Emeryville lies on the East shore of San Francisco Bay between Oakland and Berkeley. It is just over one square mile, but its location makes it a highly desirable place to live, work, and shop.
The city is named after Joseph Stickney Emery. A stonecutter by trade, he developed quarries, supplied the stone for the U.S. Mint, and supervised the dredging of the channel for ferries between San Francisco and Oakland. In 1859 he bought a 185-acre tract and built himself a stately mansion at the corner of Park Avenue and San Pablo Avenue. United by a desire to protect their assets, dissatisfied by the minimal municipal services provided by Alameda County, and leery of Oakland’s annexation aspirations, Emery and other landowners and industrialists decided to form their own town. Today’s boundaries are substantially the same as established by the founders in 1896.
One of the most interesting elements of Emeryville’s history is the “Emeryville Shellmound.” Although archeological evidence shows no native habitation after 1650, there were shellmounds here, small hills composed of sea shells, food waste, and human remains accumulated over thousands of years. The “Emeryville Shellmound” actually consisted of several mounds of various sizes, built at various times by the pre-Ohlone people. The “big mound,” was about 60 feet tall and 350 feet in diameter.
From 1876 to 1924, the big mound was the site of an amusement park, but in 1924 the mound was leveled to make way for industrial development. Over the next 75 years, the site was extensively contaminated by industrial waste, and the shellmound, no longer visible, was largely forgotten.
In 1999 the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency demolished the industrial buildings and began remediation of the contaminated site in preparation for development of the Bay Street Mixed Use Project. During the site remediation, the earliest remains of the shellmound, dating from about 2,000 to 2,500 years ago, were discovered below grade level. A “Most Likely Descendant” was appointed by the California Native American Heritage Commission to oversee excavation work, and many artifacts and human remains were unearthed. Following completion of excavation work, the human remains were reinterred on the site in an undisclosed location, a “memorialization park” was created along the banks of Temescal
Creek (now a flood control channel).
Emeryville today is a vibrant community which enjoys a high quality of life and an exciting, diverse culture. The city has a beautiful Marina, the Emeryville Greenway, and a variety of residences, including live-work/lofts, condominiums, rental apartments, and single-family homes. A center for artists and artisans, the city co-sponsors the annual Emeryville Celebration of the Arts. In addition to its large retail centers, it has attracted major hotels, theatres, top-notch restaurants, and corporations.
Pixar Animation Studios and Jamba Juice both call Emeryville home.