|Francis Marion "Borax" Smith|
|Remains of the Pacific Coast Borax Company|
Smith is better known in the Bay Area for his rail and real estate companies. He had a history of developing rail companies in Nevada and Southern California and he brought that experience into the East Bay when he founded the Key System with business partner Frank C. Havens. Comprising half of a larger business plan, with the other half being a real estate development firm, Smith and Havens were responsible for both the creation of rail lines in the immediate East Bay, as well as determining the location of a large number of neighborhoods and services. Many major streets still follow the paths that Smith and Havens chose for the lines of the Key System. Smith and Havens also developed some of the largest recreational attractions in the East Bay during the first quarter of the 20th century. The Claremont Hotel and the Key Route Inn (formerly located at 27th and Broadway but no longer standing) were among their projects. Idora Park was the first, and largest, "trolley park" of the East Bay. The park was built on land that Smith's real estate company owned, on Telegraph Avenue between 56th and 58th, and was served by the Key System. This pattern, of purchasing land to develop and then running rail lines to the new attractions served Smith and Havens well and resulted in their rapidly increasing personal fortunes as the East Bay developed through the first part of the 20th century.
|A mule team hauling borax ore from Smith's mines|
Getting There By Bike...
It's hard not to experience some part of "Borax" Smith's contribution to East Bay history if you spend a day riding around the East Bay. Many of the major streets, including Broadway, San Pablo, Telegraph, and College Ave had rail service from the Key System. The Claremont Hotel is a local landmark and is a well known site near the base of Claremont Canyon.
There are some specific sites to visit though. The Claremont Hotel is located at 41 Tunnel Road and is easiest to reach by taking either Claremont or Ashby towards the hills. The remains of the Pacific Coast Borax Company buildings are near the corner of Main and Atlantic on the west end of Alameda. The remains of the building are made of red brick and are labeled Building 163.