What’s in a Name? College Avenue
What’s in a Name? College Avenue
Homeowners on College Avenue own property with a chain of title that stretches back to San Francisco Sheriff and Texas Ranger Jack Hays and his deputy sheriff and fellow Texas Ranger, John Caperton. The pair sold the property to Peder Sather (of Sather Tower and Sather Gate fame), who in turn leased it to Alameda’s Methodist community. The Methodist cut a road through to the school from today’s Encinal Avenue. There, the Methodists established a “college” that they named Oak Grove Institute.
The homes on College Avenue are situated in the midst of the Oak Grove Institute tract. The name of this street recalls the presence of this school and Grove Street, situated across Encinal Avenue from College Avenue also echoes the name of this institute of learning.
Methodist Elder Freeman D. Bovard recalled the arrival of his fellow Methodists in Alameda. They first met in Rev. James McGowan house on Sept. 11, 1853. The first church building was erected on the land donated by Bishop William Taylor and dedicated by Bishop Mathew Simpson. That church stood on a property off Mound Street, not far from where the Methodists would soon establish their school.
“The gentle spirited (David) Deal was the first pastor, appointed in February 1854,” Bovard wrote in one of his reports. Bishop Simpson dedicated the church on April 30, 1854.
“There was an educational institution within the East Bay urban area during the 1850s and ’60s, not however, located within the limits of the City of Oakland, but at the eastern extremity of Alameda Township close to the Brooklyn Township line,” Edgar J. Hinkel and William E. McCann wrote in their 1939 Works Progress Administration-financed history of Oakland at its surroundings.
Deal helped to establish the institution that Hinkle and McCall refer to in their history. One year after they built their church, the Methodists leased land from Sather, where they built a school in the Federalist style complete with a portico and a cupola. The two-story building housed the dormitory and classrooms.
“David Deal threw his soul into the enterprise and Dr. Edward Bannister for a time directed its teaching department,” Charles Anthony Volney recalled in Fifty Years of Methodism.
The name of the school was changed in 1857 to Alameda Collegiate Institute. This institution was placed in charge of Mense W. Peck, assisted by Minnie Crowell and Miss Rosenblum. The students formed a Belles Lettres Society and a library. An advertisement of the school appearing in the California Farmer for June 1858, named Rev. Dr. William Grove Deal as principal. “The Eighth Session of the Institute will open Thursday, July 15, 1858, the announcement continued, in “a pleasant Oak Grove in the village of Alameda.”
The school even had its own landing at Hibbard’s Wharf at the foot of Leviathan Street (today’s Grand Street). Oak Grove’s notice stated that “the Contra Costa Steam Ferry Boats touch at our landing from which stage coaches convey passengers immediately to our institute.”
Tuition, which included the teaching of English and ancient languages (as well as board and laundry) was $185 a term — about $6,145 in 2020. Music, modern languages, embroidery, mathematics and the classics cost extra. The school expected its boarders to supply their own bedding, napkins and lights.
David Deal’s brother William Grove Deal took over the institution both as principal and proprietor. He kept the school going until 1859, when he was no longer able to make the mortgage payments to Sather’s bank. According to Volney, the Methodists never assumed any financial responsibility for the school.
Sather took over the property and used the school for a time as a residence. He lived there with his wife, Sarah, and their children Caroline, Josephine, Mary Emma and Peder Jr. In 1860 the census taker came calling, and the federal census that year lists the Sathers as living in Alameda, rather than in the family home on San Francisco’s Rincon Hill.
The Sather family stopped using the home in 1866 when young Peder died. The school reopened that same year, closing its doors in 1874. Sather sold the property to McKendree F. Bishop and his wife, Jane. Bishop Street just one block away from College Avenue, recalls this family. The old Methodist school lay abandoned for some 20 years. It was demolished about 1895 when San Jose Avenue was cut through the property to create a right of way for a streetcar line.