(Contributed by Oakland Pioneers - No. 52)
LOWER BROADWAY IN EARLY DAYS (NO. 1)
By Henry Maloon
(NOTE The following is in continuation of my account of a trip from San Francisco to Oakland by the Creek Route during the '50s.)
We look up Main street (now Broadway) with its rows of one and two-story rough buildings, its unpaved, curbed or sidewalked street, oak trees and brush growing in the center, with two sand trails on either side. All is now excitement.
On the wharf stand four Concord stage coaches to which are hitched four and six bucking and snorting half-broke mustangs. One driver calls "All aboard for Ocean View, Red House and San Pablo"; another "This stage for Lafayette, Pacheco and Martinez". One Is for San Leandro, Hayward, Union City, Niles and San Jose, and another for Livermore, Stockton, Milton and Copperopolis.
The passengers of all colors and nationalities, all armed, climb board, the driver tightens his lines, the crack of the whip is heard and four stages drawn by these bucking mustangs go tearing up the sandy trail on Main street and are lost to view in a cloud of dust, trees and brush beyond Fifth street.
The excitement at the boat landing has subsided, the Clinton has cast off her lines, proceeding up the estuary to the embarcadero, a few stragglers remain on the wharf, John Watson, the wharfinger, and his brother Clark, are distributing the freight.
Ike Wingate, with his one-horse dray, the only mode of conveyance, is loading his freight and Marshall Curtis, with his ox team, Barney and Mike, is unloading charcoal for the return boat.
We leave the wharf to take in the town. We go by its western approach. The first building is the Rosasco warehouse, about 50 feet from the shore lines, standing on piles over the water. We pass over a narrow walk to the mainland and find three small buildings, one-story, about 20 feet front standing over the water. The first two buildings are occupied by the real estate firm of Carpentier, Moon & Adams, with a sign over the door. "Land for Sale," and the steamboat and stage time table standing beside the door.
The next building, occupied by a colored man who went by the name or "Darkie Ritchie," was a restaurant and chowder house. When a clam chowder was ordered, Ritchie would take his shovel, go to the flat behind his house and soon return with clams for the chowder.
The next building was the saloon and bowling alley of Jim DeBoyce, the sign "Rum, Gin and Brandies," also a sign. "Boats to Let." in the rear of his place. The waters of the estuary then reached to the north line of First and Washington streets.
This bowling alley was the only amusement place in the town and most of the pioneers would gather there to discuss the news or play the game of nine pins. Judge Blake, Jack Lawson, Bill Kyte, Peter Baker, John Potter, Judge Fogg, B. F. Ferris, Shattuck and others took a hand in knocking down the pins and many times has the writer sat perched above the cowhide stuffed with straw as a fender and set the pins up again and again for the sum of 25 cents per game, for this was before the days of nickels or dimes - the short bit, the long bit and the quarter being the smallest money in circulation - and small, indeed, would be the man who would pay the boy less than a quarter for setting up a game.
The next building is on the corner of First and Main streets - the Oakland House, A. D. Eames, proprietor. It is a two-story frame building with a half dozen rooms in the upper story, kitchen, dining rooms and office on the lower floor. We cross First street and in a small shack Sam Bevckelbank has a store, dealing in cigars and tobacco, stick candy; books and papers.
On the arrival of the eastern steamer by way of the Isthmus, here could be bought the Boston Journal, New York Herald and Harper's Magazine.
An Oyster House and Restaurant, Billy Ironmonger, proprietor, adjoined the book store. The balance of this block was used as a corral, where the Spanish cattle were penned previous to their transportation across the bay.
(To be continued)