Peoples Water Company

This caught my eye by the side of Merriewood Road: an artifact of the early infrastructure in the Oakland hills.


It wasn’t until I checked just now that I realized how old this must be: The Peoples Water Company was founded in 1906 and went bankrupt eight years later. At this time Oakland and the East Bay were seriously hampered by the limits of the local water supply, but somehow they ran pipes up here and got water to them, for a while.

Seems like a museum should have this. But the Oakland Museum of California is not a museum of Oakland, and the Camron-Stanford House, which started out as the city museum, is just a Victorian costume home. Who collects historic artifacts for the city of Oakland?

7 Responses to “Peoples Water Company”

  1. oakruss Says:

    There is actually a nice little historical collection of water-related items at the EBMUD HQ on 11th St., 2nd floor (plus, on the same level, a display about the Chinese laborers who built Temescal and Chabot dams).

  2. Jafafa Hots (@JafafaHots) Says:

    Here’s a photo i took of a People’s Water street valve in Point Richmond:

    People's Water Co.

    People’s Water was part of “Borax’ Smith’s Realty Syndicate empire (Key System, etc.). It went bankrupt in 1914.

  3. Jafafa Hots (@JafafaHots) Says:

    I’ve also wondered about who does conserve such things, as I’ve amassed a huge trove of early Oakland historical items, mostly transit-related including the sole original blueprints from Southern Pacific bay ferries, iron items, etc.
    I don’t see any good place to leave them to when I croak.

  4. oakruss Says:

    Chat up the good folks at the Oakland Library History Room, esp. Dorothy Lazar. They collect all kinds of Oakland stuff, including non-book items. I don’t know about the heavy metal though! They have a very fun exhibit up right now through the end of October on Oakland boosterism.

  5. Gene Says:

    EBMUD seems like the best bet. But to ensure it didn’t get hauled off for scrap, I went and rescued it until a destination is figured out.

    @JafafaHots – As oakruss says, check with Dorothy at the Oakland History Room. Another possible recipient is the Western Railway Museum (, which has rolling stock and other stuff from the Sacramento Northern Railway that went through Oakland (and my grandfather worked for).

    If none of those work out, talk to Stuart Swiedler who created the East Bay Hills Project website ( about the Sacramento Northern especially in Oakland.

  6. Andrew Says:

    Gene, thanks for retrieving this from rusty oblivion.

  7. Jᴀғᴀғᴀ Hᴏᴛs, G.E.D. (@JafafaHots) Says:

    Some of what I have I bought FROM the WRM, so I don’t think they want it back!

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