Lake Merritt is a large tidal lagoon in the center of Oakland, California, just east of Downtown. It is surrounded by parkland and city neighborhoods and it is historically significant as the United States first official wildlife refuge, designated in 1870, and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1966. A popular walking and jogging path runs along its perimeter, the circumference of the lake is 3.4 miles and its area is 155 acres. The lake was originally a leg of the San Francisco Bay formed where several creeks empty into the bay and it was surrounded by 1,000 acres of wetlands when the Ohlone people fished, hunted and gathered food along its shores. By 1810, the remaining Native Americans were removed to Mission San José, in 1856, Peralta fought and won a United States Supreme Court case against the squatters but further court cases between his sons and daughters would greatly diminish their holdings. The Peralta brothers had to much of the land to Carpentier to pay legal fees. Oakland was incorporated in 1852 with Carpentier as its first mayor, Lake Merritt naturally had tidal flows via a broad 600 foot outlet, but this has been steadily reduced with development of the region after 1869. Currently the tidal flows are limited in size and managed for flood control, for years the lake acted as a waste collector. It was regarded as ideal for sewage because of its chemical contents, sixty miles of brick and wood channeling sent the broken down sewage to the bottom of the lake to then be eaten by bottom feeders. The stench at the lake during the decomposition of the sewage was a problem for Oaklanders on the west shore and residents of Clinton and San Antonio villages on the east. Dr. Samuel Merritt, a mayor of Oakland who owned property at the edge, was keen to get the body of water cleaned up so that it could become a source of civic pride. Sewage was to be redirected elsewhere by two new city projects, though these werent completed until 1875, the resulting body of water was called variously Lake Peralta, Merritts Lake and later Lake Merritt. The lake at that time still had thick wetlands fringing the shores, in order to protect the birds from duck hunters and stop the noise and danger of gunfire so close to the city, Dr. Merritt proposed to turn the lake into a wildlife refuge in 1869. The state legislature voted Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge into law in 1870, no hunting of any sort was to be allowed and the only fishing was to be by hook and line. The ornate Camron-Stanford House was built in 1876 near the western shore. Tax records suggest that Samuel Merritt built the Italianate Victorian as part of his plan to promote and develop downtown Oakland, in 1877, the houses title was transferred to Mrs. Alice Camron, a purchase she was able to make due to an inheritance. She, her husband Will and their two daughters were the first residents of the home, further fine homes were built on the lakeshore by others following Dr. Merritts lead, though none but Camron-Stanford remain today. From 1910 until 1967, the served as the Oakland Public Museum with an active program of changing exhibits
A view looking west toward the Lakeside Apartments District, the Tribune Tower and Downtown Oakland
Looking Southwest across Lake Merritt. In the distance are the Rene C. Davidson Alameda County Court House and Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. At the right is the Bellevue-Staten Building.
The Camron-Stanford House was built in 1876 along the southwest corner of Lake Merritt in Oakland, California.
The Bellevue-Staten Building was designed by Herman Baumann and constructed in 1929 using an architectural blend of Spanish Colonial and Art Deco styles.