Museum Painting Has Story to Tell

Dennis Evanosky This painting greets visitors to the Alameda Museum. In it, artist L. E. Nelson portrayed the ferry boat Oakland at the Alameda Mole, the pier where Southern Pacific Railroad passengers caught the ferry to San Francisco.

The ferry Oakland waits for her passengers in a 1969 painting by Alameda painter L. E. Nelson. The painting hangs in the Alameda Museum today near the reception desk.

In the painting the Alameda Mole served Nelson as a backdrop. Looking at the history of both objects of Nelson’s interest brings something interesting to mind. Both the Alameda Mole and the side-wheeler Oakland fell victim to fire.

Nelson’s painting shows the 1902 Mole that replaced the one that burned that very same year. James Fair and Alfred Davis built the first Alameda Mole in 1884

The ferry Oakland also burned. She began life as a the side-wheeler Chrysopolis in 1860. She was built in San Francisco by respected shipwright John Gunder North in his new shipyard in today’s Potrero District.

Fifteen years after Chrysopolis first began carrying passengers Patrick Henry Tiernan rebuilt her as the ferry Oakland. When he was finished the Central Pacific Railroad had a double ended ferry boat at its service.

To accomplish this Tiernan literally cut Chrysopolis in two and extended her length to 282 feet 7 inches overall.

Both objects pictured in Nelson’s painting vanished in 1940. The United States Navy destroyed the Alameda Mole to build runways for its new air station; fire destroyed Oakland that same year.

The Alameda Museum is a treasure chest full of stories just like this one. The museum is located at 2324 Alameda Ave. and is open from Tuesday to Friday from 1 to 4 p.m., on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 1:30 to 4 p.m.

Stop by for a visit.

Oakland Heritage Alliance This Edgar Cohen photograph shows the 1884 Alameda Mole that a massive fire destroyed in 1902. That very same year, the earlier Mole was replaced by the pier shown in Nelson’s painting.
Wikipedia The ferryboat Chrysopolis lies docked at San Francisco. She plied the waters of San Francisco Bay for 15 years. In 1875 the Central Pacific Railroad commissioned Patrick Henry Teirnan to convert her to a double-ended ferry boat that could glide into and out of the wharves without having to turn around.