The Cohen Bray House, also known as the Alfred
H. Cohen House, was built as a wedding present
in 1882-1884. Julia Moses and Watson A. Bray, a
successful grain merchant with Blue Medal Flour,
constructed and furnished the seventeen-room
home for their daughter Emma and her new
husband Alfred H. Cohen. Bray was a successful
grain merchant, and Cohen, the son of Emelie Gibbons and A. A. Cohen, was a railroad lawyer.
Emma had come as a baby to Oak Tree Farm, where the house would be located. It was built "where the asparagus patch had been," on the property across the road from her parents' home. More than three hundred guests attended the wedding there on February 24, 1884. When Emma and Alfred left their wedding reception, they slipped across the street and watched their wedding reception "wind down" from their brand new home instead of going directly to the honeymoon suite awaiting them in Del Monte.
The Cohens furnished the house according to the latest fashions. They were well suited to the task.
In 1863, A. A. Cohen established the first railroad and ferry system in Alameda County. In 1865, he became the chief attorney for the Central Pacific Railroad, which completed the western portion of the trans-continental railroad. The new railroad brought its first passengers across North America in 1869, dropping them at Cohen's rail depot in nearby Alameda, where they could make a connection to San Francisco on the his ferry service.
The Cohen Bray House offers visitors the rare opportunity to imagine Oakland's home life as it was a century ago. The house typifies the Stick-Eastlake architectural style common during the 1870s and '80s, but the interior of the house is its most distinguishing aspect. It remains appointed to this day with original furniture in the Aesthetic style inspired by Charles Eastlake, author of the influential Hints of Household Taste. It has remained intact for more than a century in a home still occupied by descendants of its original owners, making it one of the few surviving examples of the Aesthetic interiors popular in the U.S. and England in the late nineteenth century. Visitors standing in its halls, parlors and bedrooms thus see a period home with wall papers, woodwork, carpeting and wedding presents as they were for the honeymoon in 1884.
Emma and Alfred lived at 1440 29th Avenue for the rest of their lives, and their four children were born there: Alfred, Douglas, Marion, and Edith Emelita. Alfred died in 1925, but Emma stayed in the house until her death in 1945. Edith Emelita, their youngest child, lived in the house which her mother Emma bequeathed to her as a life estate for ninety years until her death in 1988. Emma's great grandson still lives in the home, and three of her great-granddaughters now volunteer to keep the house alive.