new building in 1905 2

Bay City Iron Works was a machine shop, dating back to 1885 or 1892.* It was housed in various buildings and locations in Jack London Square over the years, but most notably the Parker Electric Mfg. Co. building at 3rd and Washington. It was founded and owned in the early years by Francis "Frank" I. Matthews. 9 Later the company moved to Jingletown.

A 1901 article says business was good, and it had recently moved from 521 - 3rd at Clay to a "mammoth" 2-story brick structure at 3rd and Washington. 1 But a disastrous fire in the area in September 1905 destroyed the building and several others, and they were forced to rebuild. 2 The new building survived another serious fire in the area in 1908, but some equipment was damaged by water. 10

Around 1927, they moved to 320 Washington at the corner of 4th St. 3,13 In 1944, the company purchased 475 - 4th Street next door, which had been an Alameda County garage. 5,6,8 As late as the 1969 directory, the company was at the 4th Street location.

A listing for Bay City Iron Works appears on Google Maps at 2897 Chapman, but it's unclear when they moved there.

It's also unclear when they closed. An article from 2006 mentions Peter Dickson (see Clarence and Richard Dickson below) of Bay City Iron Works "a couple years ago".14 The lot on Chapman had an industrial-looking building up to 2014; that was torn down c.2015 and the current condos constructed.

* NB: A plaque in the nearby sidewalk says "Since 1885", but a 1907 Tribune article 9 says it was founded in 1892 by Matthews. There was a Bay City Iron Works in San Francisco run by Bigelow & Little which dates back to 1885,12 but it's unclear if that's connected to the Oakland one. None of the references found so far indicate a connection.

1901 building 11905 ad


1898 directory listing

In addition to founder F. I. Matthews, the company employed numerous people over the years. A 1907 mention says it employed 50 men at the time. 9

One employee and later owner was Harry Melville (H.M.) Thornally. His first job was working at Bay City Iron Works working for F.I. Matthews. By 1906 he had been promoted to foreman. The 1923 directory lists his name for Bay City Iron Works, and a 1926 letterhead shows "H. M. Thornally" with the company logo. 3

Beginning in 1935, William Jamison was president. 4

The obituary for Clarence Dickson in 1945 describes him as 1/2 owner of the company. 5 His son, Richard Dickson (OHS, 1940) also worked there and later owned the company. 11 One of Richard's sons, Peter, was an engineer c.2006.

George Lundquist was secretary and sales manager in 1960. 7


Year Location Event
1892 521 3rd (@Clay) company founded by F.I. Matthews
1901 221 Washington (@3rd) new building
1905 " building destroyed in area fire
1905 " new building (Parker Electric)
1908 " survives area fire
c.1923? " H. M. Thornally becomes president
c.1927 320 Washington (@4th) move to new location
1935 " William Jamison becomes president
1944 475 - 4th St. purchase county garage
1945 " Clarence Dickson dies
1969 " still on 4th St.
? 2897 Chapman move to Jingletown
2001 " Richard Dickson dies
? " Bay City Iron Works closes?
c.2015 " building demolished

Links and References

  1. Bay City Iron Works Oakland Tribune December 21, 1901
  2. Bay City Iron Works Oakland Tribune December 23, 1905
  3. Harry Melville Thornally (1879 – 1936) Pattillo Thornally Ancestors blog
  4. Ebell Makes First Building Donation Oakland Tribune July 18, 1962
  5. Dickson Estate Valued at $61,100 Oakland Tribune April 3, 1945
  6. Board of Supervisors Oakland Tribune May 7, 1944
  7. Notes on Bay Commerce Oakland Tribune May 25, 1960
  8. Board of Supervisors Oakland Tribune November 15, 1941
  9. Bay City Iron Works Oakland Tribune December 22, 1907
  10. $100,000 Damage For Whole Blocked Destroyed This Morning By Fire Oakland Tribune September 25, 1908
  11. Richard Dickson - Class of 1940
  12. Letter from Bigleow & Little to Alfred Walker September 4, 1885 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo - Kennedy Library Online Archive
  13. Polk's Oakland 1928
  14. Keeping Up With the Munsters Journal of Light Construction May 1, 2006