The Centerville depot is located in almost the middle of what was once the business district of a small, but thriving farming community. Occupying a geographically central position in early Washington Township, Centerville got its name from the roads crossing to the four points of the compass: Oakland to the north, San Jose to the south, Mission San Jose to the east, and the bay landings, or embarcaderos, to the west.

By 1860, the town catered to travelers. Just north of the present location of the depot, the United States Hotel (built in 1859) offered one of the few stopover points on the long stage ride between Oakland and San Jose. On the opposite side of Fremont Boulevard, just south of the present railroad tracks, the Gregory House added rooms, a restaurant, and a bar to the town's amenities in 1869. Harness shops and blacksmith shops, located primarily in the business block north of the railroad, on the opposite side of Fremont Boulevard, served stage lines as well as the needs of the local farming community. Blacksmiths Riser & Smith manufactured wagons for a period in the late 1870's.

Perhaps because of the commerce and travel passing through town, Centerville considered itself a cultural and civic center. In 1879, Salz & Company, Centerville's dry goods merchant, claimed to own the only brick store in Southern Alameda County, and proudly announced that it would display original works of art for public enjoyment. An archery club, literary club, and a debating club were all available for intellectual or athletic activity. On November 13, 1880, the debating club announced that its next topic would weigh "the relative merits of the cow and horse", and on December 11, whether "tobacco is more injurious than whisky". The outcome of the December debate did not seem to do much harm to the business of the town's numerous saloons.

Little remains from 19th century Centerville, except grave markers from the 1853 Presbyterian church, and the intersections of Peralta Boulevard, Fremont Boulevard, and Thornton Avenues, which mark the original hub of roads that gave Centerville its name.

The site of the 1853 Presbyterian Church lies about a hundred yards north of the Centerville depot, marked by graveyard stones. The original church was brick and was destroyed by an earthquake in 1868. Its replacement was wood, and lasted until a fire severely damaged the structure in the mid-1990s.


Centerville Street Scene in 1870
Dr. Robert B. Fisher Collection
Museum of Local History - Fremont, California

Centerville Presbyterian Church in 1884. Church was across from depot on Bonde Way before destroyed by arson fire.
Dr. Robert B. Fisher Collection
Museum of Local History -  Fremont, California

Historic Downtown Centerville

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