Cohen-Bray House    

Victorian Preservation Center of Oakland


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The English Gardener of Oaktree Farm (Part I)

Posted by Cohen Bray House on October 11, 2016 at 11:45 PM Comments comments (9)

This post is the story of Thomas Cowell, a gardener who worked at Oaktree Farm in 1880. Based on the census records, it seems like Thomas may have been counted twice - once as part of the Bray’s household and once as the head of his own household nearby in Oakland.


Thomas was born in England sometime between 1841 and 1844. He immigrated to the US in 1877 (according to the 1900 census). It is difficult to know anything about him before that because there are literally...

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The Untraceable Chinese Men of Oaktree Farm

Posted by Cohen Bray House on September 28, 2016 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (0)

There were three Chinese servants working for Emma’s household in 1870 according to the census. Their names were Sam Wa (21), Hoa (18 ), and Py (50). 


There are zero plausible records for either Hoa or Py anywhere else in the census data either before or after 1870. For Sam, there are two possible records under the single name Wa for 1880, which either would put him as a laborer in Alameda or a Hop Raiser (beer!) in San Jauquin valley. Both Wa’s are listed ...

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A Little Downton Abbey Right Here at Home

Posted by Cohen Bray House on September 13, 2016 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (0)

The first servant listed as part of Emma’s childhood household in Brooklyn (a neighborhood in what is now Oakland) in 1870 was a young Irish maid by the name of Kate Kavanagh (in the 1870 census it was spelled Cavenaugh, but all other years spelled it with a K). The earliest I can find a record of Kate is in the 1860 census, when she was 12 years old and living in Somersworth, New Hampshire with her mother and sister in the household of Betsy Joyce and her six ...

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Born in the Country, Died in the City

Posted by Cohen Bray House on September 7, 2016 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (0)

My mom has often quoted Emelita as saying that she was born in the country and then lived in the city without ever moving. No kidding! When Emma was born, the population of Oakland was less than 2,000 people. By the time the Cohen-Bray House was built in the 1880s, the population was 35,000 people and when Emelita died in the 1990s the population of Oakland had reached nearly 400,000. (Don't know who Emma and Emelita are? Check out the History page

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Welcome to the blog!

Posted by Cohen Bray House on August 23, 2016 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (3)

Welcome to the Cohen Bray House’s new blog! I am Emma, a great, great, granddaughter of Emma and Alfred, the original inhabitants of 1440 29th Ave. Over the next several months I will be exploring all of the people that lived and worked in the homes of Emma and Alfred over their lifetimes, as well as the overall demographics of the neighborhood and how it fit into the broader history of Oakland.


While t...

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