Thursday, September 8, 2011

Neptune Beach

Neptune Beach was an amusement park in Alameda, CA that operated from 1917 to 1939. In its day it was the largest amusement park in the immediate Bay Area and attracted huge crowds of people to Alameda.

The park was built on land owned by the Strehlow family (what is now Crab Cove), and included an olympic sizzed swimmming pool, a roller coaster that provided views out over the San Francisco Bay, barbecue pits, vacation cottages, and a private beach. Neptune Beach also used to host celebrities and swimming exhibitions and races.

The park closed down in 1939 for a variety of reasons. The main reason usually cited was the Great Depression, but there are a number of other factors that affected the park. The increasing ownership of cars, and people's desire to travel farther afield, meant that there were other options for entertainment and travel. Prior to personal cars being common, Neptune Beach had benefited from a direct rail line to the park and from being, essentially, the only game in town. It's odd to think about this now, but in the 1920s and '30s, Alameda was essentially a resort town. With the rise of car culture, people began to explore the rest of California and Alameda became just another suburb.

Most of the buildings that made up Neptune Beach have been destroyed. The land that Neptune Beach was built on has been taken over by the city of Alameda and is now known as Crab Cove, one of the larger public parks on the island. The only buildings that I know of that still stand from the heyday of Neptune Beach are the Croll Building, and the Neptune Court Apartments. There are also some outbuildings behind the baseball fields in Washington Park.

Getting There By Bike...
Neptune Beach/Crab Cove is easy to find in Alameda. If you approach through the Webster Tube, continue down Webster until the street dead ends at Central Ave. If you come over the Park Street Bridge, continue down Park to Central and then turn right. Continue down Central until you reach the intersection of Central and Webster. On the corner you'll see the Croll Building. Keep heading west down Central and you'll pass the Neptune Court Apartments on the left. Turn left immediately after the Foster's Freeze Restaurant and follow the road back to Crab Cove. There are a lot of great places to ride your bike back along the beach. A big loop of the Bay Trail connects to Bay Farm Island and San Leandro, or you can keep heading west along the water and reach the Alameda Naval Air Station, where there are a number of historical sites.

Alameda is generally very bike friendly, but if you're planning on being there any time near dark, be sure to take some lights. The Alameda police like to write tickets for cyclists who aren't using front lights after dark.

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