The Alameda County Historical Society's annual summer outing event is slated for July 31 and includes a visit to various historic sites in and around Livermore, said society president Ed Clausen.
"We are starting things off at 11 a.m. with a guided tour of the historic Ravenswood Home and Park, followed by a box lunch on the grounds," he said. "After lunch there will be maps and info for self-guided tours of the area, including a stop at the old Duarte Garage of Lincoln Highway fame."
The Duarte Garage and its place in the historic Lincoln Highway legend is the subject of the historical society's Quarterly cover story, written by Ed Miller of the Livermore Heritage Guild.
"Ed's article traces the history of this very first transcontinental route across America," Clausen said. "He pinpoints how the route, which originated in New York City, made its way across the country to California, into Alameda County over the Altamont Pass, and continued through Livermore and into Oakland."
San Francisco's Lincoln Park, overlooking the Pacific, was designated the highway's ultimate destination by organizers, who formed the Lincoln Highway Association and taxed themselves $5 a piece to raise funds for the project. President Woodrow Wilson was the first official member, history files say.
The first transcontinental highway would take two years and $10 million to create, and although the project would involve some new road construction, much of the route was created by linking already-existing roads, including old Pony Express routes and carriage trails. In addition to the funds raised by selling memberships and donations from the automobile manufacturers, individual states and cities primarily funded the road improvements. At least in the beginning, there were no federal government funds included, Miller's article states.
The "great highway" opened in 1915 in time for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition hosted by San Francisco. "The exposition was expected to be the nation's first cross-country destination," Miller's article reads. The City was seen as a "symbol of resilience, having risen from the ashes of the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire."
Oakland too was anticipating travelers planning to flock to the Bay Area for the exposition. According to Cultural Heritage Survey files, a number of downtown hotels were built, including the high-end Hotel Oakland, occupying the block between Harrison and Alice on 13th Street. The local Lincoln Highway booster group, also members of the Chamber of Commerce, held regular meetings at the hotel, files say.
In recent years, the National Park Service has been commissioned by Congress to study the national significance
of the Lincoln Highway, from which a number of options are being considered, including interpretive centers, landmarks, roadside museums and plaques.
"Livermore's Duarte Garage will almost certainly figure into future plans to commemorate the history of the Lincoln Highway," Clausen said.
Now in his second year as president of the historical society, Clausen is a lifelong resident of Oakland. "I was born at East Oakland Hospital, on what was then called E. 14th Street, across from the big Montgomery Wards Store and Distribution Center."
Both sets of Clausen's grandparents trace their roots to Denmark. After graduation from Fremont High School, he attended Oakland City College (at the old Grove Street campus, Clausen recalled) for one year, followed by a stint in the Army.
"I was planning to continue my studies at Cal State Hayward, majoring in history, to perhaps become a teacher, but then a friend talked me into applying to the Oakland firefighter academy."
That decision changed his life. After acceptance to the academy and completion of the yearlong training, Clausen entered the department and spent the next 31 years with the Oakland Fire Department, retiring last year with the rank of lieutenant.
He never lost his interest in local history however. "I started my collection of Oakland postcards almost by accident. I happened to find a card of the Montgomery Wards building, sitting on top of a pile of cards in an antique shop. Searching through the pile, I found one or two more Oakland cards, for a nickel a piece. That's how it all started."
Some 20 years later, Clausen now estimates he has 6,000 historical postcards of his hometown, organized by topic and stored in 25 binders. The Arcadia Publishing Co. is releasing a book of vintage Oakland postcards selected from Clausen's collection this fall.
The Alameda County Historical Society board will meet Thursday to discuss the Livermore outing and to plan other activities.
"Anyone with an interest in local history is welcome to attend," Clausen said.
The meeting is 4 to 5:30 p.m. in Room 222, 140l Lakeside Drive. Cost for the July 31 Livermore excursion (including lunch) is $20 for nonmembers, $15 for members. For more information call 339-2818.