The first non-native people to settle in California were the Spanish who began building missions in the late 1700s. In the early 1800s the King of Spain divided up the land into huge ranchos and in 1820 granted Don Luis Maria Peralta the area that today is approximately all of Alameda County. In 1842 Don Luis divided his rancho among his four sons and Jose Domingo Peralta was given the area that would become Berkeley.
Jose Domingo and his wife Maria built their first home of adobe bricks on the south bank of Codornices Creek and in 1851 built a larger, more substantial two-story frame house. While no traces of these buildings remain, there is a brass plaque marking the location of the adobe at 1304 Albina St.
By 1852 Jose Domingo had sold all his land except for a 300-acre parcel around his home. But when he died in 1865 he no longer owned the 300-acre parcel, and his family could not afford a headstone for his grave. In 1872 his widow and 10 children were evicted from their home.
Peralta’s home site was subsequently subdivided in 1878 by Casper Hopkins and he named it Peralta Park. The subdivision was planned in a naturalistic style and trees and shrubs were planted along the roads and lot lines. The then isolated area remained undeveloped until 1889, when the tract was sold to Maurice B. Curtis who arranged to have a horsecar line laid along Sacramento Street from University Avenue to Hopkins Street. As the centerpiece for his residential subdivision, Curtis also built a fabulous turreted Victorian hotel, named the Peralta Park Hotel, with 60 bedrooms and 20 baths. The hotel opened in 1891 and thirteen impressive homes were built.
But only a year later Maurice Curtis was forced to sell the subdivision and the hotel. The hotel building was used as a school from 1901 until it was demolished in 1959, and the site is now the campus of St. Mary’s High School.
Of the 13 Victorians built in Peralta Park, only five remain. These are: Edward Leuders House, 1330 Albina Street, Ira A. Boynton, architect, (1889), Adock/McQueston House, 1675 Hopkins Street (1889), 1307 Acton Street (1890s), 1466 Hopkins Street (1880s) and 1492 Hopkins Street (1880s). The original large lots were re-subdivided in the 1920s and seven Victorians were replaced by apartment houses or gas stations.
Susan Cerny is author of Berkeley Landmarks and writes this in conjunction with the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.