January 18, 2005 > Warehouses
Warehouses do not sound like very exciting places, but they were important to the development of Washington Township.
Charles Shinn wrote in 1889 that there were no shipping warehouses before the 1850's, though smaller granary structures were known to exist on individual farms. Wheat was loaded directly into the shallow schooners or the bags of wheat were piled on the wharf if a schooner was not in. John Horner built the first warehouses at his docks in Union City in 1850-1851, and Henry Smith built warehouses with his dwellings at Alvarado. Captain J. A. Mayhew bought what had been the mission's embarcadero for shipping grain and it became known as Mayhew's Landing. At one time it was also called the "Russian Embarcadero" when Russians traded at Mission San Jose between 1822 and 1841. Mayhew however was the first to erect a warehouse there in 1853 and was so successful that he brought his nephew, Harrison Mayhew, out to work for him. Early business directories list S. P. Jones and R. Benson as warehousemen at Alvarado. Warehouses in the railroad towns began to replace those of the bayside landings by the 1870's.
The railroad warehouse at Warm Springs was storing 5,000 bags of grain in 1875 while the Edmondson's warehouse at Washington Corners had 1,000 sacks of wheat and 200 of barley. William Mortimer had a warehouse at Washington Corners in 1876 but it burned in 1880. He took J. E. Wamsley as a partner and purchased a warehouse at Niles. J.T. Walker operated the Washington Grain Warehouse at Washington Corners. Historian Wood noted in 1883 that Decoto was "chiefly notable for the extensive warehouses of A. J. Hare." Hare advertised in 1886 that his building had been "put in complete repair, had received a coat of lime wash inside and been thoroughly sprinkled with concentrated lye."
T. J. Edmondson of the Alameda Warehouses advertised warehouses at San Lorenzo, Hayward, Washington, and Warm Springs. They furnished sacks and paid "the highest market price for grain at any point of shipment." By 1885 Washington Corners (aka Washington) became known officially as Irvington and the warehouse names changed again.
M. W. Dixon of Washington Corners and A. F. Scott of Niles were listed as warehousemen in the Historical Atlas of Alameda County of 1878. Joshua Chadbourne was engaged in transporting hay and grain at Warm Springs Landing. Photographs of Warm Springs Landing and Patterson Landing show large warehouses adjacent to the docks for easy loading onto boats. Union City warehouses are also shown at the Landing of Capt. James Damon at Alvarado.
The 1898 Special Edition of Washington Press featured the Irvington Iron Warehouses of W. G. Lowry and R. Volmer. The firm, established in 1856, was handling most of the hay and grain business in the western end of Washington Township by 1898. Their Irvington warehouses stored up to five thousand tons of grain and one thousand tons of hay; it was also the storage depot for the Sperry Flour Mill. The Western Union Telegraph Company's office was also located there and, in addition, the men were agents for Deering Harvesting Machines. The Metropolitan Meat Company built a hay warehouse here in 1909.
Lowry and Volmer took in Charles J. Perry as a partner and clerk and established the Decoto Iron Warehouses in 1890. They were the leading firm in Decoto which boasted the largest hay and grain warehouses in Washington Township. Their feed mill had a daily capacity of 50 tons and the cleaning mill could handle 200 tons per day. P. C. Hansen & Co. at Centerville, Edward Salz at Decoto and Irvington, and J. B. Barnard at Niles were advertised in 1910.
Salz and Company operated general business stores in Centerville for many years. Edward Salz, son of Jacob Salz, carried on the family business and specialized in warehousing. Salz and Co. put up their first warehouse at Centerville about 1885. Edward purchased the Hare grain warehouse at Decoto and the Irvington and Warm Springs warehouses about 1890. His 1907 stationery read "Hay and grain warehouses and feed mills Decoto, Irvington, and Warm Springs." An article noted that Edward Salz had a dozen warehouses at Decoto. Later he bought the Lowry and Volmer warehouse at Irvington and Decoto and gave up the Hare warehouse. He was reported to be the owner of about a dozen Decoto warehouses in 1910. He advertised, "Feed, Coal, Lumber, Vehicles" at Decoto and Irvington. Edward sold his warehouses to Clarence Salz in 1923. The Salz warehouse burned on May 5, 1931 in one of the worst fires Irvington ever had. The Salz Brothers Warehouse at Decoto was still handling 4,000 sacks of grain and 1,000 bales of hay per season in 1950.
The Washington Township Country Club ladies who wrote the History of Washington Township in 1904 occasionally refer to warehouses in different parts of the township. The first of the wharf warehouses at Alvarado had been built by Henry C. Smith, father of Alameda County, and taken under the charge of William M. Liston in 1851. Several large warehouses were built at Decoto "in which great quantities of grain and hay are stored every year and from thence shipped to markets." In the year 1902, the railroad company received $8,682.99 for shipping 9187 tons of freight from the Decoto station. The 1904 book also records that in the 1868 earthquake, one of the wharf warehouses at Dixon Landing collapsed and 5,000 sacks of grain sank in the slough near the south county boundary. A storm in 1894 destroyed the original Dixon warehouse.
The old grain warehouses gradually disappeared as the vast grain fields were displaced by vineyards, orchards, vegetables, mixed farming and other developments. Surviving merchants sold hay, grain, feed, fuel, and farm equipment. Few local residents even recall those great grain warehouses of the past.