Gorgeous Bay views, a lovely climate, manicured parks, many native live oak trees, an historical business district and numerous recreational opportunities offer Alameda’s residents an especially pleasant living environment. There is a rich variety of architectural styles in the city, including many resplendent Victorian homes that grace tree-lined streets covering the island’s 12.4 square miles.
Alameda, once inhabited by Ohlone Indians, was part of a former Spanish land grant stretching from San Leandro to Berkeley. In 1853 the city was founded. Originally a peninsula, the need for expanded shipping facilities led to the dredging of a canal through the marshland between Oakland and Alameda in 1902, turning Alameda into an island. With this move, Alameda became an important shipping port.
In 1917, an attraction called Neptune Beach was built in the area now known as Crab Cove. Often compared to Coney Island, the park was a major attraction in the 1920s and 1930s. It is not widely known that both the American snow cone and the popsicle were first sold at Neptune Beach.
The Kewpie doll, hand painted and dressed in unique hand-sewn dresses, became the original prize for winning games at the beach – another Neptune Beach invention. The original owners, the Strehlows, owned and operated the beach on their own, even filling in a section of the bay to add an additional Olympic-size swimming pool and an exceptional roller coaster which must have given riders a tremendous view of the bay.
Neptune Beach’s two huge outdoor pools hosted swimming races and exhibitions by famous swimmers like Olympian Johnny Weissmuller. Unfortunately, the park closed down in 1939 because of the Great Depression, the completion of the Bay Bridge, and the rise of car culture. Once the Bay Bridge was complete, the rail lines, which ran right past the entrance to Neptune Beach, lost riders in droves. People began using their cars to escape the city, traveling further afield in California. Alameda lost its resort status as more distant locations became more attractive to cash-rich San Francisco tourists.
Some of the resort homes and buildings from the Neptune beach era still exist in present-day Alameda. The Croll Building was the site of Croll’s Gardens and Hotel, famous as training quarters for the some of the greatest fighters in boxing history from 1883 to 1914. James J. Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jim Jefferies, Jack Johnson, and many other champions all stayed and trained here.
Today this beautiful preserved building is home to Croll’s Pizza and the New Zealander Restaurant. Neptune Court, just a block away on the corner of Central Ave. and McKay Ave., provides another glimpse of what resort life was like in Alameda in the 1920s. A short walk near
Crab Cove will reveal many more historic gems.
With the advent of World War II, a vast stretch of the marshy area of Alameda was filled and the Naval Air Station Alameda established. This major Naval facility included a large airfield as well as docks for several aircraft carriers. It closed in 1997, but a major attraction today is the
USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier turned museum ship now moored at the former Naval Air Station as the
USS Hornet Museum.
Thanks to Wikipedia and the City of Alameda for this information.