July 12, 2005 > The CentrevilleRoad
One of the scenic drives in the fall of 1879 was to follow the road between Washington Corners (Irvington) and Centreville. The thick dust on windy afternoons detracted so much from the pleasure of the journey that it was suggested that the trip be taken in the early morning while the dust was still damp with dew. The view of the valley and hills on either side of the road was broken by scattered patches of green that marked the homes of prosperous farmers in the midst of the dry, denuded grain fields. Groves of sturdy eucalyptus trees gave beauty and aroma to the scattered homes. All the yards along the road had been beautified with trees and shrubs.
The first attraction outside the "Corners" was the home of A. O. Rix. There were indications everywhere of their love of beautiful things and their skill and industry in growing them. A conservatory was filled with choice plants and there was a croquet ground on the smooth well-kept lawn. Young, but large fig trees near the home gave dense shade that made the hottest day comfortable. There were rare and beautiful plants in the garden. The Rix home was certainly one of the most pleasant and homey in the valley.
The Richard Threlfall place with its new look came next. The trees and shrubs in the front were young yet behind the house was a fine growth of shade and fruit trees that provided a pleasing background.
Across the road was the home of Mrs. Rufus Denmark. Earlier in the summer, her garden had been a mass of gorgeous blooms. The severe winter had killed many of her choice plants, but she had worked with determination all spring to fill the vacant spaces. Small beetles had invaded her garden and destroyed some young trees she had set out in the spring. She fought bravely but had to yield to the ravages of the bugs.
Beyond the Denmark home, there were only grain fields beside the road for quite a distance that might become monotonous except for the view of the hills. The Decoto farm looked like a pleasant place to live, but it was off in the distance, too far away for a good view.
The story continues in the words of the local editor. "Mr. Emerson's and Mr. Sturgis' places have a tempting look on a warm dusty day. Here we have a fine row of trees extending for quite a distance, and a grove of eucalyptus. Mr. Chadbourne's cottage has a particularly cozy look. The garden always appears as fresh and green as if it had just been visited by a refreshing shower. We cannot imagine a more comfortable lounging place on a hot day, than the piazza that extends along the whole length of the house.
"Mrs. Robert Blacow has a fine place. The large stately-looking house gives it the air of a country residence of some retired city merchant. Broad walks lead to the house and through the trees we get a glimpse of a lawn and flower garden." The Blacow house and farm were pictured on page 39 of the Atlas of Alameda County, published in 1878. "The neatness and beauty of the farm may be somewhat exaggerated in the lithograph, but few would deny that the house is very attractive and stately."
The editor continues, "There will soon be another new residence on this road. Mrs. G. S. Norris is building a large two-story house on her place. There is already a fine growth of trees and shrubs and with the addition of a handsome house, this will be one of the most attractive places on the road."
Another article describes Dr. Allen's outdoor garden. "There has been quite an awakening of interest in horticultural matters in the vicinity of Centreville lately. Dr. Allen has built a small conservatory, which looked very nicely at our last visit. The Daphne was making new growth. Quite a large Cockscomb, a Coral plant, a Fuchsia racemosa, Begonias of course, hanging baskets, and cuttings in process of rooting made up the general array. The outdoor garden, however, for which Mrs. Allen must have at least equal credit, is really one of the marked features of Centrerville, and, having another handsome garden alongside (Mrs. Hilton's), this part of the town is, in point of fact, quite the aristocratic quarter. The six pillars of the porch in front of the house have each a different species of vine, the selection being: White Jasmine, Pink Maurandya, Akebia quinata, Solanum, Golden-leaved Honeysuckle, and Trumpet creeper (Bignonia). Mrs. Allen's Asters, Dahlias, Perennial Phloxes, and Roses, have always been admirable."
You can still enjoy the drive from Irvington to Centreville, but you would probably be riding in a car instead of a buggy and notice all the cars rather than the dust! If you were the driver, you would have to pay so much attention to the traffic that you might not be able to enjoy the view of the hills.
Apparently the only structure along the present Fremont Boulevard that has survived to bridge the gap between 1879 and the present is the Chadbourne Carriage House in Williams Historical Park at the Hub. The ranch house with its piazza (porch) is gone.
Elizabeth Haskell Sloan wrote in 1948, that the "Chadbourne house, tank house and carriage house with their surrounding beds of flowers, trees and shrubs seem like an island in the sea of vegetables which surround them on three sides while the Oakland-San Jose highway passes the front door." The farm and crops are gone, but we still have the Carriage House. That's progress and change.