The place where the kids went to scare themselves silly was the so-called "Abandoned Insane Asylum" at Alameda Landing. And while stories run rampant about the artifacts left behind by the armed forces, the truth of the matter is quite a different story.
The only true asylum in Alameda, the Alameda Park Asylum, no longer exists. Doctors Joseph C. Tucker and Eustace purchased A. A. Cohen's Alameda Park Hotel in 1866 and converted the grounds into an asylum, which fronted the east side of Park Street bounded by Central and Webb avenues. The facility closed in December 1870, and burned to the ground a month later. Ironically, the main downtown drag of Alameda is named for the asylum, making Park Street perhaps the only major thoroughfare in the United States named after a long-disappeared mental health facility.
The "abandoned asylum" that stood on the former Naval Fleet Industrial Supply Center (FISC) has served many purposes, none of them as a treatment center for the mentally ill. First constructed by the Army in 1944 through 1945 on filled-in marshland, the buildings served as the Alameda Intransit Depot under the Army Air Forces Pacific Overseas Air Terminal and Material Service Command. Semi-permanent structures built of concrete slabs atop concrete-capped wood pilings were not meant to withstand the decades, making the 60-year-old structures there more dilapidated-looking and spookier than any poorly maintained Victorian; thus the appeal to the scare-hungry.
The Navy abandoned the property in 1948; three years later a new mission and name were applied — the Army Medical Depot. It is in this incarnation that the "clues" pointing to the supposed asylum first appear. Along with acting as a medical supply depot, a vast cold storage system was built into the facility during its 1951 reactivation. Today, the cold storage compartments are incorrectly described as being the storage drawers of a morgue. Remnants of hospital beds never transferred from the depot remained behind.
Decommissioned in 1955, it was handed over to the Quartermaster General and acted as the Alameda Administration Center until 1962. When the Department of the Army reorganized in 1962, the facility became, in turn, the Alameda Annex, Sharpe General Depot and the Defense Alameda Facility. In January, 1964, the property was transferred to the Naval Supply Center in Oakland, and became FISC Alameda Annex.
It existed as FISC until the closure of Alameda Naval Air Station in 1997. The property was conveyed to the city of Alameda in 2000. And there the "asylum" remained, disused, dilapidated, and spooky — until, like its "predecessor" on Park Street, it burned to the ground last weekend.