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Map captures Albany on the brink of change in 1936


Albany and vicinity as depicted on 1936 Shell Oil road map.

Detail from a 1936 road map of Oakland captures Albany on the eve of change that would start with the opening of the Eastshore Highway the following year.
Look at the zoomed-in version and notice the differences, starting with Solano Avenue, which turns into Main Street on the west side of San Pablo Avenue.

An enlarged version shows a large area of undeveloped land and major changes still to come. The Berkeley Emergency Airport would become the south parking lot of Golden Gate Fields.

Albany and Berkeley drivers who think taking Marin and Buchanan avenues to the freeway is a slow route nowadays should take note that in 1936, the two streets aren’t even aligned. Buchanan starts at Cleveland Avenue and simply ends at San Pablo.
Even Albany High School is not yet on the map.
The Gill Tract at this point is still owned by the Gill family, is still used to grow flowers and is all open space. So is everything to the west. And note how prominently the creek is marked.
That would all change when the Eastshore Highway opened in 1937.

Albany was growing from a population of almost 8,100 in 1930 to more than 11,000 in 1940, but the traffic to the highway was greater than city leaders anticipated.
The designated way to the highway at the time of the opening was to take Solano to Main to Pierce Street. The city soon learned that the route was not only somewhat narrow, it was too steep.
Plans were soon made to alter Buchanan and align it with Marin Avenue to handle all the traffic bound, a change that set others in motion as there was a real road to the city’s waterfront for the first time.
Development proposals came fairly quickly and within four years there was a racetrack on the waterfront and a U.S. Department of Agriculture research facility nearby. About two years later wartime housing would be built on much of the Gill property and even a new train line would run near the shoreline for a few years.
A frontage road was also added along the highway giving Albany its first industrial zone.
By 1950 the population would top 17,000 and a new era had begun for the Gateway to Northern Alameda County.

A Shipyard Railway train passes Codornices Village, the war era housing facility where University Village is today. Photo courtesy of John Stashik..

Chris Treadway