The Lady Who Disliked Pinole
By George R. Vincent, Co-founder Pinole Historical Society
The home of one of Pinole’s leading ladies of the past is today
a town landmark, which, unlike so many local structures, has
withstood the ravages of time and the wrecking ball.
The stately gray and white Pfeiffer House is a main street
architectural reminder that Pinole has a prideful history to tell.
The old home seems out of place amid its surroundings of the
busy buzz of shopping plazas, noisy traffic, and neon business
fronts. Built in 1901 alongside Pinole Creek, the originally
all-white redwood home today houses the aptly named Pinole
Who were the Pfeiffers, who chose this location to begin their
new lives in a new community about to enter a new century?
In 1898, eighteen-year old Lottie Race disembarked from
Pinole’s Southern Pacific depot in a driving rainstorm. Young
Lottie was not at all impressed with her first glimpse of Pinole
and felt her stay there to be a short one. Eighty-seven years later,
Lottie was still a Pinolean. Her father, Albert Race, found work
at the Hercules Powder Company (California Powder Works)
and brought his family from Eureka to live in Pinole in 1898.
Fast forwarding to 1974 found Lottie Race Pfeiffer at age 94,
still living in her home at 2454 San Pablo Avenue.
Lottie remembered Pinole in those early days as having more
saloons than houses, no sidewalks, hard well water and always
muddy streets. The Races lived on Tennent Avenue, where there
were 11 saloons; some of the Races were saloon-keepers.
But the small community also offered Pinoleans fun outlets
associated with the many fraternal lodges. Dances with an
orchestra were held every Saturday night in the large Foresters’
Hall on Tennent Avenue. It burned down in the large fire of
1908 and was replaced by the Pinole Opera House, which
burned down in 1931.
It was at a Saturday night dance where Lottie met George
Pfeiffer, one of the many bachelor boarders who worked at
the Hercules Powder Company. Lottie was smitten by him and
turned down five young men who wanted to escort her to the
next dance. Their courtship led to marriage three years later.
During their courtship, the couple would ride into the Pinole
Valley in his horse and buggy, have picnics at the old adobes, or
stroll on Sundays down Tennent Avenue to the depot to watch
the trains arrive to see who was coming and going. George had
been a carpenter at Hercules since age 15 and would work there
for 48 years. He built their dream home, and the couple moved
in on their wedding day, October 23, 1901.
The large home was the most imposing one on San Pablo
Avenue. Its unique architectural style boasted five rooms with
12-foot ceilings and a large yard.
24 MARKETPLACECONTRACOSTA.COM AUGUST 2019
In the 1920s, San Pablo Avenue was widened, and much of their
front yard was lost. In 1906, the house was knocked three inches
off its foundation by the San Francisco earthquake, breaking
almost everything in the house and knocking plaster from the
walls. Lottie’s grandparents were living in the old Martinez
family adobe in Pinole Valley. They had to abandon it when the
quake demolished much of the old adobe’s rooms.
Lottie vividly remembered the families and buildings in her
town. Pinole’s first bank was next to their home, and her
husband built the first vault in the bank. Lehman’s Grocery
Store was at the site of the present Antlers Tavern, and the
Commercial Hotel and Walton’s Livery
Stable occupied today’s Fernandez Park.
Dr. Manuel Fernandez delivered their daughter, Muriel, in their
home. Lottie recalled the doctor laughing, “from just performing
surgery on a chamber pot.” A boy from Rodeo had managed to
get the pot stuck on his head, and mother and son had walked
all the way from Rodeo to have Dr. Fernandez remove the pot.