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The California Cotton Mill is one of Oakland’s earliest and largest industries. The Mill produced cotton for a variety of purposes and at its height had over 1,500 employees. Spread over thirty individual buildings, the Mill eventually closed down in 1956. Today the building is known as California Cotton Mills Studios and serves as an incubator for various enterprises and adds diversity to this mixed-use industrial neighborhood. A small museum devoted to the history of the Cotton Mill is located in the lobby of the building.


  • A black and white shot of the Mill.
  • A shot of the Mills' workers spinning and packaging cotton.
  • A plaque commemorating the Mill.

When it was first constructed, in 1883, the California Cotton Mill was the largest cotton mill to the west of the Mississippi River. Located in the Fruitvale neighbourhood, the building itself was designed by architect A.C. Griewank. During the height of its production, the Mill employed upwards of 1,500 people, mainly immigrants from Portugal who had travelled to the US and settled in the area. They produced a wide array of products including comforters, drapery cloth, table padding, towels and mops.

The building was replaced in 1917 and became a major supplier of tents, parachutes and fabric for the military during both World Wars.By 1954 the Mill had closed down and most of the structure was demolished to make way for the construction of the Nimitz Freeway (I-880). 

The main building remains and is now the California Cotton Mills Studios, a collection of 74 work/live studios meant to serve as an "incubator for various enterprises" and add diversity to the mixed-use industrial neighborhood. Today, the building has become a familiar sight to those travelling between Oakland and Alameda.

In 1979, the Mill was designated Oakland Landmark and it is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

CALIFORNIA COTTON MILLS STUDIOS. Live Work. Accessed June 11, 2017. http://live-work.com/projects/california-cotton-mills-studios/.

Califronia Cotton Mills. Local Wiki. Accessed June 11, 2017. https://localwiki.org/oakland/California_Cotton_Mills.

Rego, Nilda. Days Gone By: Brick walls lining I-880 through East Oakland are remnants of California Cotton Mills. Mercury News. January 03, 2013. Accessed June 11, 2017. http://www.mercurynews.com/2013/01/03/days-gone-by-brick-walls-lining-i-880-through-east-oakland-are-remnants-of-california-cotton-mills/.

California Cotton Mill. HMDB. Accessed June 11, 2017. https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=71211.