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December 6, 2016 > Pioneer family collection archived

Pioneer family collection archived

By Kelsey Camello

Almost ten years ago, Mark Hirsch, descendant of Irvington pioneers Joseph and Caroline Hirsch, donated the Hirsch Family Collection to the Washington Township Museum of Local History. The museum is a non-profit organization that runs on volunteer energy. However, for the past two years, thanks to a matching grant from the Despeaux Good Works Fund at the East Bay Community Foundation, as well as donations from museum members and the community at large, the museum has had the ability to pay an archivist/cataloguer to work on new and existing collections. Thanks to these efforts, the Hirsch Family Collection has now been completely archived.

Joseph and Caroline Hirsch came to Irvington, then named Washington Corners, in the late 1860s, via Centerville, San Francisco, possibly Iowa, Ellis Island, and Germany, respectively. They established a general store at the Corners and bore six children Ð Otto (MarkÕs grandfather), Alfred, William, Lillie, Edwin and Sophie. Joseph died in 1887. Caroline and her children continued to rent and run the store out of the lower floor of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows Building (the wooden building burned in the 1895 fire, but was replaced by the brick hall, still standing today at 40955 Fremont Blvd).

In 1895, Caroline had the well-known Mission San Jose architect, A.L. Sunderer design the Caroline Hirsch Building. It was completed in 1896 and still stands today at 40985 Fremont Blvd. It is currently occupied by Inkies Tattoo Studio. After the building was completed, Caroline turned the business over to her sons. All four of them went on to run successful businesses located in different areas of the five corners at Irvington. As a family of pioneers, all of CarolineÕs children went on to be instrumental in both the history and development of Irvington. They and their descendants remained locally involved and relevant well into the incorporation of the towns that became the City of Fremont in 1956. More information on the Hirsch Family can be found by searching "Hirsch" on the Tri City Voice website.

Though volunteers had previously been able to begin working on and partially archiving the Hirsch Family Collection, it has only recently been extensively catalogued and can now be easily shared as well as used for research purposes. The collection contains mostly photographs, family history, books, including yearbooks and scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings. Some notable items are photographs dating as far back as 1800, blueprints and handwritten specifications for the Caroline Hirsch Building, Washington High School ÒWashingtonianÓ yearbooks from the 1920s and 30s, and a rare book entitled Yosemite: Where to Go and What to Do, published in 1888 and owned by Lillie Hirsch, who wrote her 1890 travel itinerary on the inside cover. Thank you to Mark Hirsch for donating this valuable collection to the museum.

Archiving an entire collection is a task that takes many hours to complete. The museum is in constant need of money that can be put toward this important work. If you would like to donate, please contact the museum via phone at 510-623-7907, online at, or by stopping in during open hours at 190 Anza Street in Fremont. All donations are tax deductible. Additionally, we are always accepting new additions to collections, as well as looking for volunteers. Consider joining the museum today!

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