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May 14, 2008 > History: Washington Township Corners

History: Washington Township Corners

The dictionary defines a corner as "the place of intersection of two streets or roads." Corners played an important role in the history of Washington Township. Here are a few of our historic corners.

The most widely known use of the word was that applied to "the crossing of the roads leading from the old Mission and diverging to Centerville and Warm Springs." This corner apparently received its first name from two saloon keepers who were probably the first residents of the town that became Irvington. The History of Washington Township records that residents decided to change their name to the more fitting Washington Corners. This was often shortened to "the corners or the old corner" with references still made to the "Corners Saloon." Establishment of Union and Bay Streets with the Centerville-San Jose Road and Mission Road created five corners and another name, "Five Corners." Residents tired of the "corner confusion" and decided to change the name to Irving which became Irvington after more confusion. The corners are still there, but this busy business center is more widely known now as Irvington.

The intersection of the road leading from San Francisco Bay to the Bell Ranch Bridge over Alameda Creek and Centerville-Alvarado Road was just a crossing in pioneer days. However, it became a special place when George Machado established his blacksmith shop there and built his home nearby on Centerville-Alvarado Road. Several family members built their homes or established business nearby. Machado's Corners became such a familiar landmark that it was sometimes just called "The Corners."

Most towns had their own distinctive corners. Niles had several, but they were not usually especially dangerous in horse and buggy days. Occasionally, horses and buggies would collide with each other or hit a stray bicycle, but these crashes were not common. Cars were a different story. There were so many collisions at the corner of Mission Boulevard and Niles Canyon Road that the intersection was nicknamed "coffin corner." Traffic lights decreased the danger and probably saved many lives.

The south turn near the Thane house that led to the bridge over Alameda Creek to the Niles business district was sometimes called "Thanes Corner." It was a place that suggested caution. Civic leaders mounted an "unsuccessful effort to preserve the bridge between the Schuckl cannery and Thane's Corner" in 1936-37.

Probably the most popular corner in Niles was Joe's Corner, not popular for the location but because this was "the friendly neighborhood bar." It was a place where generations of residents drank, socialized, played cards, cashed checks and children sometimes enjoyed ice cream cones.

The other towns had their own corners, but they were not always referred to as "the corner." One of the most historic corners was in front of the Mission at the present junction of Washington Boulevard and Mission Boulevard. Jose Vallejo erected his adobe home here and later protected it from horses and wagons with a large boulder. The rock was followed by the Boulder Saloon on a corner noted for saloons until Miss Olive Hyde replaced them with "more appropriate enterprises." The intersection became a "pedestrian death trap" with the heavy traffic of the 1950's and 1960's.

The most prominent corner in Centerville was the junction of the Niles Road with Main Street. It could be located by pointing or saying "down at the corner or the hotel corner." The Thornton-Main Street intersection was sometimes called the "corner at the Newark Road." Water puddled here in the rainy season and was called "the duck pond" when the Centerville Chamber of Commerce was requesting the State Division of Highways to fix the intersection in 1954.

The most historic intersection in Alvarado - the junction in front of the first Alameda County courthouse, now Smith Street and Union City Boulevard - was the site of "the Old Corner" saloon that served "the sharpest steam beer" in town. Other busy and historic junctions in Union City include the Decoto-Niles Road and the Decoto-Mission Boulevard crossings.

The intersection of Warm Springs Boulevard with Mission Boulevard is not known as a corner but would rank as one of the busiest and most historic crossings in the City of Fremont. There are other kinds of corners such as "the corner drug store," or the ones we get "boxed in," but most corners suggest a choice, possibilities, a change in direction, or just caution before proceeding.

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