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January 25, 2011 > History: Our new home

History: Our new home

The Hayward Area Historical Society (HAHS) is preparing for a big move! We recently purchased a new/old building that will provide the bigger space we need to better serve this community and grow our collection. The new HAHS headquarters will be on one of the busiest thoroughfares in Hayward, on Foothill Boulevard right next to San Lorenzo Creek. Being that we are about the history of our area, it was only natural to look into the specific history of the site we are moving to. While there are gaps in the chronology of this site, what we do know is interesting.

HAHS will occupy the northern section of the building that essentially stretches from the corner of Russell Way to the edge of San Lorenzo Creek. Joel Russell purchased 30 acres of land in 1856 which included the location of our building. Russell was one of the earliest settlers in this area, a contemporary of William Hayward, who helped build the early town of Haywards. Russell was a Justice of the Peace, ardent prohibitionist, and large landowner, even running for governor on the prohibition ticket in 1866.

This property became part of his homestead, and his family house was located just up the street on Russell Way. Russell grew some crops on the site, and there is one report that he briefly had a fruit drying operation there. Throughout most of the nineteenth century, this property would have been the outskirts of town.

Russell's descendents sold the portion on the north side of San Lorenzo Creek (where the old City Hall and Safeway Plaza is today) to the Hayward School District for construction of Hayward Union High School in 1911. Sometime after this point, the remaining property on the south side of the creek was subdivided and two large lots created along Foothill Boulevard (then called First Street).

A large home was constructed on each of these lots in the early 1920s. The house to the north, closest to the creek, became the home of Margaret McLean Strobridge sometime after 1921. Margaret was the third wife of James Harvey Strobridge, most well known as the construction superintendent for the Central Pacific Railroad. Strobridge died in 1921 after which time Margaret moved into the house at 414 First Street.

Margaret's niece and Strobridge's adopted daughter, Carrie Strobridge, was married to Thomas Bartlett Russell Jr. (Joel Russell's grandson). The Russells had a home on Russell Way about where Second Street is today. Margaret may have moved to the home on First Street to be near Carrie and closer to downtown Hayward. She was very involved with local activities including events for the Hill and Valley Club and the Presbyterian Church. Margaret spent a lot of time traveling around the world in the late 1920s and early 1930s. She died at her house in 1940 at the age of 83.

After her death, Hans and Leta Nissen moved into the home. Mr. Nissen had been a farmer in the Livermore area where he grew up, and later worked at Gillig Brothers in Hayward. Mrs. Nissen was involved with her daughters in the Girl Scouts. After Hans' death in 1949, Leta and her daughter Louise continued to live in the house for three more years.

By 1952, the Nissens were no longer living in the house and seven different community service organizations began renting the 2,700 square foot home for offices. One of those organizations was the South East Bay Area Girl Scouts of America.

The house built next door to the Strobridge home on the corner of Russell and First Street had the address of 1100 Russell Way. John Asmussen & Sons built the nine-room home prior to 1925 for E.A. Smith, who owned a hardware store on B Street for many years. Asmussen & Sons also built several bungalows, a popular architectural style at that time, throughout Hayward.

In 1925, a booster edition of the Hayward Journal newspaper described the Smith house as "...very modern and one of the best appointed that we have had the pleasure to inspect. The splendid location at the corner of Russell Way and First Street, lends an added charm. A beautiful lawn in front will make this one of the homes that tourists will be glad to gaze upon as they pass along the Foothill Boulevard."

Just up the street from these two homes, a major renovation along First Street began in 1947. Developers purchased property from B Street north to Russell Way for development of a shopping district. Buildings along First Street were torn down or moved and replaced by a series of commercial buildings. The street was also widened and the name changed to Foothill Boulevard. Stores opened in March 1949 and "The Strip," as it was called, became the main shopping district for Hayward.

The Smith home and the former Strobridge home were sold sometime around 1954. At this point, the two lots were united again into one parcel and this portion of First Street became Foothill Boulevard. The two beautiful homes were torn down to make way for a large building housing five retail stores that would continue the shopping district all the way to San Lorenzo Creek.

The retail building's architect was John Carl Warnecke. He was a pioneering mid-century architect, known for designing President Kennedy's gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery and such buildings as the Hawaii State Capitol. The building complimented the architecture of the other retail stores along Foothill, and yet it had some added touches such as travertine tile at the store entrances and a marble and black brick faŤade on the J. Magnin store closest to the creek.

The first stores in the building, which opened around 1957, were Joseph Magnin's, Leed's Shoe Store, Lerner's clothing store, C.H. Baker Shoes, and Milens Jewelers. A beauty salon and optometry office moved into spaces on the second floor. These stores occupied the building for over a decade. In the early 1970s when the entire Strip was suffering due to stores moving out to Southland Mall, several of these clothing stores closed and became furniture and carpet stores. Joseph Magnin's closed in 1972 and moved out to Southland, too. The former store was turned into a nightclub and went through many owners and name changes until recently.

Soon signs for the Hayward Area Historical Society will appear on the building. Our exhibits, programs, events, and collections will add yet another piece of history to the location. Come visit us in late 2011!

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