HISTORY: The Central Station area is one of Oakland’s oldest neighborhoods and historically one of its most diverse. By the early 20th century, it was home to Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, Irish, and Mexican residents, most of whom arrived by train, disembarking at the 16th Street Station. 1870: A small wooden building at 16th and Wood streets serves as Oakland’s first Southern Pacific rail station. 1911-1912: Southern Pacific finances a new Beaux Arts–style station to replace the wooden building. 1929: Oakland’s C.L. Dellums is elected vice president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first international union organized by African-Americans. Late 1930s: Large migration of African-Americans to Oakland. 1943: Oakland produces 35 percent of the entire Pacific Coast output of World War II cargo ships. 1958-1989: Station serves as end point for many transcontinental rail journeys. 1989: Loma Prieta earthquake (6.9 on the Richter scale) seriously damages 16th Street Station, which subsequently closes.
The original 16th Street station, built in 1870, was a wooden building. It was replaced in 1912 by the current Beaux Arts structure.
Between 1920 and 1941, the 16th Street Station hosted transcontinental trains, regional commuter trains, and local streetcars on three sets of tracks. Southern Pacific shut down the streetcar service in 1941.
In 1879, the home stadium of the fledgling Oakland Oaks baseball team was the Oakland Baseball Grounds in West Oakland between 13th, 14th, Center, and Kirkham streets. The team moved several times, finally settling in Emeryville in 1913, a year after winning its first Pacific Coast League pennant.
Shoulder to shoulder:
Established in 1925 by A. Philip Randolph, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was the first African-American labor union to win a collective bargaining agreement. Many African-American residents of West Oakland worked as Pullman porters, and the union’s West Coast office was at 512 Wood Street, just south of Central Station.
The Oakland sound:
Jazz and blues came west with the large number of African-American migrants who settled in West Oakland. By the 1930s, residents could jitterbug the night away in any of dozens of nightclubs in the neighborhood.