The Brisbane Tract Office

BY: Dolores Gomez, Brisbane historian, brischic@sonic.net

In the early 1900’s, there were many of abundant building lots in Brisbane. To draw potential buyers, a tract office was constructed at the corner of Visitacion and Mariposa Streets in 1918, with a porch that wrapped around the front and side of the building creating a welcoming entrance. Properties were already laid out in tracts. Lots were 25 feet wide and advertised “close to a sewer, electricity and a beautiful view,” selling for $100 each and a payment of $5 a month.
After World War One, the developers failed to attract buyers, and the tract office was closed. In 1929, realtor, Arthur Annis came to Brisbane and reopened the office. He believed that citizens should be able to build their homes, without restrictions as soon as they purchased their lots. Many pioneer residents built their own homes with the help of neighbors. To save money, some of the materials were salvaged from the debris piles of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. In 1932 the Gomez Family bought a small three room house paying $16 a month. By 1934 there were 400 homes built in Brisbane.
To celebrate his birthday, Arthur Annis offered any remaining lots at a nominal price in the original subdivision! He was a popular and kind man. My husband, a student at the time, remembered him giving fruit and gifts to children of the town at Christmas during the 1930’s depression. Annis changed the town’s name, “ Visitacion City” to “Brisbane” so people wouldn’t confuse it with the nearby, “Visitacion Valley.” Great success followed, lot sales boomed and by the late 1930’s the tract office closed.
In 1940 the building housed a small 5&10 cent store. I remember walking into the building, hearing the wooden floor creak and being greeted by elderly Mrs. Rumor. She was a tall woman who always had her hair up in a bun and wore long skirts and dresses to her ankles. Later, congenial Elsa and Oscar Von Schoven owned the 5 & 10 cent store. Elsa always helped me to select bright colored embroidery thread, to decorate dish towels. By the late 1950’s, time had taken its toll on the old Brisbane Tract Office, it was no longer in use, and it was demolished.