HOW THE NAME DIMOND CAME TO BE
In 1820, Luis Maria Peralta who was a long time soldier in the Spanish Army received one of the largest Spanish Land grants when all of the land from El Cerrito to San Leandro, including the area that would become known as Dimond Canyon, was given to Peralta for his years of service. Although Peralta never lived on his property he divided the land amongst his four sons in 1842 with Antonio Peralta receiving the section of land that included the Canyon. In 1867 Hugh Dimond, who had made his fortune in the mercantile and liquor trades during the Gold Rush, purchased the canyon section and some adjoining land from Antonio Peralta. The land that he owned became known as Dimond Canyon and the lower section became known as the Dimond district of Oakland.
FM SMITH RESERVE
Hugh Dimond died in 1896 and his son sold 474 acres of the land at the upper end of Dimond Canyon to Francis Marion Smith in 1907. FM Smith as he was known made his fortune mining Borax and was known as the Borax king. Smith was also involved in real estate and owned the Key System street car lines of the East Bay. The swath of land at the top of Dimond Canyon that Smith now owned was called the FM Smith Reserve and included two creeks where Smith could hunt and have picnics. Smith had planned to build his country estate on the property. The crest of the property also afforded Smith unobstructed views of downtown Oakland as well as his own Smith Estate (known as Arbor Villa) which was located two blocks south of Park Blvd near the present day location of Oakland High School. However by 1913 Smith over extended himself due to short-term borrowing and had gone into bankruptcy. He was forced to turn over his assets to creditors who refused to extend the loans.
The first camping by the Boy Scouts on the property took place only one year after the Boy Scouts of America was officially organized. A small group of Scouts from both Oakland and San Francisco which had recently disassociated themselves with the American Boy Scouts and became associated with the Boy Scouts of America, camped on the Smith Reserve in March of 1911. Although it would be five more years until Oakland and San Francisco would officially organize their respective councils, this was the first combined outing of the future Scout Councils. Each scout on the weekend campout, was outfitted with a "billy," which consisted of a tin bucket with a lid. In the bucket the scout carried a knife, cup, spoon and enough food for two days and a blanket. Army Lieutenant Edward Kendrick was in command and instructed the scouts in the ways of camp life and how to light fires and cook their food.
The area of the Smith Reserve where Camp Dimond would ultimately be located was on a bluff at the top of the canyon and was populated by oak trees, pine trees and a large open field. The property also had a type of oak tree on the property known as Shea oaks which Smith had transplanted from Australia. Also located on the property was a large cement water tank 75’ x 75 ‘ that was fed by the waters and springs of the nearby Cobbledick creek as well as a small nearby lake. The lake, which is noted on maps of the scout camp and even old city street maps, was fed by the creek and was located at the intersection of Ascot Dr and Scout Rd. The lake no longer exists and most likely was filled in the late 30’s early 1940’s as the Montclair hills were built out. Houses now occupy the location of where the lake was and the creek now goes through an underground culvert where it crosses Ascot Dr.
CAMP DIMOND IS ACQUIRED
In January of 1919, the Oakland Council seeking a permanent location for both a summer camp and week-end camp site was able to purchase a 28 acre section of the 474 acre Smith Reserve for $20,000 (roughly $800 per acre). This new permanent site would replace the week-end camp site that the Oakland council had used for slightly over a year that was located across the canyon at the top of the Oakmore highlands ridge. Once the new site was acquired, the “old” weekend camp site was disassembled and the various temporary structures moved over to Dimond.
Although the name of the camp was simply Dimond, old scout records from 1920 show that Camp Dimond at one time was named “Camp Sheaoak” due to the type of oaks on the property. Since Camp Dimond was only one mile from the end of the Park Blvd street car line, Scouts in the early years would take the street car, disembark at the end of the line near Estates drive and hike up the trail on the north side of Dimond canyon to the camp. The camp was bounded by Scout Road, Ascot Drive and Mountain Blvd. The main entrance to the camp was directly across from the Mountain Gate intersection with Ascot Drive.
During its first summer camp operations in June of 1919, 65 scouts used the camp. However during that first summer there were very few permanent facilities at this new camp. The 40 ft x 130 ft (5200 sqft) mess hall and commissary, which was built by the Oakland Building Trades Council, would not be constructed and used until the following year. The mess hall was built on the East side of the parade field in front of a hill lined with Oaks and Pine trees. In May of 1921, the tallest flagpole in the Bay Area at the time was installed in the parade grounds at Dimond. The flagpole was 115’ tall and could be seen from downtown Oakland and flew an enormous American flag that was 20’ x 30’ in size. The flag pole was donated by the National Pole company and installed by the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph company. The flagpole crashed to the ground in December 1936 during a storm with high winds.
As Scouting continued to grow, additional buildings and facilities were built. Until 1923, the Scouts camped in basic canvass tents that had simple wooden floors. Starting in 1923 the Oakland Rotary Club, the Oakland Kiwanis Club, the Oakland Lions Club and even the Alameda County Laundry Owners Association helped to build and construct 21 cabins to replace the tents that had been used since the camp opened. Each open-air scout cabin was approximately 18’ x 18’ and slept 8 scouts. Also in 1923, the Oakland Area Council hosted the Region 12 Scout Executive training conference at Camp Dimond for 80 Scout Executives from seven states. It was the opinion of all executives present “that Camp Dimond was the finest and best equipped training center that the group had yet visited.”
In 1924 the Oakland Area Council acquired additional land at Dimond that contained the water reservoir which had been excluded from the original 1919 purchase. With the addition of the water reservoir the Council now had a location that could be used for swimming. The reservoir was circular and held 300,000 gallons of spring fed fresh water. Because the original use of the new swimming pool was actually a reservoir, the pool was one depth. In order to make it useable for both swimmers and not swimmers, the camp added a wooden platform that was on one side of the pool. This allowed non-swimmers the ability to use the pool. Swimming was offered in the afternoons during summer camp and on weekends. At first the pool had very basic amenities, however in time a 500 gallon hot water tank was added by the Oakland Exchange Club to support 10 shower heads in the Dimond shower room. Bleachers were added for parents to watch the swimmers and a giant sand filter was added to ensure the water stayed crystal clear. After Dimond closed the filter tank was moved up to Los Mochos where it was used to filter the camp pool until 2012 (almost 100 years of use by our camps). The pool was naturally heated by the rays of the sun.
In early 1925 ground breaking ceremonies were held for the construction of an outdoor cement amphitheater that would be used for Court of Honors, Campfires and training's. The 1500 seat amphitheater was built with funds raised by the Oakland Exchange Club and was built in a similar design to the Greek theater at UC Berkeley.