Laundry Farm was the name of an area in the hills, the headwaters of Lion Creek south of Horseshoe Canyon, now known as Leona Heights. The name came from the Contra Costa Laundry, which was founded there in the 1850s. Although the laundry relocated in 1862, the name stuck until the mid 1890s, when the area was opened to a rail, resort and residential scheme under the name of Leona Heights.
Laundry Farm was noted as a destination for picnics and church outings as early as 1879. A small summer resort named Glen House opened there in 1887: "The finest spring and loveliest groves to be found are here, while the scenery is picturesque." 1 There was later a Laundry Farm Hotel and resort. According to A.E. Norman, "this hotel was first built in 1892 ... it was called Laundry Farm. Many Sunday School picnics centered at this memorable inn with its park-like setting." 2
The name later became attached to the farm property of Edward Tompkins, which extended over the crest of the hills west of the valley.
Not sure if this link is to the Laundry Farm Canyon, the area around the Laundry Farm Hotel, or part of the Laundry Farm Railroad ... Link to OMCA Collections "Survey map shows an outline of a portion of Laundry Farm for Mrs. S[arah Haight] Tompkins by T.W. Morgan, C.E. The area shown is 67 106/1000 acres. Also shown are 35 14/100 acres surveyed for J.H:. Dorety, Nov. 15th, 1883 which are contiguous to parts of the north and west boundaries of this portion of Laundry Farm. Attached to the larger survey is another survey called Saunders & Hempburn 200 Ac. Tract." [andrewalden: the point nearest the north arrow is approximately where Mountain Boulevard leaves 13, where Leona Creek joins Lion Creek; see the 1884 King/Dingee map for the whole Tompkins tract]
Steven Mix prepared a map in 1999, updated by Lee Donehower in 2002, showing the location of numerous landmarks in and around Leona Heights, including the Laundry Farm Hotel --> LaundryFarm.pdf
In 1887, the Tompkins heirs sold over 650 acres of the Laundry Farm to one H.T. Smith for $70,000. Smith bonded the option to Col. J.H. Woodard (also called Woodward in some accounts). 5 At the time, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the area was being rumored to be part of a "summer resort and water right scheme." The property "has been for many years a popular picnic resort. It has a nice stream of water, fine view and some other natural attractions in the way of scenery. It could be easily made accessible by a short branch railroad tapping the Southern Pacific Seminary Park station, just beyond Melrose, and it is also said that the property bonded commands a fine water-right, where enough water could be stored behind a series of dams to successfully supply the city of Alameda at least." 3
An electric rail line was extended to Laundry Farm in the 1890s that served both picnickers and the Syndicate (Leona Heights) rock quarry, opening up the area to commuter residences and leading to the area's new identity of Leona Heights.
Links and References
- Glen House, Laundry Farm Oakland Evening Tribune April 24, 1887
- A Steeple Among the Oaks: A Centennial History of the First Methodist Church 1862-1962 By Albert E. Norman 1
- What is the Meaning of the Many Recent Transactions? San Francisco Chronicle July 19, 1887
- Alameda County, The Eden of the Pacific Oakland Tribune Publishing 1898
- Mysterious Woodard Alameda Daily Argus July 20, 1887; more detail in Argus January 15, 1890