Explore the life and achievements of one of Oakland’s most colorful and successful entrepreneurs, Borax Smith. As a young man, Smith came west in 1867 to discover rich deposits of borax in the Nevada desert and go on to establish an international borax industry. He contributed to the transformation of Bay Area transit and East Bay land development and his wife, Mary R. Smith, created innovative homes for young girls. We’ll visit historic and present day views of his 19th c. borax site, his fabled Oakland estate, Arbor Villa, and the Mary R. Smith Cottages.
Phil Bellman is a longtime Oakland resident. He has a keen interest in architectural history and historic preservation. He previously served on the OHA board and as the editor of the OHA News. For more than 30 years, he has led tours of FM Smith’s Oakland estate and his early borax works in Nevada. Having grown up on the Mojave desert, Phil has an affinity and appreciation of Smith as a borax pioneer. Phil is now retired after working for 40 years in public health and healthcare in the East Bay. He can frequently be found hiking the trails of the Bay Area and the Sierra Nevada and currently volunteers with the Bay Area Ridge Trail.