Alameda Back Roads: The Suelflohn Building

Alameda Back Roads: The Suelflohn Building

Karen Bey

Much has been written about Fifth Street Station, the historic train station in the Neptune Beach district. But little is known about the building next door - the Suelflohn Building at 478 Central Avenue. Built in 1915 by Gustave H. Suelflohn, a builder from Wisconsin who moved to Alameda with his family around the early 1900s, it was originally built as a store with two apartments on the top level. Suelflohn formed G. H. Suelflohn and Company and located his real estate offices out of one of the upstairs apartments, where it remained for many years.

By 1919 the Neptune Beach Amusement Park and Resort begin to attract thousands of families throughout the Bay Area. Bath houses, refreshment stands, convenient stores and beach cottages covered the shoreline on Central Avenue forming what was known as the Neptune Beach district. During this period, Suelflohn expanded his property to take advantage of the resort housing boom. He built a three-room cottage in the center of the property, currently occupied by Tim and Mary Wilmot of Wilmot’s Books, and a second cottage in the rear of the property that overlooked the beach. The storefront which currently houses Wilmot’s Books became a popular stop for tourists in route to Neptune Beach.

The property is listed on the City of Alameda’s historical list and continues to stand as one of the remaining remnants of the Neptune Beach era. The current owners, David Gee and Colene Leung - both avid preservationists - purchased the property in 1999 and have been good stewards of the property. A 1934 picture of the building can be seen in the book "Alameda by Rail," by Grant Ute and Bruce Singer, and the property shows virtually no change to its original character.

The architectural charm of the building continues to attract preservationists and artists from all over the Bay Area including a local artist, Sergio Lopez. During the 2012 Frank Bette Plein Air Paintout (46 artists painting outdoors in Alameda) Sergio chose to paint the building. His rendering of the Suelflohn Building can be seen at the Frank Bette Center For the Arts in Alameda.


Submitted by John Piziali on Wed, Oct 3, 2012

Karen, as a little boy I used to get my hair cut in the barber shop to the left in this picture. We also used to shop at the grocery store and butcher shop that was next door to the right in this photo. The grocery store was Bowels and they were my neighbors, Wilmot's at one time was a bar (very rough one) named Clyde's. " Oh for the good old days".

Submitted by Karen Bey on Thu, Oct 4, 2012

John, that barber shop was there for a long time, I remember when it closed. I'll try and find out more about the grocer and butcher shop. Thanks for sharing your memories!