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HISTORY: Newark, California


Historical Images of Newark
by Nancy Pratt
Commentary by Bruce MacGregor
In a single mural, all of the 19th century themes that made Newark, California great are gathered together.
Each element of the mural has its own story to tell:

The Baldwin Locomotive - This colorful Baldwin Locomotive Works beauty is South Pacific Coast Railroad engine number 2. The South Pacific Coast was a narrow gauge railroad that started the town of Newark in 1876 to serve both as its backshop - where engines like number 2 were repaired - and as a real estate development to sell lots for homes. The narrow gauge line ran as far north as Alameda, and as far south as Santa Cruz. Engine number 2 was tiny compared to modern locomotives, but could go faster than 60 miles per hour.

The Pavillion - The railroad also built a great wooden hall for public dances, picnics and gatherings. It was built in 1877 and named the Pavillian, and it was located where the Pavillian of today is located. In the 1870’s and 1880’s, the railroad would rent the hall to large groups from as far away as San Francisco, and get them to their dance or gathering by narrow gauge passenger train.

Carter Brothers - The railroad attracted support industries. Carter Brothers built nearly all the freight and passenger cars for the South Pacific Coast in a factory in Newark, and there they built many of the cable cars that still run in San Francisco. Carter opened their factory in 1877 and finally closed in1902.

The James Graham Foundry - opened in Newark in 1884 to make railroad parts for the backshops and for Carter. When the 1906 earthquake

wrecked San Francisco, Graham Foundry made storm drains and manhole covers to help rebuild the ruined city. But their most famous product was the "Wedgewood" stove. When first manufactured about 1910, the Wedgewood stove burned wood, but eventually became modernized to burn gas, and became a famous brand name throughout the western United States.

The Newark Ferry - was built by the railroad and named after its new town. At first, the railroad wanted to operate the ferry for commuters to San Francisco directly from a dock near Newark - and to increase its speed, the ferry was built with the largest paddle wheels of any ferry on San Francisco Bay. The trip was still too slow, and in 1877 the railroad extended its track north to Alameda, so the speedy little narrow gauge locomotives could make the trip in less time.

St. Edward’s Catholic Church - In many ways 19th century Newark was a railroad town, and even the first church, St. Edward’s Catholic Church - was built with a $5,000 donation from the railroad’s president.

The Horse-drawn Railroad - Probably the most famous piece of railroad history in Newark was the branch line that ran to Centerville, today known as the Centerville District of Fremont. What made the branch line unique were its locomotives - all horses! The horses hauled not only the small, light-weight horsecar shown in the mural, but full-size heavy freight cars as well. Two horses pulled as many as seven loaded cars on this three mile line. The line was operated by Henry Burdick, who became famous as a one-man conductor, brakeman and engineer. Today, at Ardenwood Regional Preserve, a restored version of this old branch line still operates for the public to ride. And it still uses horses to pull its trains.

Watkins Hall - was built in 1889 and had a saloon downstairs, and a large dance hall or community meeting room upstairs. On its roof was what the owner claimed was the only flagpole in Newark in the early days before the turn of the century.

Coyote Hills - A background for Newark in Victorian times as well as today, the Coyote Hills were a sheltering area for Ohlone Indian villages, and protected them from wind and weather coming off San Francisco Bay. Today Coyote Hills Regional Park contains miles of hiking trails for the public, with views of both the bay and of Newark.

Nature’s Beautys - In order to make the new town attractive and shaded, the South Pacific Coast Railroad planted thousands of seedling Eucalyptus trees, most of which grew to over a hundred feet tall and many of which survive today. They provide a home for the Monarch butterfly on its winter migration from as far away as the Dakotas and Canada. Eucalyptus trees are sometimes called blue gums, or gum trees.

Surrounded by marsh and baylands, a familiar site in Newark’s past and present, is the snowy egret, which has adjusted to today’s large population so well it is often seen feeding where natural waterways come close to roads and freeways.

The Scow - was a flat-bottomed freight vessel that pioneered transportation in the Newark area before the railroad came. It navigated shallow sloughs to Mowry’s Landing or Mayhews Landing near Newark, where it would pick up loads of hay or grain. Powered by sail, the flat bottoms helped insure that the socws wouldn’t get stuck in the mud at low tide!

Salt - Next to agriculture, the first American industry in the Newark area was salt - easily manufactured by letting bay salt water evaporate in large shallow ponds. The Plummer Brothers ran one of the early salt works near Newark, and used wind mills to power machinery that ground the salt they scraped from the shallow ponds.

The Hoop and Stick - a favorite kid’s game in the 19th century, can still be played today at special events in Ardenwood Regional Preserve.

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