Meek Estate History
William Meek, planner and builder of the Meek Mansion, was one of the first pioneers of commercial agriculture in Alameda County. From his arrival in 1859 to his death in 1880, Meek worked energetically to develop the fertile agricultural region lying in and around Eden Township.
Born in 1817, Meek grew up in Ohio and Iowa. Following the tragic death of his young wife in 1847, Meek left his new born daughter with his in-laws and immigrated to Oregon. He established a nursery and saw mill in the Williamette River Valley with Henderson Lewelling. After gold was discovered in California in 1848 resulting in a huge population explosion on the West Coast, Meek and Lewelling reaped big profits by shipping their fruit from Oregon to California. In 1859 Meek decided to sell his holdings in Oregon and relocate to Alameda County.
By 1869, when the Meek Mansion was built, Meek had acquired some 3000 acres. Part of Meek’s estate included all of the land from what is now Mission Blvd. to Hesparian Blvd. to just past Winton Ave. This area later became known as “Cherryland” because of the many cherry trees planted by Meek. Meek also had extensive apricot, plum and almond orchards.
In addition to his distinction as the “first farmer” of Alameda County, William Meek was known for his participation in all facets of life in early Alameda County. He was elected County Supervisor for four terms, beginning in 1862. Meek organized Hayward’s first Agricultural Society, which chose him as its president in 1867. Meek was a member of the first board of trustees of Mills College and was active in many other community services.
After Meek’s death in 1880, the estate was left to his children with his sons, Horry and William, managing the property. Horry Meek also served on various boards such as the Bank of Haywards like his father. Additionally, he was responsible for some of the biggest developments in the Hayward area in the late 19th century. He was instrumental in bringing the Hunt Brother’s Cannery to Hayward and helped bring the first electric car line from Oakland to Hayward in 1892. Not to mention operating the successful Meek farm.
The Meek Estate remained in the Meek family until 1940, although most of the 3000 acres were sold off gradually in small parcels prior to then. In 1940 Dr. Milton P. Ream purchased the last 10 acres and the mansion. In 1964 the mansion was slated to be razed in preparation for a housing development. The Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, with citizen backing, bought the estate. In 1973 Meek Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The exact style of the Meek Mansion does not have one word. Most architectural historians say it is an Italianate style home. It consists of 23 rooms on three floors, a partial basement, and watchtower. The first floor is comprised of a front parlor, ballroom, library, solarium, dining room, pantry, kitchen and two smaller servant rooms. The second floor contains a three guest bedrooms, the master bedroom, a dressing room, the mistress’ bedroom, four bathrooms, and two servants bedrooms. The third floor is the partial attic, three large rooms and a bathroom. The mansion had at least three major periods of construction. The first occurred around 1906. During this phase the solarium was added as well as additions to the second floor guest room, the ballroom, and mistress’ bedroom. Another remodel took place in the 1920s with the installation of “modern” bathrooms and a kitchen update. The last occurred after 1940 when additional modern elements were added such as built in shelving and mirrors. The mansion was redecorated several times—wall paper changed, different paint colors—and additional of electricity and hot water were added too at some point.
HAHS is responsible for the restoration and operation of the Meek Mansion for HARD. Over its long history, the mansion has withstood earthquakes, wind, rain, and many forms of man-made abuse. It’s a little rough around the edges. We have begun restoration but completion is still years, and dollars, away. We estimate full restoration from the plaster to the carpets and furniture acquisition will cost about $2 million. If you are interest in donating to help restore Meek Mansion, please contact our Development Department at (510) 581-0223 ext. 151 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.