In 1887, Miguel and Jose deLaveaga purchased 1,178 acres of land from the Ward-Smith league of the Camino Sobrante land grant. This included the area between Telegraph Road (today’s Highway 24) to the south, from Charles Hill Road on the east, the El Toyonal western slope of San Pablo Valley on the west, and north to Wagner Ranch. The family lived in San Francisco where the cold foggy summer weather was not desirous for their young family. Jose sold his share to his brother and moved to the Santa Cruz area. Miguel and his wife Marie brought their children to Orinda Park where they built a large home called Bien Venida, meaning “Welcome,” overlooking the picturesque valley.
It was Miguel's son, “E.I.” who later decided to develop a residential community where the mild climate and outdoor beauty would be an asset for sales. Sufficient water was a large concern, so the construction of Lake Cascade was the first accomplishment in 1921. A filter plant was built on the eastern side, and as each lot sold in the Haciendas del Orinda subdivision, the new owner received a share in the People's Water Company. The second step was the construction of the firehouse on Orinda Way as a protection for the new homeowners. E.I. also built a village to cater to the needs of new families. Next was a large freeform swimming pool with a waterfall cascading into the pool from Lake Cascade. The largest accomplishment was the construction of the clubhouse in 1924 on a rocky projection with a beautiful view of San Pablo Creek and Valley.
E.I. was not a golfer. His sports included fishing, hunting, horseback riding, and photography. It was his business partner in Oakland, James L’Hommedieu, who recognized golf as the newest sport in America. Once convinced, E.I. hired notable Scotsman Willie Watson, who was finishing The Olympic Club in San Francisco and Mira Vista in El Cerrito, to design the Orinda course. These two strong-willed men argued for months. Willie Watson wanted the clubhouse to be built near Miner Road between today's second, third and twelfth holes, with easy access to two nine holes of golf from the Club Golf Shop. E.I. was still convinced the view of the valley and Lake Cascade would provide the most attractive setting.
A family club was the initial desire of E.I’s. People could travel to Orinda and each family member could enjoy a variety of activities from fishing and boating on Lake Cascade, trails for horseback riding, and swimming at the pool.
Of great concern was transportation to Orinda from the East Bay. Many people came from the Grizzly Peak stables in Oakland on horseback. Miss Graham had a location in the Orinda Village where she cared for the animals and conducted rides and lessons throughout the valley. Others came by car either by Fish Ranch Road or around the Berkeley hills via the Dam Road. The Caldecott Tunnel, completed in 1937, was a tremendous boon to Orinda’s accessibility and growth.
Today, we are fortunate to enjoy the dreams of the past and to carry on the traditions generated. Many changes and improvements have been accomplished to assure Orinda represents a family club of friendly members.