At the turn of the 19th century, what is now called the Laurel District was merely a handful of homesteads surrounded by vegetable gardens, lush hillsides, family dairies and grazing livestock. After the Great Earthquake of 1906, refugees from San Francisco flocked to the area, and by 1910 The Laurel (named for the area's first school) boasted sidewalks and streetlights. By 1920, the Key Route Rail-car system connected the area to downtown and established Hopkins Street (now MacArthur Blvd.) as a bustling thoroughfare.
As Oakland's industries grew, so did the need for housing, and spectacular incentives were offered to stimulate home building. The district continued to grow through the Depression, and by the time the country was at war there were two new movie theatres, Laurel and The Hopkins, where locals could see the latest news reels. While the businesses and organizations operating within its walls have changed over the years, the facade of the Laurel Theatre building (3814 MacArthur) is still recognizable today.
The post-war period brought another housing boom to the Laurel, and area businesses flourished. Many of the storefronts lining MacArthur Blvd. were built in the 40s and 50s, evidenced by their simple lines and lack of architectural embellishments.
Today, the Laurel is a bright neighborhood with a vibrant and diverse population. A mini-melting pot, the people of the Laurel are proud to be a part of this distinct section of Oakland, confirmed by all the warm greetings found at the small local farmer's market, the original Farmer Joe's with a larger store in the adjacent Dimond district, and in the wide range of inexpensive ethnic restaurants along MacArthur Boulevard.