Today’s Island City began life as a peninsula where Native Americans, members of the Ohlone tribe, first lived more than 3,000 years ago. These first settlers took advantage of the climate and the readily available staples — acorns, game, fresh water and oysters. The Ohlone found today’s Alameda an attractive place to live. Willow trees grew along Sausal (“Willow”) Creek to the north. The Ohlone used the branches from these trees to build their homes.
The Cohen family estate Fernside burned in a spectacular fire that started in the attic on Tuesday morning, March 23, 1897. A man driving a milk wagon noticed smoke coming from the roof of the mansion just after 6 a.m., and sounded the alarm.
“There were plenty of (fire) engines, but no water,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported the next day. “The nearest hydrant was some distance from the house and there was but little pressure.”
The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906 destroyed the bridge that the South Pacific Coast Railroad used to cross San Leandro Bay east to Encinal Avenue. It also made the tracks that ran along today’s Main Street on the West End unusable.