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June 29, 2010 > History: Historical buildings in Union City

History: Historical buildings in Union City

By Myrla Raymundo

Union City is the youngest incorporated city in Alameda County but its Alvarado District has retained many historical buildings. In the early 1850's, a number of Americans left the booming city of San Francisco to become farmers and traders along the east shore of the Bay. Most settled at the mouth of San Antonio Slough (Oakland Estuary) while others came up San Leandro Creek to found San Leandro and Alameda Creek to the area now known as the Alvarado District of Union City. Among the settlers along Alameda Creek were Ezra Decoto, Henry C. Smith, Ephraim Dyer, C. S. Eignebrodt and George Emerson. They soon created a prosperous village. Some of the buildings of that time can still be seen today.

Alvarado Hotel
Henry Smith originally built the Alvarado Hotel, located on Smith Street, in l863. The hotel, owned by Robert Adair in 1910, was the center of the Alvarado community, serving as a town square where folks gathered. It was later owned and operated by Fred Paredes.

A depot was built in Alvarado close to where Smith Street crosses the railroad tracks. A spur line ran to the Alvarado Sugar Beet Factory (Holly Sugar Factory) to haul beets for refining and transport the sugar to market.

Granger Riverside Hotel
The other hotel in Alvarado was the Granger Riverside Hotel built by Farley B. Granger around 1861. It was located on New Haven Street close to the train depot. The hotel catered to rail travelers since it was less than 50 yards from the train station. It was a place of "refreshment, physical and spiritual," uplifting. The building was later demolished.

Silver Dollar Saloon
The Silver Dollar Saloon, located in Alvarado, was an early saloon where the residents gathered to have fun. Mr. Antone Santos was the owner and bartender.

U-Auto Stop Service Station
Also owned by Antone Santos, it was built in l927 and sold gasoline for three companies, Shell Oil Co., General and Richfield. In l928, it became the first station in Washington Township to sell only Shell gasoline. The original station was demolished in l961 and a new one was built at the same location, but closed in l978 after 50 years of operation.

F. C. Harvey & Co. Store
Located on Smith Street in Alvarado, Sam Dinsmore of Alvarado worked there for Fred C. Harvey until Harvey died. Then, Dinsmore took over the store. The building is now known as Bronco Billy's Pizza Parlor.

Hellwig Brothers' Butcher Shop
The Hellwig Brothers' Butcher Shop, located on Union City Blvd, in Old Alvarado, was known all over Washington Township.

Holly House
A Filipino group owned a house on land that became Old Alvarado/Cesar Chavez Park. The group was transferred to the Holly House in 1976 as part of a land swap engineered by Union City to build the Park. Holly House was first used as the residence of the Holly Sugar Co. manager before the City bought it. The group acquired the Holly House, but could not maintain it.

Odd Fellows Hall
The Odd Fellows Hall, built in l864 as the Armory for the Alvarado Guards, was located on Smith Street across from F. C. Harvey & Co. On September 23, l864, the guards held a grand opening ball known as the "greatest social event of the year." The building became the home of the Alvarado Eagles and was used as a dance hall and theater. It was later demolished.

Ben Matsumoto, well known in Union City because of his grocery store on Smith Street, was born in Alvarado. So were his sisters, Grace Handa, Alice Motozaki, and Dorothy Matsumoto. Ben recalls gambling dens and a Chinatown across the street from his store,. People used to come from Oakland in the evenings after work. In the mid-1920's, the town decided to clean up the area so they evicted the tenants and burned the buildings.

Remembering these historic buildings gives us a sense of identity and belonging. They help to preserve our history and culture.

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