In the Sept. 10 issue, we ran the second installment of our historical postcard series and asked you to identify the house in the photo or name the writer “A. O’H.” This month’s prize, a yearlong membership in the Contra Costa County Historical Society, goes to Lola Lucchesi of Oakley, who had little trouble identifying the house – since it’s been hers for 65 years.
“It’s not much of a mystery to me,” said Lucchesi, 86. “I’ve lived here for years. I’ve been here longer than the O’Haras.”
James O’Hara, the man affectionately remembered as the father of Oakley, grew up in Maine and moved to California when he was 20. In 1887 for a mere $5 per acre, O’Hara bought 800 acres of land east of Antioch. O’Hara divided the land into 130 parcels – the foundation of the town that would become Oakley.
The house pictured in the postcard was known to locals as the O’Hara House. O’Hara planted Oakley’s first almond orchard in the 1890s next to his home, and workers resided in nearby cabins. O’Hara and his wife Mary raised four children in that house, including their only daughter, Catherine Anne “Annie” O’Hara, who Lucchesi and historian Carol Jensen speculate is the author of the postcard.
Annie O’Hara, born in 1887, was one of Liberty High School’s first graduates. She received her teaching credentials from Stockton Normal School and went on to teach at Oakley’s Iron House School in 1908 at the age of 21. According to Press reader Velma Gonzalez, Annie went on to teach in the Black Diamond Hills area in 1910, working with Lois Kirkwood.
In the postcard message, sent in 1911, Annie said she and Lois would be traveling to Tahoe for 10 days. The message was sent to Carrie Powell of Oakland, whom Press reader Aaron Carpoff identified as his grandmother, a teacher at Pittsburg Grammar School. Carpoff said Annie, Carrie and Lois worked together at the school, so he suggested that “Mattie,” who is also referenced in the message, was also a teacher.
According to Julie Lucchesi, Lola’s daughter-in-law, the Lucchesi family purchased the O’Hara House, located in southern Oakley, in 1938. Dionisio and Maria Lucchesi, who came to California from Italy, lived in the house and raised their children there. They added a few rooms and installed a fireplace, but didn’t change the house much. Their son Guido and his bride, Lola, made the O’Hara House their home in 1945. Lola, who was only 21 at the time, has gone on to make a lifetime of memories at the O’Hara house. It was there that she and her late husband raised four children and welcomed many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Julie said Annie’s younger brother, Elwin “Leo” O’Hara, visited the house over the years to check in on his childhood home. Leo died in 1990. Annie preceded him in death in 1982 at the age of 94.
The O’Hara family left a few paintings behind when they moved, and Lola keeps them on display throughout her home. Aside from a fresh coat of paint, a renovated porch and expanded landscaping, Lola said the house is pretty the same as when she first moved in.
Although developers have shown interest in the 18-acre property, Julie and Lola aren’t interested in selling. “This house is a piece of Oakley’s history,” Julie said. “But more importantly, this is Lola’s home, and it’s going to stay that way.”
Those with additional information about Annie O’Hara or any of the people she mentions in her postcard message, e-mail historian Carol Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.