Girls Inc. Celebrates 50 in Historical Headquarters

A pair of Girls Inc. members stand in front of the Dr. Edith Meyers Center on Santa Clara Avenue. They invite you to Girls Inc.’s 50th birthday party this Saturday. Photo courtesy Girls Inc.

Girls Inc. of the Island City, 1724 Santa Clara Ave., will host an open house to celebrate its 50th birthday from 1 to 5 p.m.., this Saturday, May 3. Girls Inc. will mark the day with live music, refreshments and birthday cake.

Guided tours of the historical house will be given at 2 and 4 p.m. The house holds an important spot in the architectural history of the Island City. According to Alameda Museum curator Georg Gunn, noted architect Ernest Coxhead designed the home for David Greenleaf in 1891. Greenleaf paid $7,660 for the privilege of moving in; this when homes at the other end of the spectrum sold for $1,850. 

The house, known today as the Dr. Edith Meyers Center, is one of 31 Historic Monuments in Alameda. Meyers was a physician and the eldest of three sisters. Her father was the noted architect Henry Haight Meyers. Few changes have been made to the house over the years. It features original richly carved wood ornamentation, leaded glass windows, Tudor Revival cast ornamental ceilings with the letter “G” for Greenleaf. It also features wainscoting of select redwood panels, lathe-turned balusters, as well as a hand-carved Tudor Revival newel post.

The home’s original owner was born in Hartford, Conn. on Jan. 1, 1827, the son of Dr. Charles and Electa Toocker Greenleaf. He moved to Peoria, Ill., in 1853, where he practiced dentistry.  In fact, David, his father, Charles, and his older brother James Monroe were all dentists. 

David married Helen Johnson in 1854 and the couple moved to Galesburg, Ill. According to local records David “engaged in the drug trade.” That is to say he purchased a drug store, turning his attention from dentistry to pharmacology. He served as Galesburg’s mayor and as founder and president of the local electric company. He also had an interest in two hotels in town. In 1890 he moved with Helen and their two children, Marianne and David Jr.  to California, first to San Jose and then to Alameda. David died in 1903. Helen sold the home the following year.  

Gunn said that the Greenleaf home is only one of two Coxhead creations in Alameda; the other is at 1272 Caroline St., built in 1893 for capitalist George Whittell at a cost of $10,800.

Writer David Weinstein describes Coxhead as “a proper English gentleman — erudite, reserved, hardworking and meticulous, a bit of a martinet with his children and a High Anglican to boot.”

We’ll take a closer look at this architect next week.