What’s in a Name? Encinal Avenue Tells Stories about Early Alameda

 

Encinal Avenue holds particular esteem for me, as it has been the home of the Alameda Sun World Headquarters since it began publishing in 2001. Both Encinal Avenue itself and its name are steeped in local history. 

The name comes from the Spanish for “oak forest” which aptly described the Alameda penninsula before the Gold Rush. On the first map we have of Alameda dating to 1776, Spanish Missionary Pedro Font clearly drew the forest as a significant landmark on the penninsula while his expedition explored the East Bay.

In the 1850s early settlements began to spring up in Alameda. The original, Alameda stood near where I type this at the corner of today’s Encinal and High Street. Soon after the little town of Alameda was established, a squatter village appeared near today’s Grand Street and Clement Avenue that took the name most everyone in the Bay Area was using to refer to the place anyway: Encinal (and Lands Adjacent). It wasn’t until Alameda incorporated as a city in 1872 that the name Alameda took prominence. 

For even more print journalism history one needs look no further than Encinal Avenue, for the first real newspaper that began serving Alameda in the 1860s was titled the Encinal. This may have had something to do with the fact that the paper’s first editor, E.K. Krauth, lived on Grand Street not too far from Encinal and Lands Adjacent.

Encinal Avenue was originally a railroad right-of-way for the South Pacific Coast Railroad beginning in 1878. After collecting ferry passengers at the Alameda Mole on the far West End, the SPCRR would make its way all the way across town to San Leandro Bay where it crossed a trestle to where Doolittle Drive now runs on its way to Santa Cruz.

 

Eric J. Kos is the author of six California history books.