The History Behind Albert Park

An immigrant’s literal rags-to-riches story unfolded in San Rafael.
Albert's Department Store
Photo courtesy of the Marin History Museum.

IT WAS 1883 when Lithuanian-born Jacob Albert and his wife, Annie, landed in West Marin. At first, he peddled clothes, some of them slightly used, to dairy workers and ranchers. Thus, it could be said that Albert was a ragman.

One time, when he ventured into San Rafael and sold his goods from a pack on his back, he was arrested for not having a license to do so. Despite this, Jacob and Annie liked San Rafael. In 1895, the couple rented space at the southwest corner of Fourth and B streets and set up a dry goods store.

By 1899, Jacob was an American citizen, and 15 years later, his was a family business — not only did Annie work in the store, but so did their three children. As the business blossomed, Albert bought and refurbished several downtown properties. In 1930 he built the four-story Albert Building at Fourth and B streets, where it still stands today.

Seven years later, according to historian Marilyn L. Geary, the Alberts donated nine acres of nearby land for a “a sports field for young people”; today’s Albert Park has ballfields, tennis and bocce ball courts, playgrounds, San Rafael’s community center and even a professional baseball team that calls it home, the San Rafael Pacifics. In the early 1940s Albert purchased the corner of Fourth and Court streets and built the building pictured in the photo above. Then, while serving his third term on the San Rafael City Council, he died suddenly of a heart attack.

The year was 1946; he was 75. In 1952, heirs sold Albert’s Department Store to Macy’s, and in 1999 the building was demolished in connection with a downtown redevelopment project. Today there are folks still around who talk fondly of shopping at Albert’s Department Store.

Categories: Looking Back, Marin History, Marin Matters