered in 1911. It was also sometimes called the Polytechnic Business College of Engineering, or the Polytechnic Business College and School of Engineering. It was in various locations, most notably on the northeast corner of 13th and Madison Streets.

June 25, 1898, Professor A.V. Feight, formerly of Shenandoah, Iowa, announced the school was to open soon. 3 Initially no location was specified, but by July it was announced that it would be at 12th and Clay in the YMCA building. That had previously been the home of Aydelotte's Business College. The 1904 directory lists the Polytechnic Business School at 12th and Clay, with W.E. Gibson, president, A.V. Feight, superintendent, and H.C. Ingram, secretary. Although most of the classes at that point were focused on business, a 1903 ad also mentions civil engineering, electrical engineering, mining engineering, and drafting. 4

1905 61905 61903 4

By 1905, they had moved into a new building at 306 - 12th St. at Harrison. 5 The school occupied the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors, while the ground floor was used as commercial space. It's unknown when Feight left the school. but a 1905 article only mentions Gibson and Ingram. 6 The 1906 earthquake damaged the building.

1905 61906 earthquake damage 2

Joseph R. Knowland and Frank K. Mott spoke at the 1908 graduation. 7 A 1909 article says they had 175 graduates in the recent glass, the largest in the school's history. The majority were business graduates; only 6 of the 175 were in the college of engineering. 8

A new building was constructed at 13th and Madison to house the college of engineering. It was designed by A.W. Smith in 1910. 10 An ad in December 1910 shows both the 12th and Harrison building (business) and the distinctive 13th and Madison building (engineering), though the new building wasn't dedicated until June of 1911.

1910 912th and Harrison (NW corner)
1911 Sanborn map
13th and Madison (NE corner)
1911 Sanborn map

1911 161911 161911 16

In 1911, a fire badly damaged the building at 12th and Harrison, along with destroying other buildings on the block. 1

At the beginning of 1915, the business college moved to the 13th and Madison building. 

The following is from a 1920 advertisement for the college:

A University of Practical Education - Embracing Engineering - Vocational - Commercial

One of the best equipped Technical Colleges in the United States Grants degrees to those completing Engineering Courses. Owns and occupies its own buildings and grounds, machine shops, laboratories, field instruments. Intensified, thorough and practical courses. Students do practical work while pursuing their courses.

Engineering College: Includes Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, Mining and Architectural Engineering.

Vocational: Includes Automobile Engineering, Machine Shop and Practical Work in electricity.

Commercial: Includes Business Training, Private Secretarial Stenography, Banking and Office Practice.

Faculty - Composed of Specialists - those who have qualified especially for the work they are doing. They have been chosen by reason of ability and experience, and are experts in their special subjects.

from 1941 Polk's guide
via Internet Archive
from 1941 Polk's guide
via Internet Archive

With the world at war and airplanes becoming more common, the college began offering aviation ground courses in 1940 by the Civil Aeronautics Authority. 13 Just a few months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, they ran an ad about the importance of being prepared, and that the courses they offered prepared young men not only for Uncle Sam's needs, but for their future careers. 14

It's unknown exactly when the school closed. One of the last references that wasn't referring to someone who had graduated from the college was a November 1941 article about the Oakland Board of Education leasing the north wing of the building for welding classes for the defense industry. 15

The 13th and Madison building was demolished in 1948 to make way for the new Main Library. 11

The Merritt Book (Merritt, Frank Clinton. History of Alameda County. Chicago: SJ Clarke Publishing Company, 1928.) has a biography of Professor Willis Ervin Gibson that might be helpful in this entry.

See also Willis Ervin Gibson on FindAGrave

Links and References

  • ad Berkeley Daily Gazette December 10, 1930
  1. Big Blaze Causes Ruin Oakland Tribune May 1, 1911 (p2)
  2. Polytechnic Business College, Oakland California Historical Society
  3. New Business College Oakland Tribune June 25, 1898
  4. ad Oakland Tribune September 12, 1903
  5. A Visit To Oakland's Big School Oakland Tribune December 17, 1904
  6. The Great Business Training School of the West Oakland Tribune December 23, 1905
  7. Knowland and Mott To Address The Graduates of Polytechnic College Oakland Tribune June 26, 1908
  8. Graduating Class Largest in History Of Local Polytechnic Business College Oakland Tribune June 24, 1909
  9. ad Oakland Tribune December 28, 1910
  10. drawing Oakland Tribune July 3, 1910
  11. photo Oakland Tribune November 3, 1948
  12. Polytechnic College Moves to Own New Building January 3rd Oakland Tribune December 2, 1914
  13. ad Oakland Tribune July 21, 1940
  14. ad Oakland Tribune September 28, 1941
  15. Defense School Will Expand Oakland Tribune November 13, 1941
  16. Greater Oakland edited by Evarts Blake, Pacific Publishing Co., 1911