A photograph shows a crowd of businessmen men in hats and overcoats holding briefcases gathered at 1606 Park St. They're either waiting for or have just disembarked from a train at the Central Pacific Railroad depot.
Behind them is a building sign with the legend "Alameda Stables" and below it another declaring the "Best Smoke On Earth."
There are no women in the picture; perhaps they are at home, doing their domestic tasks rather than going to the stable to rent "gentle horses for ladies' driving."
This was Alameda in the late 1890s. The photograph is one of some 200 pictures and postcards in the book "Images of America — Alameda," written and compiled by Alamedans Greta Dutcher and Stephen Rowland (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99).
Descriptions below the photos in the book provide a real sense of life in Alameda from more than a century ago to some scenes from the 1960s and 1970s.
Dutcher worked with Rowland, who was unavailable for an interview, for about six months on the book, which is not their first. In 2005 they compiled images of Alameda postcards throughout the century for a book.
Dutcher, an Oakland native, said she and husband Pete Rypins were driving through different Bay Area towns about 13 years ago and after driving into Alameda, she said, "It chose us."
"The No. 1 thing is the Victorian houses," she said. "My father is an architect. I was instilled with a love of dwellings and grew up in 1908 craftsman. Being a flamboyant person, Victorians suit me better. They're busy with all those doodads."
Dutcher and Rypins are Grand Street residents who live in a Victorian with housemate Rowland.
In addition to writing, Dutcher also has a band, though she requested it not be named to keep her writing and musical identities separate. Music and writing have to wait until evenings and weekends because she has a day job in a Berkeley office.
Her husband also has varied interests. A warehouse supervisor by day, he plays guitar in the band and is a handicapper at a local race track.
Dutcher has chihuahuas and likes to walk them through the neighborhood.
"Alameda is a great walking town," she said.
A walk along some of the many spots shown in the book will evoke wonder at how certain structures — including the First Presbyterian Church, Historic Alameda High School, the Veterans Memorial Building, Tilden Mansion and several beloved old homes — have remained nearly unchanged. But the book also has photographs of many once grand homes that have vanished, along with the railroad stations that commuters used to go to San Francisco.
The book includes photos and details about the Estuary, commerce, the once renowned Alameda Hotel, Bay Farm Island, Neptune Beach, streetcar lines, the former Naval Air Station and Government Island (where the U.S. Coast Guard is still stationed) and more Alameda highlights, such as the original Elks Lodge "shack."
Some street names also changed throughout the years, Dutcher said. In the area of Paru Street were other streets named after fish. The Paru is a type of angelfish. Why it was the only street that retained its fishy moniker is unclear.
Watch for announcements about upcoming book signings and readings, Dutcher said. She said she enjoys those events, both for the fun of informing people of Alameda's history and because the old-timers like to come and tell stories of their recollections of Alameda's history.
The book is available at local bookstores.