For thousands of years, the area now called Oakland was inhabited by Native Americans, referred to as the Huchiun tribe (later, known as the Ohlone or Costanoan People). But, in 1772, the area, along with the rest of California, was claimed by Spanish settlers as property belonging to the King of Spain.
In the early 1800s, East Bay land, including present day Oakland, was deeded to Don Luis Maria Peralta, a sergeant in the Spanish army and commissioner of the Pueblo of San Jose, for his forty years of service. The grant included land stretching from San Leandro to Albany.
Map by Eugene Duflot de Mofras, 1844.Note: ‘San Leandro’ refers to the bay and creek, not the town; ‘Pins rouges’ are redwood trees. Believed to be some of the oldest and largest trees in the world, the Oakland Hills redwoods were cut down in the mid-1800s for lumber used to build early San Francisco.
While Don Peralta never resided there, his sons and their families built the original buildings that would be known as Rancho San Antonio. It was the first Spanish-speaking community in the East Bay. As the rancho prospered, the Peraltas built a hacienda containing two adobes and twenty guest houses. The hacienda became an established travellers’ stop on the only Camino Real (the Royal Highway, connecting the Spanish missions) on the east side of the bay.
The hacienda became the social and commercial center of the rancho, which supported 8,000 head of cattle and 2,000 horses. The family also built a wharf on the edge of their property, allowing them to move products onto ships in the bay, for transportation to markets.
After California became part of the United States in 1850, Rancho San Antonio’s fortunes changed for the worse. The US Federal Land Act of 1851 required that the Peraltas prove their land ownership in court. The resulting litigation lasted years (their legal title to the land was eventually confirmed) and the Peraltas had to sell part of their land to cover legal costs. Squatters had also moved onto the property during this period of litigation, stealing and selling cattle and even selling parcels of the Peralta’s land.
In 1868, an earthquake destroyed many of the buildings on the property. Two years later, Antonio Peralta (one of Don Luis Maria Peralta’s sons) built a two-story Italianate Victorian house known as the Peralta Hacienda, located in what is, today, the Fruitvale District of Oakland. By the time of Antonio Peralta’s death in 1879, he held only 23 acres of the 16,067 acres his father had given him.
Sadly, only two buildings of Rancho San Antonio remain today — the Peralta Hacienda, which had been moved to its current location in the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park (2465 34th Avenue, at the corner of Coolidge Avenue and Hyde Street, in Fruitvale District) and a brick house built in 1860, known as the Peralta Home (located at 561 Lafayette Avenue, San Leandro; the first brick house built in Alameda County).
Peralta Hacienda Historical Park in Fruitvale District is open to the public. Please see their website for further details at http://www.peraltahacienda.org/pages/main.php?pageid=1&pagecategory=1. The Peralta Home in San Leandro, now owned by the Alta Mira Club, is available for private events. Please see the Alta Mira Club’s website for details at http://altamiraclub.com/.
As you can see from the above photographs, the Peralta Hacienda is an old, but still beautiful home and an important piece of Oakland’s history
Keeping Oakland Beautiful is everybody’s business.
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