History of San Lorenzo, California

History of Transportation in San Lorenzo

Bay Shipping

Privately developed wharves on the bay shore provided the earliest long-haul transportation of goods to and from the emerging San Lorenzo farming community. Two "landings" -- Roberts Landing and Eden Landing -- served to ship San Lorenzo farm products to San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area and to bring in manufactured goods (and, later, tourists).


By 1865 the "San Francisco, Alameda, and Haywards Railroad" cut across the San Lorenzo town and through the orchards of William Meek. The San Lorenzo Station was located on the west side of Hesperian just before the tracks cross Hesperian, a short walk from the Four Corners (see map). This railroad was absorbed in 1869 by the transcontinental Central Pacific RR (and later the Southern Pacific RR). In 1878 the South Pacific Coast RR was built along the bay shore. By 1910 a third transcontinental railroad, the Western Pacific, ran through the district, east of and parallel to the Central Pacific RR.

Beginning in 1885 refrigerated railroad cars moved perishable fruit grown in the area to markets across the country. This fueled a boom in local fruit production that continued for decades.

Intercity Railroad

In 1891 the Oakland Traction Co. began construction of the "Oakland, San Leandro, and Hayward Electric Railway." By the next year 14.3 miles of track ran along "County Road" (today's East 14th Street and Mission Boulevard) between Hayward and Oakland. Cars ran every half hour from 5 a.m. until midnight daily.

Feeder lines ran from Ashland Junction (near 150th St. and Mission Blvd.) along "Telegraph Road" (today's Hesperian Blvd.) to the Four Corners area and along Ashland Avenue to Lewelling Blvd. Originally the cars on these feeder lines were horse-drawn, but in 1908 the horse-drawn cars were replaced by electric cars.

New communities developed along the line, including Ashland and Haywards Park Homestead, as farmlands and orchards were subdivided into town lots of about one acre each.

The Oakland Traction Co. in 1895 purchased San Lorenzo Grove, an eight-acre natural park, in the Four Corners Area, to encourage streetcar travel. The park became a popular destination for day trips, as it included a dance pavilion, picnic grounds, playing fields, a concession area, and an outdoor bandstand.

In 1911 the Oakland Traction Co. sold its streetcars to Key System Bus Lines (San Lorenzo Grove was sold to Frank Rodgers and was operated until 1917).

The Coming of Automobiles

The first automobiles appeared in the Bay Area in the 1890s, and became common afer 1910. "County Road" (now East 14th Street and Mission Blvd.) was the major north-south road in the East Bay.

In 1923 the California legislature passed the gasoline tax, which guaranteed funds for building and maintaining streets and roads. Also in the early 1920s a large area of the Meek orchard was subdivided. Both elaborate homes and modest bungalows were built on mostly half-acre sites of the former orchard lands. However, the area retained a strong agricultural character until after World War II. Many properties still have water tankhouses used to irrigate large vegetable gardens or small orchards.


The Nimitz Freeway (Interstate 880) opened in the late 1950s, providing easy access by automobile from San Lorenzo to points north (principally the job centers of Oakland and San Francisco). The Route 238 freeway, north of Lewelling Blvd., was built in the 1960s. This freeway had a great effect on the Ashland neighborhood.