top of page

Isaac Lawrence Requa

The Check Collector by American Society of Check Collectors, Publication date 10/1/2009:

Isaac Lawrence Requa was bom in 1828 in the township of Tarrytoum, Westchester County, New York. In 1850, upon hearing of the riches in California, he embarked on a voyage to San Francisco by clipper ship around Cape Horn, and followed bis ambition to try mining. After a time mining in California, in 1861 he traveled to Virginia City, Nevada, with his newly acquired experience to leave his mark upon the Comstock Lode. Over the next eighteen years, he was the superintendent of the Cbollar-Potosi mines, the Gould & Curry mine, and the Union Mill and Mining Company. Isaac L. Requa was married in 1863, in San Francisco, to Sarah J. Mower. In the late 1870s, Isaac selected a site for a homestead at Piedmont, Alameda County, California, where they lived the rest of their lives. In the 1880s there were only seven houses where the City of Piedmont is now. The biggest house was owned by Isaac and Sarah Requa. It was painted yellow and, because there were no trees on the hills, sailors could see the house from San Francisco Bay. The Requa's called their house "The Highlands" and Highland Avenue is named after it.

isaac requa.jpeg
Isaac requa 2.jpeg
requa thrown from horse - Oakland_Tribun
requa family.jpg

Oakland Tribune Sep 6, 1953:

'The Highlands'

In "The Highlands, Story of Piedmont Estate," Edward T. Planer whose contributions to research into history of this area are widely appreciated, again gave us an intimate details out of our recent past and background. What follows is from his typewriter: It has been said with some truth that Nevada's Comstock Lode built San Francisco. It can be said with complete veracity that Comstock wealth built one of the finest mansions to occupy the hills of present Piedmont. Isaac L. Requa was superintendent and chief engineer of the Combination Shaft Company of Virginia City, Nev., which, acting as construction agency for the Chollor-Potosi, Hale and Norcross, and Savage mines, sunk a mining shaft to be used jointly by the companies mentioned to a depth of 3150 feet below the earth's surface. With profits derived in part from the successful outcome of the daring engineering enterprise, Mr Requa acquired, in 1877, about 80 rolling, unimproved acres in the foothills back of Oakland, and there he developed "The Highlands," a baronial estate entering around a great fame house which overlooked Lake Merritt, the Bay, and the San Francisco peninsula beyond. The structure occupied a commanding knoll where present Hazel Lane and Requa Road meet. Isaac's daughter, Mrs. Amy Requa Mitten, continues to live on a portion of the estate, through her present residence is modern. Not only was "The Highlands" among the first impressive houses to be erected in Piedmont, but for years it was a prominent landmark, easily visible on its hilltop from San Francisco and the ferryboats. The mansion's color scheme of yellow with brown like trim endowed it with a beacon-like quality which made it recognizable from great distances.

An Era Passed

The towered, gabled, high-winded house contained 22 bedrooms, all of ample dimensions, while an adjoining wing was solely for the domestic help. In addition, 11 hired hands had other quarters on the estate. Since it was a long trip in horse-drawn vehicles to Oakland by way of Vernal Avenue (now Highland), Moraga Road, and Piedmont Avenue, the manor was, of necessity, all but self-sufficient. "The Highlands" had its own vegetable gardens, orchard, berry patches, dairy herd of 11 cows, stable with seven stalls and a grooming room, an illuminating gas manufactory, and an independent water supply from the wells on the property.  What was originally the architect's office during construction came to be a school house for the Requa children, Amy and Mark. The grounds were tastefully landscaped according to the style of the tines, Mr. and Mrs. Requa planted hundreds of trees -- pines, palms, gingkos, eucalyptus and ornamentals of all types -- on their property. A fountain and croquet court enhanced the attractiveness of the mansions, as did a handsome wooden fence and gateway along present Highland Avenue. Mrs. Mitten recalls vividly that the dinning room table would seat 24, and on many occasions in the expansive days of yore it was fully occupied with members of the family and such visiting guests as the A.N. Townes, the C.P. Huntingtons, Judge and Mrs. W. H. L. Barned, and Mrs. Catherwood, all of San Francisco; the James Moffittts, the A. K. P. Harmons of Oakland; Prof. George Edwards of the University of California, and the Thornbiurg of Berkeley. There are many old-timers who will recall the demolition of the mansions in 1923. It is safe to say that with its passing vanished an era not only in PIedmont's history, but in the self-sufficient pioneer life which made a gentleman's estate his castle and the center of the universe.

Isaac Requa - Oakland_Tribune_Thu__Jun_2
bikers in front of requa house .jpeg

Bicyclists with Penny Farthing bicycles stand in front of Isaac L. Requa residence, Highland Avenue and Hazel Lane, Piedmont, in the undated photograph by the firm of Rieman & Pray. Requa, a prominent businessman with interests in railroads and mines, was a pillar of Oakland society. (California Historical Society)

Oakland Enquirer, March 29, 1905

Death Claims Isaac L. Requa

For Years He Had Been One of Oakland’s Best Citizens—Was Prominently Identified With Banking, Mining and Railroad Enterprises.

Isaac Lawrence Requa, president of the Oakland Bank of Savings, and one of the best known and highly respected citizens of Oakland is dead. The end came a few minutes after twelve last night and it was characteristic of the man who met and faced bravely every difficulty in life. He did not, while living, fear any contingency in the combination of circumstances and in the hour of death the ruling characteristic of his life prevailed.

Suffering as he has been for a month past from a sort of nervous collapse he had found it necessary to give up his work at the Oakland Bank of Savings but at the same time he kept in very close touch with the affairs of that institution and daily had conferences with W.W. Garthwaite, who in addition to being the cashier of the bank was the confidential adviser of Mr. Requa.

Notwithstanding the fact that he was supposedly ill unto death Mr. Requa on Monday last insisted on being carried down stairs and lifted into his buggy. In company with the coachman who for twenty-five years have been in his employ he went driving. Riding all over his beautiful home known as "The Highlands," he talked with his companion regarding certain improvements he wished to have made, and gave minute directions regarding his favorite animals on the place. The coachman who was also his firm employer was driving very slowly and very sick as this trip proved it would please Mr. Requa who said, "John these are good horses, move them along very slowly." John obeyed his word and the drive of John on the place today who had great admiration of horses fled and his steadfast employer are cherished by friends in Alameda county.

Mr. Requa’s illness naturally caused his family, which consists of his wife, his daughter, the wife of General Oscar F. Long; and his son Mark L. Requa, much worry. While they feared the worst they hoped for the best and up until the end came they would scarcely admit there was any danger.

Mr. Requa was born in Tarrytown, Westchester County, New York, November 28, 1823, and would soon have been 72 years of age. His father Jacob Requa, had been a resident of that town, died in 1864, and his mother whose maiden name was Eliza Lawrence, died in the same place in 1840. The ancestors of Mr. Requa, as the name might suggest, were Huguenots who fled from France to England and thence came to America settling in Westchester county in 1689. Three successive generations of the family lived and died. The grandfather of Mr. Requa was captain of the military company of which Paulding, Williams and Van Wert were members, when they captured Major Andre.

The ancestors on the mother’s side, the Lawrences of Westchester county, descended from three brothers who emigrated from Holland to the colony of New Amsterdam in 1641. They had previously left England for a settlement in Holland on account of troubles which preceded the rebellion and land theft of Charles the First. The Lawrences of the family are accordingly now numerous not only in New York, but in many other states of the Union.

Mr. Requa obtained his early education in the district schools of Tarrytown and at the Pawling Academy, and after leaving the age of eighteen years started out to shift for himself. Leaving New York he went to the city of New York, where he resided until 1849. Early that year he left New York for California in a sailing vessel by way of Cape Horn. Arriving in this state as a young man in robust health, he was ready and eager for any honorable enterprise in which he could find scope for his industry and enterprise. After spending some time in Sacramento, he determined to devote his energies to mining. He prosecuted this employment with various fortunes for a while. Eventually in the year 1861 he went to Virginia Nevada, and drove his stake on the Comstock lode. His legal residence has ever since been in Nevada, where he has been constantly interested in mining, milling, and in the development of some of the most important properties of that famous lode. For years he was superintendent of the Gould & Curry mine and the Ophir and other mines of that locality.

The affairs of the Union Mill and Mining Company for a long time, and although he devoted consequently very little to do with the buying and selling of mining stocks. He had large interests, but rather clever investments than for stock speculation. It is mainly as a practical and loyal miner that he has become known as such. He wore the miner's suit and take a hand on his ground and his work as nearly as possible the ultimate facts about the mine. He believed in legitimate mining, and was largely engaged in that work! This conservatism and steadiness of purpose stood him in good stead and largely made him riches.

Mr. Requa never was a politician, but always a man who took a lively interest in public affairs in Nevada. He was for years an Old Line Whig. Since 1869 he had been identified with the Republican party and worked efficiently for its success. He was several times a member of the territorial legislature of Nevada, and, after the State organization, received the unanimous vote of the Republican party for the Senate, but was obliged to decline on account of his business engagements. He was for many years chairman of the Republican Central Committee of his county, and contributed liberally both of his means and time for the triumph of his party in that State. During the rebellion he took active interest in obtaining contributions to the sanitary fund in Nevada. For a long time he was a member of the governor’s military staff of that State, holding the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

Mr. Requa was married in 1862, at San Francisco, to Sarah J. Mowry. Since that event his home has been the center of refined hospitality. He selected a site for a home in Piedmont, overlooking the city of Oakland and the bay of San Francisco. There he erected a spacious residence. The grounds, consisting of some twenty-seven acres, and were laid out with excellent taste.

Returning to California Mr. Requa established his residence in Oakland and became interested in the big railroad undertakings of the Huntington, Stanford, Crocker and Hopkins combination. He was president of the Central Pacific Coal Company of this city and was also a director in other Huntington Lines during the lifetime of the late Collis P. Huntington.

Mr. Requa was a member of the Masonic fraternity and Knight Templar. He was a good citizen, a warm friend, of a genial and kindly nature, but of so positive a character that his entire acquaintances knew just where to find him. They knew he was true as steel, never deserted a cause or interest because it was under a cloud, and never espoused it because it happened to be popular for the time.

The funeral service is to be held Thursday afternoon at 3:45 from the family home, Rev. Charles T. Walkley, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church officiating.

The pallbearers who have been asked to serve have been selected from the immediate personal friends of Mr. Requa. They are: Stephen T. Gage, D.O. Mills, Henry Rogers, W.J. Wood, Homer S. King, D.W. Earl, James Ellis and W.W. Garthwaite.

The railroad mileage in the United States today is a trifle less than about 185,000 a year. At this rate it is estimated there will be 100,000 miles of railroad in this country. If the country continues to develop during the next two decades, as it has in the last two decades, it is quite probable the increase in the railroad mileage in the United States will reach an average annual of 10,000 miles for the next twenty years.

Oakland, the story of a city by Bagwell, Beth, 1938- Publication date 1982:

A crowd of friends gathered at the Piedmont home of Isaac Requa in about 1878 to witness a strange wonder. Requa was actually going to speak by telephone to a man all the way across the bay in the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Would the contraption work? Sometimes it did, and then again, sometimes it didn't. It all depended on whether the wind had blown down a wire strung above Lake Merritt. When that happened, a telephone company man had to row out and fish the line out of the water.

Oakland, the story of a city by Bagwell, Beth, Publication date 1982:


A crowd of friends gathered at the Piedmont home of Isaac Requa in about 1878 to witness a strange wonder. Requa was actually going to speak by telephone to a man all the way across the bay in the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Would the contraption work? Sometimes it did, and then again, sometimes it didn't. It all depended on whether the wind had blown down a wire strung above Lake Merritt. When that happened, a telephone company man had to row out and fish the line out of the water. In 1878, only two years after Alexander Graham Bell had patented his telephone, Oaklanders were already getting acquainted with the mysteries of the strange device. In the East, patent litigation was providing work for battalions of lawyers, and cities all over the United States and Europe watched closely  to see which system to put in: Bell's, Thomas Edison's, or one of several others.

San Francisco Call, Volume 97, Number 120, 29 March 1905:



Famous Financier Is No More

Isaac L. Requa, one of the foremost financiers of the coast and for many years prominently identified with railroad building in California, died shortly after midnight this morning at his home, The Highlands, on Piedmont Heights, Oakland. Death is attributed to nervous collapse, which his advanced age could not withstand. Deceased had been ill for several weeks, during which his attending physicians. Dr. A. Liliencrantz and Dr. A. S. Larkey, noticed signs of a general breaking up of their patient's once strong constitution, and prepared themselves for the end, which came this morning. Few men were probably more widely known in California than was Isaac L, Requa, who was a pioneer of the State, having come around the Horn in 1850. Arriving in San Francisco he proceeded immediately to the interior, where he engaged in mining and met with success. In 1860 he went to Virginia City, where he was soon actively engaged in the milling and mining business, and finally became superintendent of the Chollar-Potosi Mining Company and a director in other big mining concerns. As a mining engineer he gained distinction, installing in the Chollar-Norrrose-Savage shaft the heaviest machinery used on the Cornstock. Returning to California Requa established his residence in Oakland and became interested in the big railroad undertakings of the Huntington, Stanford, Crocker and Hopkins combine. He was president of the Central Pacific Railroad Company for many years and was also a director in other Huntington lines during the lifetime of the late Collis P. Huntington. For a number of years Requa took an active part In California politics, first. as a "Whig and later as a Republican. He was for a long time chairman of the Republican State Central Committee and was once tendered the nomination for Governor, an honor he promptly declined. During the latter part of his life his attention was devoted mainly to banking and principally to the affairs of Oakland Bank of Savings, of which he was the president. Requa was descendant of the Huguenots and was born in Tarrytown, N. V., eighty years ago. He is survived by a widow and two children. Mark L. Requa and Mrs. Oscar Long, wife of General Long. Many unfortunates knew Requa well for his many charitable acts, and not a few, who were his dependents, will have cause to regret his death.

Isaac requa check.jpg
Requa obitiuary - The_San_Francisco_Call
bottom of page