Saturday, January 7, 2017

William Gilliat Thornally Jr. (1875-1944) – Part 1 Family Life

Will Thornally Jr. 
William was the eldest child of Mary and William Thornalley. He was named after his father who was also William Gilliat. William had three brothers – Harry, John (my grandfather), and Samuel. He also had two sisters Charlotte and Rose. William was born in San Francisco on July 12, 1875. Four years later he appeared on the 1880 census with his family when they were living at 278 Bush Street in San Francisco. By 1888, the family had moved to Oakland and was living on Bray Avenue (now 34th Avenue) near the Old County Road (now Foothill). My mother Lottie Thornally, Will’s niece, referred to him as Uncle Bill while his sister Charlotte called him Will. 

When Will was 16 he appeared in the City of Oakland directory listed as working for the Guerney-Minnesota Thresher Manufacturing Company. His father also worked there at that time. In the 1892 directory he was listed as an apprentice with the same company. Between 1896-1900 Will and his father both worked as carpenters for the SP Company which I presume refers to the Southern-Pacific railroad.

Will as a young boy

When he was 23 we know that Will spent time in Dawson City, Alaska because Will’s granddaughter Ann Thornally Brurud has a copy of a letter Will’s sister Charlotte sent him while he was there searching for gold. The letter was dated August 1, 1898.  Will was part of the “Klondike Stampede” that began in July 1897 and attracted 100,000 men seeking their fortune. Dawson City was one of the many boom towns that sprung up. It quickly grew to 30,000 by 1898. You can read more about the Klondike stampede and Dawson City from this link. The Klondike gold rush ended in 1899 as miners left to search for gold in other places. Since Will was listed in the 1900 directory, he apparently gave up on mining and returned home to pursue more pragmatic endeavors.
The Klondike gold rush 1899 from Google

By May of 1904, Will had established himself as an independent building contractor. He was 28 when the San Francisco Call newspaper reported that he had won a contract with J.R. Leavens to build a two-story wood-frame home with a basement for William A. Jones. Their bid for the project was $4691. A summary of the homes, commercial properties and other buildings that were constructed by W.G Thornally Jr. is provided in Part 3 of this blog post that follows.

On Will’s voter registration dated September 12, 1918 he signed his last name with an “e” at the end. He also included the “e” on a bid for a construction project that I have. But, the press nearly always omitted the “e” and I don’t think his younger brothers used it. On the voter registration Will was described as being tall and stout with blue eyes and brown hair. His granddaughter Ann remembers him as a big, impressive man with a loud voice.

Marriage and Family Life
Will married Agnus Visalia Damm on October 29, 1903 in the First Congregational Church in Fruitvale. (You can see a photo of the church in the post on Mary McGowan Thornally, August 2015). His younger brother John was his best man and Agnus’ friend, Mrs. Joseph Kreig of Alameda was the maid-of-honor. Will and Agnus honeymooned in Salt Lake City, Utah before returning to Oakland. Agnus was the daughter of Joseph Damm and Maria Giboni. Agnus was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 2, 1881 and moved with her family to 10th and Harrison Street in Oakland’s Melrose District sometime between 1883 and 1896.

Joseph Damm and his wife were both from Germany. According to his 1896 voter registration record Joseph was short – only 5’4” tall. He had a medium build, brown eyes and light brown hair. He was 51 years old at the time, so was born in 1845. Joseph was naturalized on July 17, 1883 in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. In 1896, his occupation was in the dairy industry. In 1903, he was a school board trustee in the Melrose District of Oakland.  According to his grandson, Ralph Thornally, Joseph died in 1924, presumably in Oakland.
Agnus with Ralph
Maria was the daughter of Anne Christina Hansen and Peter Giboni. Peter was born in Italy in 1830 but his family immigrated to Germany in 1844. He died at the age of 45 on February 4, 1876. Anne was born in Eschiveiler by Ihole, Germany and died at age 41 on April 4, 1872.

After the honeymoon Will and Agnus made their home on Bray Street near Tobler – this was part of the Thornally Tract that had been purchased by William Sr. in 1886 from Watson A. Bray. Each of the Thornally children owned property and homes in the tract. In 1918, Will and Agnus moved to 3027 E. 16th Street. Then in 1925 they moved to 832 Paramount Road, which is where they raised their two sons Ralph and George.  

Thoranlly family home at 832 Paramount

Ralph William Thornally was born on March 18, 1905. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley campus in 1928 and became a mechanical and electrical engineer. He was also an amateur ham radio operator. On the 1930 census his occupation was recorded as a salesman in the “investment” industry. He worked for the National Park Service in the San Francisco office for 25 years designing heating systems for park buildings. Ralph lived mostly in Oakland but also San Francisco and Berkeley for short times. He married Gladys Peck in 1931 and had one child, a daughter Ann. Gladys died of ovarian cancer in 1951. Ralph married Sylvia Rush. He died in 1986 at the age of 81 and is buried at Mountain View Cemetery. Ralph saved everything that he inherited from his father – for which I am very grateful.
Ralph and George (right)

George Francis Thornally was born on November 10, 1907. He attended Oakland Technical high school and the University of California at Berkeley where he was a member of the Phi Phi fraternity. George served in the US Navy as a lieutenant Commander. Professionally he owned a Studebaker car dealership in Honolulu, Hawaii. He married and divorced Efale Taber and they had two children – a son George and a daughter Efale. He married a second time to a woman named Simone – last name unknown. Ann recalls that George married a third time to a woman named Paulette – last name also unknown. George died October 15, 1981 in Honolulu.

Agnus died at the age of 53 from uterine cancer on December 12, 1934, and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery with her husband. Their grave is near two of Will’s brothers and their wives - John and Emma Thornally, and Sam and Delphine Thornally. Their fourth brother, Harry is also buried at Mountain View but he and Blanche are in the mausoleum.

Sources for this 3 part series on Will Thornally Jr.: US census, newspaper archives available at the Oakland library, Google, voter registration records, and photos and documents shared by living relatives.

William Gilliat Thornally Jr. (1875-1944) – Part 2 Civic Life

Will Thornally Jr.
Will got involved in civic affairs as a young man and continued to be very actively engaged in public service throughout his life. His civic activities began on April 9, 1901 when, at the age of 26, he was elected as a trustee for the Fruitvale Fire Department. At that time fire protection was provided by volunteers who lived in the community.

The Oakland Tribune reported on August 2, 1907 that Will was Sargent-at-arms of the Bridge Club - an organization supporting W.B. Bridge for judge in the Fruitvale District. Bridge had been a school trustee and had two schools built in Fruitvale. As a county supervisor he was known for being “an aggressive worker for public betterment”.  (reference: “Greater Oakland” by E. Blake)
Historic photo of the Fruitvale fire station from Google

On September 3, 1903 Will was a member of a jury that sentenced Victor Walkirez, an African American man who murdered Elizabeth Leroy, to life in prison. This was a high-profile and controversial case of the times – many felt the defendant deserved the death penalty but one juror believed Walkirez was insane when he committed the murder, so after two weeks and three ballots the jury agreed on a sentence of life in prison.

Will’s life-long involvement with the Free Masons began in 1903 when he was 28. On December 23rd he was installed as a Junior Warden of the Fruitvale Lodge of Masons. The news clip from his election provided the following information: "Fruitvale Lodge of Masons installed the following new officers last night: Worshipful Master, Andrew Frost; Senior Warden, Hugh Frazer; Junior Warden, William G. Thornally; Secretary, Henry Tyack; Treasurer, P. H. Blake Sr.; Senior Deacon, E. Spence de Pue; Junior Deacon, Cornelius Carew; Marshal. George E. Lund; Senior Steward, Arthur P. Snow; Junior Steward, Charles Hughes; Tyler (sp.), John McArthur.”  San Francisco Call, Dec. 23, 1903.
An architectural detail of the Mason symbol on the
Fruitvale Scottish Rite building built by Will.
I’ve tried to learn more about Will’s involvement with the Masons without success. I toured the Masonic Temple around 2008 and was told that they were happy to share historic information about their members. Twice I have reached out to the Masons and provided them written background material on William Sr., Will Jr, Harry and John Thornally who were all members, but I’ve received no response. I do know from other news articles that Will continued as a Free Mason and rose in their ranks – more on that below.

The Fruitvale Board of Trade appointed Will to the organizing committee on June 6, 1904. At their first meeting they were making plans to send delegates to the statewide trade convention in Sacramento. The Board of Trade was a civic organization similar to the Chamber of Commerce or Rotary. That news piece read as follows:
“The spirit of progress is abroad in all of the different communities on the eastern Bay Shore. District organizations for advancement of the county at large and sections in particular are being formed where none have existed before, and old ones are being resurrected into new life. The people of that delightful section known as Fruitvale are the latest to organize for the development of a district that has many natural advantages and needs but to be advertised to be appreciated. The Board of Trade of Fruitvale has been formed, with Adolph Lorsbach as president……”     San Francisco Call, June 6, 1904

On June 9, 1904 the following news item appeared in the Oakland Tribune. I am not sure what it means.
“At the conclusion of the 2nd meeting of the Fruitvale Board of Trade W.G. Thornally presented the board with a unique emblem in the shape of a substantial hammer to be used in hammering down and exterminating jointly and individually all knockers found on the streets of Fruitvale or vicinity. The gift was accepted and placed in a conspicuous place. 10 new members were taken into the organization. The meeting was then adjourned until next Thursday.”                           Oakland Tribune, June 9, 1904 p. 8

Will was appointed Deputy Constable by Constable Thomas Carroll on July 27, 1904 when he was 29 years old. His appointment came about after two other constables were dismissed after engaging in a battle with two burglars who were trying to rob the Sather Station. This was reported in the San Francisco Call.

On March 6, 1905 the Tribune reported that Will was running for a clerk position on the Melrose Sanitary District board. His father was the Sanitary Inspector for Fruitvale from 1903 to 1910. Melrose was another community similar to Fruitvale. Eventually both were annexed into Oakland.

On January 17, 1906 the Tribune ran a story headlined “Worshipful Master W.G. Thornally”. The story was about the planned construction of a Mason Building in Fruitvale. The headline suggests that Will was now a leader in the Oakland Masons. Another news piece published in August of 1906 reported that Will was a candidate to be a delegate to the Republican County Convention representing the 15th District of Oakland. The article did not say if he was elected.
Will's Worshipful Master pin
from the Masons

In January of 1910, Will was on the executive committee of the Eastside Improvement Club of Greater Oakland. The club's mission was to advocate for "trade at home, adequate fire and police protection in the outlying sections, better lighting facilities, reasonable street improvements and just and able representation on the City Council”. In July of that year he, and a group of men, founded the Young Republican Club – a group that would endorse and support candidates for office. Will was selected as the first club President.

Young Republicans in Annexed District Form New Alliance

OAKLAND, July 12.— With an initial membership of 280, the Young Men's republican club of the annexed district has been organized in Fruitvale with the following officers: William Thornally Jr., President; Bill- Hackett, First Vice President: George Zimmerman, Second Vice President; M. E. Jacobsen, Secretary  and treasurer. An executive committee, "composed of Hackett, Zimmerman, T. Rossi, William McKeon and Edward Lemieux, was also appointed. The new political organization will meet every Friday night in Lund's Hall, above the Fruitvale post office, until the election in November. Candidates will be invited to address the club at each meeting. No candidates will be endorsed until a few days before the election.                              San Francisco Call, July 13, 1910.

A year later, on March 11, 1911 a Tribune article identified William G. Thornally as president of the Representation Club of Greater Oakland. I suspect this was the same club begun in 1910 with a new name because the story was about their meeting to endorse Peter C. Frederickson – a candidate for Commissioner of Oakland. Harry Thornally was also mentioned in the article as being a member of the executive committee. The Tribune ran a full page political ad for a few days in May of 1911 that was paid for by the Oakland Progressive Club. It listed the names of all who were endorsing Frederickson. William Thornally Sr. was among the group.

The Native Sons of the Golden West was another active organization in Oakland at this time. According to Wikipedia, “The Native Sons of the Golden West is a fraternal service organization founded in 1875, limited to native born Californians and dedicated to historic preservation, documentation of historic structures and places in the state, the placement of historic plaques and other charitable functions within California.”  In February of 1912, they were planning a street fair and carnival that was to be held in Fruitvale. Will was mentioned in a news clip and identified as a member of the finance committee for the fair. The event was planned for April 29th to May 4th and would take place on the Derby property located between Fruitvale Avenue, E. 14th Street, East 12th Street and Sausal Creek. 

1912 was an exceptional year for Will. He was 37 years old and made the news frequently. In my research I found several articles about his myriad civic activities. It is also the year his company built the Saint Joseph’s Home – an entire campus of impressive brick buildings that still exists today. See the following post about Will’s professional life.

Will and Agnus with sons Ralph (standing) and George. From Ralph
Thornally's collection.
In July of 1912, the Representation club hosted a barbeque to promote candidates. The event was hosted by Mayor Frank C. Mott. He and several others spoke including State Assemblyman Frank M. Smith. The event took place at Leona Heights and consisted of “athletic events, speeches and general merry making” according to the news report. Will was part of the committee that planned the event.

Also in July of 1912, Will signed a petition as Vice President of an anti-recall group. The group was planning an event to support Mayor Frank Mott. It was to be held in conjunction with a suffrage event at MacDonough Theater. The news article summarized all that had been accomplished under Mott's leadership, including construction of the 12th Street dam that created Lake Merritt.  About 100 years latter my firm help lead an effort to reconfigure 12th Street which I renamed Lake Merritt Boulevard on our illustrative drawing. The name stuck and it is now known as such.

William J. (sic) Thornally Jr. was one of a very long list of Oakland residents that signed a petition against the recall of Mayor Frank Mott and two City commissioners. The Industrial Workers of the World or I.W.W. had mounted a recall campaign as part of their advocacy for workers to take over their work places “using any means possible”. This would have been a very controversial issue of the day. The headline read: “Solid Citizens of Oakland Out With An Appeal” and the story began …

“OAKLAND, Aug. 2.—A final statement to the men and women who believe in good government and the triumph of law over disorder and anarchy was issued today by the Citizens' Municipal Committee. Attention is called to the pernicious doctrines of the I. W. W., who are the prime movers in this recall election which has been instituted against Mayor Frank K. Mott and Commissioners F. C. Turner and W. J. Baccus. ……

The statement is as follows: TO THE CITIZENS OF OAKLAND: On August 5. 1912 There will be held in this city a recall election initiated by members of an organization known as the Industrial Workers of the World, and commonly known as the I. W. W. The pretended justification of this election is to recall certain officials of the city of Oakland, and elect their successors. The real object, however, is to demonstrate to the people of Oakland and to the country that the I. W. W. and their sympathizers control the city of Oakland and cannot be interfered with, no matter what they may say or do.

"The question for you to decide is before you, and as you have determined so must you cast your ballots. You may vote for the recall of the mayor and two commissioners because they enforced the law of the city that prevents the use of vulgarity and profanity in the public streets. You may vote against law and order and the right of the police department to enforce the laws on the city statute books. "On the other hand, you can vote against the recall and to retain the city officials who put a stop to the vile and filthy attacks that were being made on all forms of religion, decency, public morality and the flag of the nation. You can enlist under the stars and stripes or under the red flag of anarchy."

As one of Oakland’s business and civic leaders Will signed the petition and was actively engaged in opposing the I.W.W.
William Knowland
In August of 1912, William was elected as a Vice President of the newly created Knowland Club. The purpose of the club was to get William F. Knowland re-elected to congress. Knowland was the son of Joseph R. Knowland – publisher of the The Oakland Tribune and as such probably the most powerful man in Oakland. William F. Knowland was appointed to the United States Congress in 1945 to fill a vacancy created when Hiram Johnson died. He served in the US Senate until 1959. Previously he was a California Assemblyman from 1933-35 and a state senator from 1935-39. In the 1950s Knowland was considered as a possible running mate for then President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s second term.

The 1914 directory listed Will as Vice President of the General Contractors Association of Alameda County.
A group of business men from Ralph Thornally's collectioin.
Will Thornally back row 3rd from the left.
Ten years later in August of 1924, Will announced the start of construction of a new building that would house the California Builders Exchange and noted that California was the only such group to own their own building. The cost to build the building was $150,000. This announcement was made at a barbeque held at the newly constructed sanatorium in Livermore – built by Will’s company.

Will’s obituary noted that he was a member of the Sequoyah Country Club and the East Bay Breakfast Club. His niece Lottie Thornally was grateful that her uncle Will arranged for her wedding reception to be held at the Sequoyah Club. The Breakfast Club still exists today.
One of the buildings on the Sequoyah Country Club campus

The obit also noted that Will was a member of the Aahmes Shriners – a group associated with the Masons. Today, this group of Shriners is still active and is now located in Livermore. Their website tells us that, “The earliest records show that the idea for a Shrine Temple in the East Bay first materialized around 1907. The Shriners Imperial Council granted the charter on July 12, 1911 with the name Aahmes, which means "the moon is born.” The Aahmes Shriners Temple was first located in Oakland in a series of temporary locations until the organization purchased a property known as the Defenders Club at 13th and Harrison Streets. The first meeting was held in that Temple in April 1920.”  The Shriners' official philanthropy is their Shriners Hospitals for Children including a 22-hospital pediatric healthcare system specializing in orthopedics, burn injuries, spinal cord injuries, cleft palate surgery, and medical research.
Interior shot of the Sequoyah Country Club

So, in summary Will was a member and leader in the following groups:

Aahmes Shriner, member
California Builders Exchange, Vice President and President
Deputy Constable for Fruitvale
East Bay Breakfast Club, member
Eastside Improvement Club, member of the executive committee
Free Masons, Junior Warden, Worshipful Master
Fruitvale Board of Trade, member of the Organizing Committee
Fruitvale Fire Department, Trustee
General Contractors Association of Alameda County, Vice President
Knowland Club, Vice President
Native Sons of the Golden West, finance committee member
Oakland Builders Exchange, President
Oakland Progressive Club, member
Representation Club of Greater Oakland, President
Republican County Convention, delegate candidate
Sequoia Country Club, member
W.B Bridge Club, Sargent-at-Arms

I too have chosen to be involved with a number of civic and professional groups and know from experience that each demands time and commitment. For every event that was reported it is likely that Will attended numerous meetings and spent hours planning and preparing for these events. Like Will I own a business in Oakland but I have three business partners that help me manage and operate that business. Will had a business partner very early in his career but mostly we worked independently and with great success. Clearly, Will played a key role in helping Oakland become a great City – he was a leader and a builder. I admire his efforts and accomplishments and know that my mother held him in very high regard. The post that follows this one describes the buildings that Will’s company built in Oakland, Alameda and in other nearby cities.
"Cheaper Gas Aids Builders, 22 May 1938". Will, President
of the Builder's Exchange, on left

Will’s wife Agnus died in 1934 when he was 59. After her death he continued to live in their home on Paramount Road in Oakland but by 1940 he had moved to Berkeley and was living in a nice Mediterranean-style apartment building at 1700 LeRoy Street.

Will died on February 16, 1944 from a heart attack. The newspaper reported that he collapsed on the sidewalk at 15th and Franklin, very near my office which is on 17th between Broadway and Franklin. He was taken to Highland Hospital where he died. At the time of his death he was living at 377 Lenox Avenue in Oakland. The funeral was held at the Clarence N. Cooper Mortuary and Chapel at 15th and Fruitvale Avenue. Will was buried with his wife Agnus at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

William Gilliat Thornally Jr. (1875-1944) – Part 3 Professional Life

Will's business card from the Ralph Thornally collection
In December of 1904, Will and an associate named J.R. Leavens won the contract to build a new post office for Fruitvale. It was their second job and cost $4000 to construct. This was the beginning of a long and distinguished career for Will as a contractor. The City of Oakland maintains a file on William G. Thornally because he is considered one of the prominent builders of his time. In 1995, I visited several of the properties in their files with my mother. I returned to see these properties in 2016 and visited some I had not seen in 2005. Many of the buildings he built are still in use – some in very good condition, others deteriorated, and some are gone.

St. Joseph's smoke house on the campus of the St. Joseph's
home. See below
In May of 1905, H.H. Stephton hired Will to build a 2-story home on Pearl Street near Encinal Avenue in Alameda for $2800.

Will also built his first combination commercial on the ground floor/residential on the second floor building in 1904. It is at 1218-22 Fruitvale Avenue. The original owner and architect was Marcus S. Leve. This building was in good condition in 1995 having been well maintained. It was included on a tour of the Fruitvale neighborhood given by Oakland Heritage Alliance.
1117-21 Linden apartment building

The city has records for seven properties Will built in 1905 - one for John Stadtler who was the architect for the building, and another for M.J. Sullivan on Vernon at Fleming Avenue.  The third was for C.A. Arnold on Allendale that cost $1100. The fourth was on High Street at Penneman for Walter H. Gamble. The architect for the latter was A.W. Gamble and cost $2600.  The fifth was on the northwest corner of East 17th Street for Dan L. and Virginia Crosby. Will was identified as both the builder and architect for this home that cost $2930. The sixth property was on Bassett Street and the original owner was Frank Rickert.  The seventh was for Emblem E Howatt. The city files have no other information about these two properties.
1321 Adeline Street
Theo and Louise Fricke hired Will’s company to build two residential flats at 1321-23 Adeline Street in Oakland in 1906. The architect was A.W. Smith. In 1995, this property was in good condition. The wood windows had been replaced with aluminum but otherwise the building retained much of its original detailing. When mom and I drove by to see this home the current resident invited us in.  The interior was also in good condition.  It had a coved ceiling, a built-in china cabinet, and nice detailing around the fireplace.

Claude and Virginia Shaw asked Will to build them a flat with two units at 1066-68 30th Street. This is also a wood-frame structure with modest detailing. In 1995 it was deteriorated but not terribly. The exterior had been spray coated with stucco. In 2016, the wood siding had been restored and the home was well-maintained.
1066 30th Street

On May 8, 1903 this article appeared in the Oakland Tribune. “A Building Contract given by the Masonic Temple Association of Fruitvale to W.G. Thornally Jr. for $14,827 has been filed. The work of erecting the temple building will be rushed to completion. The Masonic Cathedral Association gave a mortgage to the Travelers Insurance Company for$65,000. The site of the Scottish Rite Temple at 15th and Jackson Streets was security for the loan.” This would have been a very important contract and no doubt positioned him well for other work including work he did later on the main Scottish Rite Temple by Lake Merritt. City records show this building as having been built in 1909-10 at 3353-67 East 14th Street. The architect was Hugo Storch. Much of the original construction is still intact. Today this building is at the center of the vibrant Fruitvale neighborhood. It is located a block from the Fruitvale Transit Village which my firm did the landscape architectural design for.

Scottish Rite building in Fruitvale on E. 14th
In 1908, Will had a contract to build a triplex at 1117-21 Linden Street. The original owner was Frank Ricert. This was a wood-frame building with modest detailing. In 1995 it had a “must sell” sign on it and there was much evidence that the building had suffered from poor maintenance. In 2016, the building was occupied. 
Detail of 1117-21 Linden in West Oakland

In 1908, Will also constructed one of four commercial buildings all on the same block of East 14th Street. One is at 3315-19 East 14th - a wood-frame structure with commercial space at street level and apartments on the second floor. The original owner was H.H. Dopperud. In 1995, the original building was mostly intact with only minor alterations. In 2016, it looked even better with a vibrant paint job and thriving business.

3315-19 E. 14th Street - commercial with
apartments on 2nd floor
The second building on the block is at 3323-33 East 14th Street. It is similar to 3315 with commercial uses on the ground floor and flats above. The original owner was Theodore Bucher. In 1995 the ground floor of this building had been altered but the second floor was close to the original design. In 2016, the building housed the Tombstone Western Wear store that appeared to be a successful business.

City records also list a building at 3333-47 East 14th Street that was started construction in 1909 and was completed in 1910. Originally, it was known as the Karr Building; later Cooper mortuary. The architect is unknown – it may be that Will designed and built the building. This building still existed in 2016 and had been substantially altered. It housed a variety store called Family Depot.

Tombstone Wester Wear at 3315 E. 14th Street 
A short article appeared in the Fruitvale Progress on Friday April 23, 1909 about these buildings. The headline was “Building in Fruitvale”.

W.H. (sic) Thornally is erecting two large buildings on East Fourteenth Street; one for G.W. Karr, containing two stores with flats above. This building has been leased for ten years by A.A. Barber & Co.’s undertaking establishment. The other building is for Mr. Bolesworth, the Fruitvale Avenue butcher. This building will also contain two stores with flats above. It is gratifying to see a young Fruitvale man proper in business, the more so when his prosperity comes from good and honest work.”

On July 1, 1909, Will served as both architect and builder for a Mission-style store that he built on the southwest corner of Fruitvale Avenue and East Fourteenth Street. The second floor was an eight-room flat. It was a $4,000 wooden structure, and the owner was Henry Barkmyer. In 2016, this property had been redeveloped as a Wendy’s fast food restaurant and parking lot.

Will did not win every contract he bid on though. The Nov. 21, 1910 Tribune reported that he lost the bid by just $61 to build a new tuberculosis hospital at the county infirmary. The winning bid was by Price and Smith.

Two years later on Dec. 12, 1912 he again lost the bid to build the new Peralta School in Oakland. He was one of 5 bidders. The low bid was by C. Christianson who was $532 lower than Will.

He did secure a contract with John Stadtler to build another ground floor commercial building with flats on the second floor in 1912. The address of this building is 3600-04 East 14th Street. In 1995 the building had been well maintained and was included on a history tour led by Oakland Heritage Alliance.
3600 East 14th Street

The following year he lost another school project that was to be built on Thirteenth Avenue in Oakland. This time his was the high bidder, so he must not have wanted the job. McClaren and Peterson won the contract.
On June 13, 1913 Will was back with a winning price to build an addition for a home in Alameda at 2112 Santa Clara Avenue. The owner of the property was Middlemus & Company.

He built the Ideal Victory New Process Laundry at 2639 East 9th Street in 1913. It was designed by H.R. Hill, Architect. In 1995 it had recently been upgraded and converted to artist live/work lofts. The original construction was intact with only minor alterations. The 2-story brick building with modest decorative brick work at the roof looked much the same in 2016.

In 1914-16 Will was contracted to build the Fruitvale Substation of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph office at 3430 East 14th Street. This is a brick building that had been converted to apartments by 1995. The conversion was nicely done with much of the original architectural detailing retained.

I have a copy of a typed bid on W.G. Thornally Jr. letterhead to build an addition to the Greene Library in Oakland. It is dated November 15, 1916 and the price for the work was $10,000.
Will's bid for the Greene Library improvements

On June 17, 1917 the Tribune reported that “Will was to be paid $9305 for his work on a tubercular sanitarium”. The ArroyoSanitarium in Livermore was also referenced in Will’s obituary.  According to the online Livermore Class Picture Archive “The Arroyo Sanatorium is located south of Livermore on Arroyo Road. It was a hospital that specialized in the treatment of patients with tuberculosis. The main treatment at the time was rest and fresh air. Construction of the Sanatorium began in 1916. A separate hospital, called the Del Valle Farm (or Ranch), was built next to the Sanatorium in 1922 to treat children with tuberculosis. Del Valle Farm was consolidated with Arroyo Sanatorium in 1938. The Sanatorium closed in 1960.”

This historic postcard of the Arroyo Sanitorium is from the collection of Richard Saylor
In December of 1920 when Will was 45, he had a contract extended for work he was doing building a farm building and an alteration at the County Hospital. This would have been Highland Hospital.

In May of 1921, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved payment on a certificate received from Henry H. Meyers, Architect to pay W.G. Thornally for work completed on Highland County Hospital. He was to be paid $1685 for 3 contracts. Another article at that time reported that Will had submitted a bid of $120,861 and a certified check for $12,500 for construction of a service building, etc. at the county hospital.  So, at the age of 45, Will had reached the pinnacle of his career and was winning large and prestigious contracts.

In November of 1921, Will was one of 37 bidders on a warehouse at the municipal wharf in Richmond that was described as a super structure. He submitted several bids for different versions of construction in the order of $58,597. The article did not say who won the contract.

In 1922, Will built another building for Pacific Telephone & Telegraph in the Elmhurst neighborhood at 8524-30 East 14th Street. The architect was E.V. Cobby.

A third Pacific Telephone & Telegraph building was built by Will for the Melrose neighborhood at 1180 57th Avenue. The architect is recorded as Chief Engineer PT&T Company in the city file.

Ralph Thornally saved a photo of a fourth phone company building that his father built in downtown Oakland. Ralph knew that this was one of the buildings that Will was most proud of. It is a beautiful structure. Sadly, this building was demolished and the site provides surface parking for the new telephone building at the corner of 17th and Franklin. The new building is across the street from my office on 17th Street. It is so tall that on some days it creates a terrible wind tunnel affect at the sidewalk. 
Phone company building on Franklin Street
from Ralph Thornally collection
The 1921 Oakland directory gave a business address for Will at 357 12th Street. In 1925 and 1930 the business address was 354 Hobart, and in 1938 it was at 24th and Magnolia.

Will was the successful bidder on Montclair School in 1925. The original building was brick with a tile roof. It was determined to be an earthquake risk and was replaced sometime before 1947. Montclair is one of the best schools in Oakland. It had a major addition added in 2015. An architect- led team that included PGAdesign competed for the contract but was not selected.

In 1924-25 Will designed and built a machine shop for his brother, Harry’s business Bay City Iron Works at 320-80 Washington. It was a poured-in-place concrete building with industrial sash windows, a stucco exterior, ½ mezzanine and four skylights. It cost $18,000. The building still exists but has undergone some renovation. See the post about Harry dated January 2016.
Interior shot taken during construction of the Scottish Rite
Temple at lake Merritt dated April 16, 1927.
 Ralph Thornally collection
No doubt the most prestigious contract Will had during his illustrious career was as Superintendent of Construction for the Scottish Rite Temple at Lake Merritt. Construction began in August 1926 and the first meeting was held just 17 months later in December 1927. This building is today an impressive landmark building. The General Contractor was McDonald and Kahn – they probably hired Will to oversee the construction project. Will’s photo appeared in the newspaper in 1926 in an article about this building. The cost was $1,250,000. The article noted that “when finished it will be the finest Scottish Rite Temple west of Chicago”.

In December of 1931 the Oakland Tribune reported that he’d won the bid to build a new Post Office in Alameda for $80,869.

Around 1935 Will was elected President of the Oakland Builders Exchange. He served in that capacity for five years. In 1938, a photo of Will as president of the Builders Exchange along with Lee H. Newbert, General Manager of PG&E was printed in the Oakland Tribune. The news story was about gas rates being reduced over the previous 10 years. See part 2.

In 1939, Will’s company built the St. Joseph’s Convalescent Home at 2645 E. 14th Street. The complex included a men’s smoke house, a guard house, a laundry and a maintenance building.  The architect was John J. Donovan who also designed Oakland City Hall and served as the City Architect for several years. The property was designated a City of Oakland landmark in 1984. The entire complex underwent a comprehensive rehabilitation from 2010-12 and now provides 83 units of affordable senior housing.
Main entrance to the St. Joseph's convalescents Home, now
apartments for low-income seniors
The following year on March 17, 1940 Will stepped down as President of the Oakland Builders Exchange and on September 29th of the same year the Oakland Tribune headline, “Oaklander Elected State Builder’s Head” announced that Will had become President of the statewide office.  The previous year he had served as Vice President. The event took place during the Building Exchange’s 15th annual convention in Long Beach. 

So, Will had a long and very successful business life - in part because he treated his workers and sub-contractors well. Cousin Randy Thornally shared a story from a man named Rigney that he met some years ago. Rigney was a tradesman who had worked for Will. He told Randy, "he always liked to work for William Thornally because he generally paid five cents more than the other contractors." Cousin Sue shared another Will Jr. story. She stopped at a cafe in Walnut Creek the mid 1990s and overheard a conversation between two older gentlemen about construction projects. Sue stopped at their table and asked if they'd ever heard of William Thornally. They lit up and "sang his praises as being smart, fair, responsible, well-respected and said he vowed that he would not lay off any employees in the depression ... he did make it possible by hook or crook to keep his workers employed and food on the table for their families." 

Most of the buildings Will built are still standing and unquestionably have had a significant impact on the City of Oakland and to a lesser extend the City of Alameda. I have more research to do in Alameda, and a new contact with the Scottish Rite organization, so there may be more to come about William Gilliat Thornally Jr.  Each of Will’s descendants should be rightfully proud of him, as I am.

Will's signature