Tank Houses of Fremont, California

NW corner of Thornton-4300 block
Nunes farm, off Peralta and Riverwalk
Fully functional water tower, 48800 Warm Springs Blvd. at Scott Creek Road
Shortly after gold was discovered in California, many farmers, including a number from St. George island off the coast of Portugal, emigrated to the area that is now Fremont. They built their homes and farm buildings from old growth redwood, cultivated the rich land, and shipped their produce to San Francisco.

The archives we have from this era tended to concentrate on those of high status in the community and rarely mention the lives of these small farmers, and their historic contributions to the prosperity of the Bay Area is largely unremarked today. The City of Fremont is now sponsoring an historic architectural inventory project, and archiving the location and remaining buildings and rediscovering the history of these early-day farm families is one part of the work being done.

These small farms once got their water from a shallow well with a windmill-powered pump, which raised the water to an elevated tank in order to provide water pressure. The open space under the tank tower was often enclosed to provide shelter for animals, as a tool-shed, or perhaps as a spare room. There's something whimsically charming about these old tank house structures. Whether it's the angled walls which echo the bracing legs of the tower, the small size and high ceiling of the enclosed space, the open staircases or the quality of light streaming down from windows high overhead, these structures have an almost magical quality, part tree house, part play house.

When piped water became available the tanks and windmills were no longer needed, and only the 'tank house' base of the tower was still useful and left standing. Although these remnants of Fremont's farming heritage are being torn down as high-density housing replaces the old farm homes, enough still stand to remind us of Fremont's rich farming heritage.

If you would like to see more pictures or a bit of history about a specific tank house, click on the index below. Note: although these pictures have been posted as interlaced 89a .gif files, some of them are as large as 250KB and may take some time to load to your browser, depending on the speed of your connection to the internet.

Location Sample Views - Notes
40390 Fremont Blvd.
41333 Fremont Blvd. Lovely 1930's home and large tower
41415 Fremont Blvd. Small tower with garage and well maintained house of the period
33230 Alvarado Blvd.
Mission Blvd at Curtner Former almond orchard just east of Hwy. 680
48800 Warm Springs Blvd. Cedar Lawn Memorial Park
Fully functional water tower and restored tank house
46408 Warm Springs Blvd. This tank house and interesting farm house, formerly part of Navlet's nursery, were demolished in summer 2008 to make way for a retail/grocery complex.

Last update 29 August 2008