San Antonio Park is the oldest in Oakland occupying four city blocks on a slope that looks out onto the Oakland Estuary. The gazebo structure perches atop the hill on East 19th Street, and was the platform where flags signaled incoming and outgoing boats.
San Antonio is a large district in Oakland, California, encompassing the land east of Lake Merritt to Sausal Creek. It is one of the most diverse areas of the city. It takes its name from Rancho San Antonio, the name of the land as granted to Luís María Peralta by the last Spanish governor of California.
Luís María Peralta never lived on the rancho himself, but his four sons and their families did. With their wives, families, landless Mexican laborers, and surrounding native peoples, the Peralta sons established the first Spanish-speaking communities in the East Bay. As the rancho prospered, the Peralta brothers built newer and bigger houses. The main hacienda contained two adobes, and some twenty guest houses, and became an established stop for travelers along what was during the Spanish era the only camino real on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay.
The hacienda became the social and commercial center of this vast rancho. Annual rodeos and cattle round-ups, horse racing, and games often took place here. The Peraltas eventually had over 8,000 head of cattle and 2,000 horses grazing on the rancho, and built a wharf on the bay near the hacienda headquarters in order to trade the rawhide and tallow produced by their cattle. The Peralta family built a total of 16 houses over a fifty-year period on Rancho San Antonio. There were eleven adobes, three frame houses, one brick house, and one built of “logs and dirt” (the very first structure built). Son Domingo’s home was located on Codornices Creek adjacent to the site of what is today St. Mary’s College High School. Son Vicente’s home was located in what is today the heart of Oakland’s Temescal district.
In 1842, Luís María Peralta decided to split the rancho among his sons. His five daughters received his cattle and his San Jose adobe (the Peralta Adobe) and land. He died in 1851, but not before telling his sons to steer clear of the California gold rush, stating, “The land is our gold.” However, it would not be easy for the Peraltas to hold on to their property.
Although the United States government promised all rights of citizenship and property ownership to the Californios through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo signed at the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, the 1851 U.S. Federal Land Act required the Californios to prove their land titles in court. The resulting litigation lasted years. In the interim, squatters continued to overrun Rancho San Antonio, stealing and killing cattle and even subdividing and selling land belonging to the Peraltas. Although the United States Supreme Court confirmed the Peralta title in 1856, the Peralta family had their own internal title dispute to resolve.
The Peralta sisters apparently felt cheated out of the family land, and contested their brothers’ claim to the Rancho San Antonio land grant. The court case, known as the “Sisters Title case” was eventually resolved in the brothers’ favor by the California Supreme Court in 1859.
The settlement that became San Antonio began in 1851 when J.B. Larue squatted on Peralta’s land west of San Antonio Creek.The site was west of Clinton. Larue built a store and wharf and the community grew up around them.
Clinton and San Antonio joined in 1856 to form a new town called Brooklyn named after the ship that had brought Mormon settlers to California in 1846.
The San Francisco and Oakland Railroad built a station at San Antonio. When the Central Pacific Railroad took over the line in 1870, the name was changed to Brooklyn. When the Southern Pacific Railroad took over the line in 1883, the name was changed to East Oakland.