If you don't know already, all that construction work at the corner of Park Street and Lincoln Avenue will house a new Walgreens with an adjacent parking area. What you may not be aware of are two historic landmarks close by.

Only a block long, nearby Foley Street runs into Buena Vista Avenue quite close to the house where Jimmy Doolittle was born. To those who missed school when the teacher told this man's story, here's a reminder:

Only four months after we had been bombed and strafed into World War II, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet had 16 B-25 bombers hoisted onto its top deck in preparation for the famed "Doolittle Raid" on the Japanese homeland. Fittingly, the carrier USS Hornet was based at the Alameda Naval Air Station (a short 5 miles from Jimmy's birthplace!).

Having visited the new USS Hornet twice, I have marveled that 16 bomb-laden, twin-engine planes could be become airborne off the small, pitching deck of that ship. No wonder former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater referred to Doolittle as the "master of the calculated risk." Or as former Alameda Times-Star sports editor Jack Clark used to say, "Doolittle is America's best example of brains and guts in the same man!"

The other historic site is a half-block north of the construction site on the other side of Park Street -- McGee's Bar & Grill. We have to go by way of Tombstone, Ariz., and meet a man named Edward Schieffelin for this story.


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Back in the 1870s, this fellow Schieffelin was a closed-mouth prospector wandering around an area southeast of Tucson, Ariz., "looking for rocks," he said. Soldiers stationed nearby commented that the only rock or stone he might find in that desert would be his tombstone. He found more than rocks, however; it was a huge vein of silver; literally a small mountain of the precious metal! Thousands of gold and silver seekers rushed in, and the town of "Tombstone" was born.

Meanwhile, Schieffelin had been so broke at the time, he had to borrow money to file the claim -- a true rags-to-riches story. But, now, with spending money in his pocket and millions in the bank, he rode the stage up to San Francisco, where he met and married a young lady named Mary Brown. With her, he moved to the quiet little town of Alameda across the bay.

Sometime in the 1890s, Schieffelin left Mary in Alameda and sought even more peace and quiet in southern Oregon. Later that year, however, Schieffelin, the founder of Tombstone, Ariz., was found dead in the cabin he had built by the Day River.

Back in Alameda, Mary Schieffelin eventually used her inherited wealth to invest in real estate, and one of her main investments was the Leona Hotel which today houses McGee's Bar & Grill, one of the most popular sports bars in the city.

More on this historic section of the city next time.

Contact Joe King at alamedanews@bayareanewsgroup.com.