Last weekend I poured over a new book, "Historic Tales of Alamo, California" by Beverly Lane with Sharon Burke, which answered questions I'd had since buying a house off Livorna Road in 1981.
For instance, where did the name Livorna Road come from?
This 192-page book has five pages of street name origins, including: "Livorna Farm, a large Leghorn chicken ranch owned by Harry and Marie Hunter from 1910 to 1920, was located at the northwest corner of Livorna Road and Danville Boulevard. Livorno is Italian for a Leghorn chicken."
I called author-historian Lane to get the inside scoop on the new book. She said she'd started giving walking tours of downtown Alamo toward the end of 2019, along with history buffs Burke, Anne Struthers and Alisa Corstorphine, for the Museum of the San Ramon Valley.
"The tour started at one corner of Stone Valley Road and Danville Boulevard, where they have a plaque remembering the elementary school," Lane explained. "From there we went across to see the shoe repair building from the 1930s, then the Hay and Grain."
With the pandemic, tours were canceled. But by then Lane had interviewed scores of old-timers and researched Alamo at museums and in publications local and beyond. She contacted the History Press with the idea of publishing the information, and the rest is a history book.
Ace researcher Burke enthusiastically set to work on any topic suggested, Lane said, which is why she shares credit.
The book covers prehistory as well as the area's first people. When the Interstate 680 offramp at Stone Valley Road was excavated in 1962, a significant Indian site was unearthed, including artifacts more than 5,000 years old.
Alamo is the second oldest town in Contra Costa County, after Martinez, and its post office was established in 1852. I'd wondered why Alamo remained rural while Danville and Walnut Creek had thriving downtowns, and the book explains. The Alamo settlers were interested in farming and ranching their land rather than subdividing for businesses, so land speculators went to neighboring communities.
The book also covers the devastating floods of 1862 and a scourge of squirrels that resulted in a squirrel eradication district in Alamo. And it includes quotes by travelers on the railroad line that opened in 1891, thanks to the efforts of prominent resident August Hemme.
"For a while Hemme lived in San Francisco," Lane said. "He would talk to (railroad barons) Crocker and Huntington and persuaded them to bring the train to the valley."
Lane has served on the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors since 1994 and led efforts to turn the Southern Pacific right of way into our wonderful Iron Horse Regional Trail after the trains stopped in 1977. This effort is detailed in the book, as is the latest effort to incorporate Alamo, which I covered in 2009.
Funny when stuff I personally have witnessed ends up in history books.
Lane, who won our Tri-Valley Heroes Life Achievement Award in 2014, also wrote "San Ramon Valley: Alamo, Danville, San Ramon"; "Vintage Danville: 150 Years of Memories"; and "San Ramon Chronicles: Stories of Bygone Days," and now is satisfied that the area's history is documented.
This Saturday, Lane and Burke will be selling and signing "Historic Tales of Alamo, California" ($21.99) at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley (during Danville farmers market) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., then at Alamo Ace Hardware from 2-4 p.m. On Sunday morning, they will be at the farmers market in Alamo Plaza.
Editor's note: Dolores Fox Ciardelli is Tri-Valley Life editor for the Pleasanton Weekly. Her column, "Valley Views," appears on the second and fourth Fridays of each month.