Olinda – the California ghost town that never was

Olinda – the California ghost town that never was

Olinda – the California ghost town that never was
The site for the Olinda community, which never quite developed, courtesy of Contra Costa County History Center. A post office there is listed as NRO, No Record of Operation in the “History of California Post Offices, 1849-1976.

SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA — The Olinda Post Office was established July 31, 1889, and was discontinued 182 days later on Jan. 29, 1890.

It was declared NRO, meaning No Record of Operation, according to “History of California Post Offices, 1849-1976” compiled by H.E. Salley.

The California Land and Improvement Co. announced plans in September 1887 to develop a town on the California-Nevada Railroad line, Donald Bastin wrote in his article published in the El Sobrante Historical Society spring 2014 newsletter.

A dream community

Victor Castro, owner of the El Sobrante land grant, designed the town and filed a plot map in April 1888. He named his dream community Olinda, a combination of Oakland and Orinda – the starting and stopping points of the narrow-gauge California-Nevada Railroad.

They had considered Castroville as a name, but there were already too many places bearing that name. The tracks for the railroad would run through the center of 42 blocks of residential building lots, which were to be sold at auction. A hotel was sited a block from the depot.

Unfortunately, the railroad’s plan to continue to Nevada was unsuccessful, and the company went bankrupt in 1900.

For a few years, Oakland picnickers would board the train to Olinda for a day’s outing. The train carried hay and wood to Oakland but got no farther than Orinda because of right of way issues.

World War II reawakening

For nearly a half century, the only vestiges of Castro’s dream were a barn, a general store and a depot. It was not until after World War II that there was a reawakening of interest in the site.

The tracks were removed and replaced with a road named Railroad Avenue. A large subdivision, Sherwood Forest, and a school, aptly named Olinda Elementary, were erected where the dream of Olinda was once planned. In 1963, a section of Castro Road was renamed Olinda Avenue.

An Oakland Transcript article of Feb. 27, 1957, calls Olinda “a ghost town that never was.”

A History Note is presented by the Contra Costa County History Center, 724 Escobar St., Martinez, using materials from the society’s collections. While the History Center is currently closed due to the coronavirus, check out the website at cocohistory.org or join us on Facebook at facebook.com/cocohistory.