Danish Consul Once Called Alameda Home

Gustave O’Hara Taaffe served as president of the Scandinavian Hall Association and played an important role in starting the newspaper California Scandinav.

Danish Consul Once Called Alameda Home

Gustave O’Hara Taaffe’s 19th-century Rosebush estate is today’s Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park was once an 8-acre estate owned by three different families. The Alameda Sun recently introduced its readers to the estate’s first residents, James Farrell and his family (“Three Families Once Called Today’s Lincoln Park Home,” Oct. 8).

In 1873, Farwell sold the estate and home that he called “Homebush” to Gustave O’Hara Taaffe for $25,000. In Alameda at Play, historian Woody Minor tells us that Taaffe renamed the estate “Rosebush” and “laid out new grounds. (He) remodeled the house, only to die the following year.”

O’Hara Taaffe was born on in Denmark on Dec. 1, 1825. In 1851, he arrived in San Francisco from Hong Kong, where he had served as the Danish Consul. He worked as an agent for the Commercial Union Assurance Co. He also served as the Danish Consul, as well as the Vice-Consul for Sweden and Norway. A consul is an official appointed by a government to live in a foreign city and protect and promote the government’s citizens and interests there.

Before coming to Alameda, he lived at 2114 Mason St. (near Lombard Street) in San Francisco.

O’Hara Taaffe returned to Denmark, where he married Anna Södring on July 24, 1856. She was born there on July 11, 1838, and bore seven children before she and Gustav either separated or divorced.

Seven of their children survived into adulthood: four sons — Christian, Teodor, Viggo and Gustav — and three daughters, Agnes Elizabeth and Catherine.

O’Hara Taaffe served as president of the Scandinavian Hall Association and played an important role in starting the newspaper California Scandinav.

He worked as a trustee at Our Savior’s Scandinavian Evangelical-Lutheran Church. He was also an amateur sculptor who traveled in important circles.

In 1869, three years before purchasing the Farwell estate in Alameda, he affixed his signature to the papers that formed the “California Immigrant Union.”

He and his associates started the organization to encourage immigration from Europe to California. The union appointed O’Hara Taaffe one of its first trustees, and he sat at the table with such luminaries as railroad baron Charles Crocker, cattle tycoon Charles Lux and sugar magnate Claus Spreckels.

In 1869, the same year the California Immigrant Union set to work, O’Hara Taaffe wrote a 40-page document that he called “Californien som det er,” (California As It Is). He had this published in his native county’s capital city of Copenhagen.

“This pamphlet is, on the whole, a sober and seemingly accurate account of conditions in the state, which he knew intimately through travel and business,” a reviewer wrote. He aimed his treatise specifically at Scandinavian farmers, people he felt would help California thrive.

In 1872, three years after he penned “Californien son det er” he purchased Homebush, renamed the place Rosebush, and live long enough to enjoy the place for just two years.

He died in Alameda on April 16, 1874. He was only 48 years old. His obituary described him as “the most distinguished Dane in the city of San Francisco.

He was laid to rest in San Francisco. His body was later disinterred and moved to Woodlawn Cemetery in Colma, where a small stone marks where O’Hara Taaffe rests today.

“The property then passed to Robert R. Thompson, a man of great wealth and wide experience,” Minor writes. We’ll meet Thompson in the next segment of this series.

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