History of McKinley Park

In 1872, the city of Alamda evolved from the towns of Alameda, Encinal and Woodstock. None of these towns had public parks. In fact, the city of Alameda did not have a public park until 1895.when the two-acre Alameda Park opened on the site of A.A. Cohen's former Park Avenue property. Thirteen years later in 1908 voters approved the purchase of three tracts that the city would convert into parks:  the James A. Waymire tract on Buena Vista Avenue; the Wiilliam H. Taylor tract on Eighth Street near Central Avenue; and the Robert R. Thompson tract on High Street at Santa Clara Avenue.

The  parks on these tracts opened in 1909, each bearing the name of a United States president: The city named the Taylor tract park for George Washington, the one on the old Thompson tract for Abraham Lincoln and the Waymire tract for William McKinley. The city brought Alameda Park into step with this presidential tradition, renaming it for Andrew Jackson.

The original resident of the Waymire tract, Robert H. McGill, purschased the four-acre site in 1866. He named his estate "Oak Shade," built a two-story home and, to insure his privacy, lined Buena Vista Avenue with cypress trees. The McGilll family moved out in 1875  and, after other families lived there, Judge James Andrew and Virginia Waymire moved in 1885. Waymire hired Dennis Straub and his architect stepson Fred Fischer to embellish McGill home with a tower and bay windows. He also hired gardeners to add exotic trees to the property and replace McGill's cypress trees along Buena Vista Avenue with palm trees

"The mansion has a magnificent setting in the center of a grove of oaks, and the block, bounded by Buena Vista and Clement avenues and Wanut and Mulberry streets, is surrounded by palms that are unsurpassed outside of the tropics, The San Francisco Call gushed to its readers.

After a failed investment in the Central Valley, the Waymires fell on hard times. In 1888, James went to Hibernia Bank and borrowed $16,900 against the property. He was unable to keep up with the payments and the bank foreclosed on the Waymires' mortgage in 1900. Hibernia allowed the family to stay on as renters,however. James and Virginia couldn't afford it, though. .Just before Christmas in 1907 the Waymires learned the bank was evicting them.

The eviction became grist for the newspaper mill. "Bank to Take Home of Judge Waymire," The Call's headline read.

"The old Waymire home at Walnut Atreet and Buena Vista Avenue, a landmark of Alameda and the scene of many festal gatherings, is about to pass out of the hands of the family of James' A. Waymire, a Regent of the State University, and former Assemblyman," The Call announced to its readers. Sure enough, Alameda County Sheriff deputies came knocking with an eviction notice.

"The passing of the splendid grounds and the removal of the mansion will mark the ending of an unusual social reign In the Encinal City, The Call reporterd.
"James A. Waymire is one of the 'old guard' among the politicians of Alameda County."

The. following May voters approved puchasing Waymire's property from HIbernia to create a park. Waymire managed William McKinley's first presidential campaign on the West Coast. This likely served as the inspiration to name the park for McKinley.

Read more about McKinley Park and Alameda's other parks in Woodruff Minor's book Alameda at Play.