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August 24, 2010 > History: Origin of street names in Union City

History: Origin of street names in Union City

By Myrla Raymundo

Streets have names to give people directions and addresses if they want to visit or write to someone. But do you ever wonder where the names came from? Each street in Union City has its own historical background.

Smith Street was named after Henry C. Smith, Founder of New Haven. When incorporated, Union City brought together the communities of Alvarado, Decoto, and New Haven. Before l959, their only relationship to each other was location. Because of their close proximity to the Bay, Alvarado and New Haven started out as port towns where local farmers could ship produce all over the world. Founded in l852, Alvarado is credited with growing the Alvarado potato-a popular produce described as a thick skinned, mild white potato that may have been developed by Luther Burbank and the Sweet Alameda Corn Company.

Founded by Henry Smith, the New Haven community eventually became part of Alvarado. Henry Smith, storekeeper and American Alcalde in Mission San Jose, sold his store and moved to Union City near John Horner. Smith built two warehouses at the wharf in Union City. He started a settlement called New Haven, named for his hometown in Connecticut. It was north and east of the great elbow of the creek. Hotels and eating-places sprang up along with saloons and gaming rooms.

Horner Street was named after John Horner, Founder of Union City. In 1850, John Horner, with his brother William, shipped crops netting almost $100,000. They laid out a town eight blocks square in l851. He located the streets on the south side of the Creek, purchased a small Sacramento River steamer called The Union and named his settlement Union City.

Whipple Road was named after John C. & Edwin Whipple. John C. Whipple was lured to California in search of gold in the spring of l854. He invested in acres and acres of land in Alameda County, buying 200 acres near the Decoto Brothers Ranch on what is now Whipple Road. He added 300 acres to his domain in the hills east of the Hayward-Niles Road, planted fruit trees and used the land for cattle and growing grains and vegetables.

Decoto Road was named after Ezra Decoto. Ezra Decoto was born in l833 near Montreal. He was the first of three brothers to move to Alameda County. After buying, farming, and selling different parcels, he and his two brothers bought 334 acres of land near the right of way of the Western Pacific Railroad. The Decoto Land Company bought 284 acres to develop a railroad town. Decoto was originally spelled "de Coteau."

Landlocked, Decoto became a railroad town whose growth was spurred by the arrival of the Western Pacific Railroad through Niles Canyon in l869. Its location made it an ideal spot for a station. The town was formed of land owned by the family of Ezra Decoto, whose name is memorialized with a street and district. The year l870 brought the incorporation of Decoto and by the turn of the century, 580 people lived in Decoto.

Dyer Street was named after E. H. Dyer. In 1870, Ebenezer H. Dyer, along with his brother Ephraim Dyer bought a beet sugar factory, which was built on his property, and turned it into the first successful one in the area. Ebenezer came to California at his brother Ephraim's urging to help manage his farm business. He was manager of the farms and Ephraim was responsible for preparing leases of acreage. Ebenezer was elected surveyor of Alameda County. The County Surveyor's job was to establish township maps and check out boundaries for title claims. The Holly Sugar Company was started by Ebenezer and his brother Ephraim in l879, and operated until l969. Ebenezer retired in 1890 and died in l906.

Vallejo Street was named after Jose Jesus Vallejo, a landowner at Mission San Jose. Bulmer Street was named after Capt. Bulmer, who operated the first store in Alvarado. Barron's Way was named after Capt. Richard Barron, owner of Barron's Landing. Brooklyn Street was named after the ship "Brooklyn," that brought the first settlers to Union City in 1846, and Veasy Street was named after A. M. Veasy, who built the first hotel in Alvarado.

Many years ago, I had an idea to name new streets not only after people who had passed away, but also after people who are still living. Union City officials liked the idea and therefore streets in new developments were named after Union City leaders, both past and present. This is to honor and remember their civic accomplishments.

Streets in the Ponderosa Cove development were named Alvelais Drive, Davis Street, Eastin Drive, Franco Court, Morales Court, Sloan Way, and Williams Way. The streets in the Ponderosa Cove 11 development were named Arce Street, Fernandez Street, Garfinkle Street, and Martin Street. Those in the Wildrose Development carry names including Dutra-Vernaci Drive, Elias Drive, and Valle Drive. The streets in the Trestle Glen Development were named Boyle Street, Stone Street, and Westgard Street. A street in the Seabreeze Legacy development was named Miller Court, and a street in the Kensington 4 development was named Oliver Way.

One street in the Pacific Pointe development was named Green Street and other streets still under construction will be named in honor of additional civic leaders. Some already have had their names attached to streets; Ratekin Drive, Kitayama Drive, Dowe Avenue, Garcia Street, and Lewis Avenue.

Walking along the streets of Union City, people can connect the names with the city's history. Street names help us to remember our heritage.

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