Frederick “Fred” Chester Turner, Oakland, California (circa 1904) 2

F. C. Turner
from Greater Oakland 1911
Frederick “Fred” Chester Turner (November 11, 1865–1955) was an Oakland City Engineer, served on City Council and, in private life, an entrepreneur who commissioned renowned architect Julia Morgan to design him a house and two small shopping centers. The shopping center in Oakland is on Piedmont Avenue, and is known as the Fred C. Turner Shopping Center.

Early Life / Marriage

Fred’s father, George M. Turner, moved to Oakland in 1875 with his wife and two children, working as an accountant until his retirement in 1885. The family home was at 1420 Eighth St.

Fred Turner was educated at Oakland elementary and high schools, and in 1883 attended University of California, Berkeley, obtaining his Bachelor’s degree in 1887. Quite athletic while at the university, Turner was captain of the football team, and pitcher of the baseball team. Following college, Turner worked as a civil engineer for the U.S. government; later he was employed in river and harbor work for the Army Corps of Engineers.

During the Spanish-American War, Turner served as a First Lieutenant in the Second Regiment, United States Volunteer Engineers, and Quartermaster of the 3rd Battalion. One of his duties was the construction of Camp McKinley in Honolulu.

After the war, Turner worked on river and harbor fortifications in San Diego and San Pedro, but within a year was back in Oakland engaged in civil engineering work.

In January, 1898, Fred Turner married Elsie B. Lee, the daughter of Henry C. Lee, one of California’s early pioneers who had come to the state in 1850. As of 1905, Elsie and Fred Turner had a daughter, Alice Lee Turner.

Political Life

In the 1901 general election, Fred Turner was elected to his first of two consecutive two-year terms as City Engineer.  ”For City Engineer, Frederick C. Turner, Regular Republican Nominee: Election March 11th, 1901” was a 4-page booklet written by Charles L.B. Davis for Turner’s election run.

Turner was elected to City Council (then in the "commissioner" style of government) in 1911 as a Republican.3

On August 5, 1912 Mayor Frank K. Mott, and commissioners William J. Baccus and Turner, then serving as Commissioner of Public Health, withstood Oakland’s first recall election which had been brought about by Mayor Mott’s denial for members of the National Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World to rally in Oakland. The recall was defeated. 1

While on Council, Turner grappled with the issue of "cafe saloon" licenses.4  He also grappled with Councilmember Harry S Anderson, Commissioner of Public Works over the purchase of a dredger.5

Residencies and Mysteries

The Turner home, built in 1907, is located at 255 Ridgeway Avenue.

The 1883–84 Register of UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Colleges of Science, lists a college freshman, Frederick C. Turner in Sc. course, of 1420 Eighth Street, Oakland. The same Register in 1886 lists in its senior class Frederick Chester Turner, Ag. course, at the same address.

In the San Francisco Blue Book: The Fashionable Private Address Directory Season of 1905 list Mrs. and Mrs. Frederick C. Turner as living at 6699 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland.

Husted’s Oakland, Alameda and Berkeley directories of 1907 and 1910 list Frederick C. Turner as the Deputy City Engineer under Mayor Frank K. Mott.

The Bulletin / California State Board of Health: Tuberculosis in Industry, January-March, 1922 reports that Mrs Fred C Turner of Oakland served on the Board of Directors in 1910 for  the Alameda County Society for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis


F.C. (Frederick Chester) Turner was the author or co-author of several publications:

In the Julia Morgan Papers were “Specifications for a Laboratory for Mr. F.C. Turner, Berkeley, California, May 1938” and “Specifications for a Building for Mr. F.C. Turner, Bancroft Way, Berkeley, California, January 1940.”

Oakland Fire Department, plaque at Lake Merritt Boathouse listing Frank K. Mott, John E. McElroy, Frederick C. Turner (1909)

Links and References

  1.  Oakland Tribune, Tuesday, August 06, 1912
  2. The San Francisco Call (May 24, 1904)
  3. "Nominations Made By The Republicans." San Francisco Chronicle: Jan 27, 1901.
  4. "Wants Advice On Cafe-Saloon Evil: Turner Undecided as to Policy of Police--Asks Executive at Council Meeting." San Francisco Chronicle: Oct 14, 1911.
  5. "One Commissioner Has Eye On Other: F. C. Turner of Oakland Says He Probes When Things Look Wrong." San Francisco Chronicle: Feb 23, 1914.