Link Dennis' was a historic saloon at the southwest corner of Seventh and Wood at 1751 - 7th Street. Among other things, the saloon was known for a training quarters in a back room where boxer Jack Johnson used to train. 1,2 It was run by Abraham Lincoln ("Link") Dennis from c.1902 until his death in 1909. 5 A 1905 article refers to it as the Vestibule Cafe, and notes that Dennis had a baseball team, the Oakland Vestibules. 6

The training quarters were substantial: a gym, steam baths, and seating for fans to watch boxers work out. 7

It appears that Link Dennis was a sort of agent for Johnson; after Johnson returned from a trip to Australia, he told reporters that anyone interested in fighting him could talk to Dennis. 3

Link Dennis was also the spokesman for a benefit for Officer James Fenton, a police officer killed in 1908. Fenton died while arresting a thief in West Oakland. According to Dennis, the Black community appreciated his impartiality and felt great sympathy for his widow and family. 4,8

1903 directory listing

1902 Sanborn excerpt

Sadly, Dennis was in debt, with the saloon and fixtures mortgaged. He had made and lost lots of money in boxing, and he had spent much of his own money paying bail for Black people who were arrested. With a glass of cyanide before him, on June 29, 1909, Dennis bought a round for everyone, swallowed the poison, and said "Goodbye, everybody; this is where I cash up on the last score." He collapsed to the floor and died on the way to the hospital. 5

Links and References

  1. Pioneer Urbanites: A Social and Cultural History of Black San Francisco by Douglas Henry Daniels. University of California Press, 1990
  2. Knave Oakland Tribune March 21, 1948
  3. Johnson To Wed A White Girl: States That Miss Lola Toy of Sydney Is to Be His Bride San Francisco Chronicle May 10, 1907
  4. Oakland Police Department: A Tradition of Excellence Turner Publishing Company, Jan 1, 2005
  5. Drinks Toast To Death; Then He Falls Oakland Tribune June 30, 1909
  6. Link Dennis To Be "At Home" Oakland Tribune April 7, 1905
  7. Jack Johnson Arrives Oakland Tribune December 29, 1904
  8. Colored Citizens Plan Benefit for Fenton's Family Oakland Tribune January 5, 1908