Union St. Home Recalls Victorian Legacy

Bay Area Electric Railroad Association Charles Shaner designed the station at Willow Street and today’s Lincoln Avenue for the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1891, a year after he teamed up with J.C. Diamond and David Brehaut to build the house at 1207 Union St. The station was dismantled in 1941.

In 1890 three talented professionals teamed up to design and build the house at 1207 Union St. in Alameda — architect Charles Shaner and builders David Brehaut and J. C. Diamond. These men had a hand in designing or building more than 80 homes during the Victorian era in Alameda. 

The neighborhood was once part of Dr. James Hibbard’s property — land that he dubbed “The Town of Encinal and the Lands Adjacent.” Hibbard laid out his town in 1854, naming all the north-south streets for fish. Today’s Union Street bore the name “Pike Street.” 

In 1872, residents decided to combine three towns — Hibbard’s Encinal, William Worthington Chipman and Gideon Aughinbaugh’s Alameda and Alfred A. Cohen’s Woodstock — into the city of Alameda. Changes to street names followed, and “Pike Street” became “Union Street.” 

According to researcher Quentin (he uses just one name) Union Street “probably refers to The Union, a ship brought to the West Coast and owned by businessman Charles Minturn. The ship saw service between San Francisco and Union City — which derives its name from the same source.” 

Minturn and Hibbard formed a partnership and built a wharf at the foot of Leviathan Street, today’s Grand Street. They both have streets named for them in what was once the Town of Encinal. 

According to historian Woody Minor, Ohio-native Charles Shaner specialized in large houses in upscale neighborhoods. He began locally in the early 1880s as a carpenter with A. C. Gilbert & Company, the town’s leading homebuilder. When Gilbert went bankrupt in 1885, Shaner began advertising himself as an architect. 

David S. Brehaut was born in 1853 on Prince Edward Island in Canada. His family arrived there from the Guernsey Islands in England earlier in the century. He and Diamond teamed up to build 17 other homes in Alameda. Brehaut also worked with Albert Cornelius, building six homes with him here. 

In 1893, three years after Brehaut, Diamond and Shaner designed and built 1207 Union St., Brehaut and Shaner teamed up to create the showcase home at 2070 San Jose Ave. Brehaut lived in this home, which many remember as “the telephone book house” because it has so frequently appeared on the cover of Alameda’s telephone book. A year after he and Shaner completed 2070 San Jose, Brehaut became a naturalized United States citizen. 

Alameda Museum curator George Gunn particularly admires Shaner and his work. “Shaner left us a wonderful legacy,” said Gunn. “His creations were more fanciful than many of the other architects who worked in Alameda.” Gunn had a hand in naming streets for both Shaner and Brehaut on Harbor Bay.