The Oakland Public Museum (1907 – 1965)

Oakland Public Museum

In 1907, two years after Mayor Frank K. Mott’s election, the City of Oakland purchased the Camron-Stanford House lake front property for $40,000 and condemned all the other private residences then bordering the lake.  In their place the city created Lakeside Park to provide public access to Lake Merritt for the first time.   Three years later, Mayor Mott continued his “city beautiful” projects by establishing the Oakland Public Museum in the house that had once belonged to the Camron, Stanford and Wright families.

Charles P. Wilcomb was hired as the museum’s first curator and filled 14 rooms with more than 12,000 ornithological, anthropological, and ethnographic collections.  Two other museums were eventually built in Oakland, the Oakland Art Gallery in 1916 and the Snow Museum in 1922, however, the Oakland Museum was the first teaching museum west of the Mississippi River and continued in that capacity for 56 years.*


* Melinda Young Frye, “Pioneers in American Museums:  Charles P. Wilcomb.” Museum News, vol. 55, no. 5 (May/June 1977), page 59