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San Leandro: 1942

San Leandro: 1942

April 1942. "Portuguese-American communities in California. Main street in San Leandro." Estudillo Avenue at 14th Street. Acetate negative by Russell Lee for the Foreign Information Service of the U.S. Office of Coordinator of Information. View full size.


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The Best Theater, as it was

As you can see in Dave’s photo, the Best Theater, built next to the Best Building sometime around 1910(?), was no longer a theater by the 1940s.

While the building is still there today, the insides are entirely different, as two retail stores occupy the space. While it’s still the same stone as the Best Building, and you can recognize individual features of the stone work, the facing is reworked that it’s unrecognizable. The reworked stone work seems to have been done with some real talent.

The image is from the City of San Leandro’s historic photo archive.

No longer a bank but still a beauty

While it’s no longer a bank, it’s still there and still a beautiful building. The Best Theater is technically still there as well, though it is just retail stores now and the facade, while still of matching stone, was massively changed at some point.

The City of San Leandro has a photo archive which contains a good number of photos of this building over the years from the turn of the century forward.

Most of the other buildings around the main square, which is really a triangle, we’re made of brick and build prior to this one, and so, one by one, they fell into disrepair. Across the way was the Estudillo House, which was a hotel and stopover for travelers going up and down the coast down to San Jose and the like, since that was a multi day trip back then between horse and wagon and primitive roads and trails.

Eventually the Hayward/San Leandro railroad would run directly in front of the Best building, electric rail ran through town for a while for commuters in the 1910s to 1930s, and then they were all ripped out by a evil consortium of companies, which ended up in court where the big companies lost… and then they made Roger Rabbit (which was about L.A., but the same story).

All the Best

According to (Historical Marker Database), the Best Building is a significant example of commercial architecture in San Leandro and the only San Leandro Plaza building remaining from the early decades of the 20th century. As a manufacturer and inventor, Daniel Best had already contributed much to San Leandro’s growth before he retired from Daniel Best Agricultural Works and began a banking career in this building.

Constructed in 1910, the Best Building opened in 1911 housing the San Leandro State Bank. The building featured classical Beaux Arts detail and ornamentation. The architect used white terracotta tiles on the exterior and imported marble for the wainscoting and stair entrances in the interior. The building was restored in 1973-1974 by the Best Building Partnership.

Best also constructed a theater next door to the bank. It opened showing silent films, but on July 19, 1913, Thomas Edison’s first moving and talking picture was shown at the Best Theater.


I’m so glad to see that the bank building is still there. Lovely architecture.

Palace theater? Gone.

This is still there:

Name on Building

Who was Daniel Best?

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