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August 21, 2007 > History


The Meeting Place - The Junction

At first it was just a junction, a spot where the road from Vallejo Mills met the road to Alvarado. George Lloyd housed his family in a blue tent and put a gate across the road to call attention to his business offerings. John Horner established a town and a community developed as pioneers put up tents, settled here and started to erect homes. Some of the houses were brought ready-made from San Francisco and others were built from lumber hauled to the site. A few were sawed from logs hauled to the junction. Captain George Bond built a house and opened a pioneer store, the first real store at the junction. He and Charles Hilton also started a blacksmith and carpenter shop.

John Horner built a school house at the junction in 1850. It was a plain, unpainted building with homemade benches and desks. Students came from miles around to attend school here. The building became known as "Horner's Schoolhouse" or "The Horner School" and served as a community center. Harvey Green came to work for Horner and taught school. Horner also invited the Rev. W. W. Brier to transfer his students from Mission San Jose to the Horner Schoolhouse and Rev. Brier accepted.

The Horner Schoolhouse functioned as a church for several groups until they could erect church buildings. John Horner led the Mormon congregation for Sunday afternoon services while "Rev. W. W. Brier and the Methodist minister preached alternately every Sunday morning when weather would permit." Presbyterians, Methodists and Episcopalians erected their own buildings near the junction, which became increasingly important as a meeting place. The Horner schoolhouse was moved to Irvington in 1862 where it continued to serve as a schoolhouse.

William Ogden opened a coffee cafe near the junction and then enlarged it into a hotel. The hotel burned down so they built another one. This one also burned, so Henry Gregory built the Gregory House and developed it into a "wayside inn," a popular meeting place for bicycle clubs and travelers. James Lewis erected the United States Hotel on the north edge of the junction in 1859. These two hotels attracted and served visitors for many years.

The "horse car railroad" was built from Newark to Centerville in 1882 and brought a building boom to the area. The junction became a meeting place for railroad passengers and a shipping center for freight, mail, produce and milk. Much of the local activity was centered by the loading platforms and spur track of the "horse car railroad."

The Bank of Centerville was organized in 1905, the first of a series of successful banks near the junction. Its new brick building was damaged in the 1906 earthquake. The junction appeared to "collect" banks or at least attract them. Larger banks including Bank of Italy, Bank of America and California Savings soon made their appearance.

Big changes were made at the junction in 1909 to secure a depot site for the Southern Pacific Railroad being built through Centerville. The Board of Supervisors closed a short strip of Niles Road and opened a new section. Bell's Variety Store, Peter Mathiesen's Meat Market and Francis Barber Shop had to be moved. The United States Hotel also had to go. These changes eliminated a sharp turn at the junction point.

The Southern Pacific tore up the narrow gauge rails to Newark and replaced them with standard gauge tracks that crossed Main Street near the site where a boxcar served as a depot. The first passenger train came through in June 1909 and the depot was constructed the next year becoming a busy place for travelers, visitors and shippers.

The railroad set aside an acre north of the tracks for a public park. Residents were proud of their park and erected a bandstand where concerts were held. Trees and shrubs were planted and benches, tables and a drinking fountain were installed. Although passenger service was discontinued, the depot area remained an active business and shipping center. Southern Pacific retired the depot in 1961 and for the next 30 years it served as a store. Rail service returned to Centerville in 1993; the City of Fremont bought the depot and began a restoration project.

The depot was moved across the tracks and carefully restored. Reopening dedication ceremonies for the Depot Caf? and Centerville Train Station were held June 12, 1999. The depot has once again become the "meeting place" for Centerville.

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