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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;

  • Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
  • Valley Times : Do You Remember?
  • The Independent : Do You Remember?

The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.

They will also be found on this page each week as well.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

Archive Page

Hagemann’s 169-year-old house future in doubt

By Barry Schrader.................................July 7, 2005

It is hard to imagine that a house built in 1836 in this valley still stands and is inhabited today, by a descendant of the oldest pioneer stock in the Tri-Valley. Known to most local residents as the Hagemann Farm, it is located on five acres off Olivina Avenue in Livermore, an agricultural oasis in the middle of suburbia that is little noticed by those in the subdivisions around it.
It was commonly believed that Herb Hagemann, Jr., the bachelor “gentleman farmer” and well-known local historian who spent all of his 79 years on that parcel, would bequeath the property to some historical group or public agency for preservation in perpetuity. But when he died in June 2000, his will revealed it was left to his nephew Carl Holm and his family with no instructions or funds for its upkeep and historic preservation.
A plaque on the front wall of the home, placed there in 1996 by the Livermore Historic Preservation Commission, states it is the Pico-Bernal House built in 1836, originally a line shack on the East Station of the Rancho El Valle de San Jose (Spanish land grant) and is a pioneer ranch of the August Hagemann family.
Today it is the oldest working farm/ranch in Alameda County and probably has the oldest well, 90 feet deep, which still supplies all the water for the place, according to Christian Holm, the great-nephew of Herb who lives there alone and serves as the farm operator and stablemaster for the 20 horses boarded in its ancient barns.
Walking around the farm and particularly the house, one is drawn back a century to the old ranching days when houses were simple, rustic and rambling, but solidly-built with the timber available in the region. The original structure had no foundation, the first three rooms facing east included a 16 by 12 foot main living quarters with a lean-to on two sides. It had upright boards one inch thick and 24 inches wide supporting the roof. Part of the ranch house sets on a mud sill. Much of the exterior is covered with a rustic redwood. It now has seven rooms with bath, pantry and an office (former sun porch), which adds up to nearly 2,000 square feet. Out back is the original wash house, complete with modern washer, but with unpainted barn siding. The shade trees are dominated by a 400-year-old gnarled Oak. Its twin blew down a few years ago, damaging one wing of the house.
The house, first constructed by Juan Pablo Bernal, was occupied in the 1840s or early 1850s by Martin Mendenhall (brother of William, the founder of Livermore), who enlarged it. Then in 1896 August Hagemann, Sr. bought the property, followed in 1916 by a son Herbert and wife Edna, parents of Herb, Jr. They farmed the 300 acres until the early 1960s when all but five acres was sold for subdividing, plus the seven-acre park acquired by the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District—aptly named Hagemann Park.
Talking with Christian and a family friend Steve Vasey, I got the impression they would like to see the historic house and barns somehow preserved, realizing it is probably impractical to keep the entire parcel in agriculture considering today’s real estate market. But what public agency, foundation or land conservancy will step forward to tackle such a project? The family has spent some hundred thousand dollars to restore the buildings and grounds so horses can be boarded and trained there. Now they are conducting a historical survey of the property. The City will have to approve any zoning changes or breakup of the parcel and then a historical landmark designation could possibly keep part of it intact.
Walking through the old house with the family furniture still in place and shelves filled with Hagemann books and memorabilia one feels a sense of history. It would make a fine Bed and Breakfast for people who like to experience life in old California. It is like time stood still inside those walls.
Then going into the two barns—one built 140 years ago and the other moved onto the property 113 years ago, you can imagine ranch and farm life in the state’s early days. There is so much history connected to this place it will take a booklet to put it all into perspective. Let’s hope something good is in store for its future.

* * *

Speaking of old buildings, last week I mentioned “Grandma’s Barn” where the blacksmith plies his trade during the county fair each year. I have since learned that this old barn was built in 1905 on the corner of Fourth and N streets in Livermore by Thomas and Catherine Perata, great-grandparents of Marilyn Fraser. Her grandmother Mary Perata Ferrario kept the house and barn intact until 1975 when the property was sold to build Community First National Bank there, now occupied by the Livermore Optometry group. So in 1976 the family donated the barn to the Fair Association and workmen numbered each board, dismantling it and resurrecting it at the Fair. According to former fair manager Pete Bailey, it has been relocated two times on the grounds, but still houses the blacksmith shop. This makes it the oldest structure on the grounds, predating the Heritage House (aka the Heathcote House) on the fairgrounds which was built sometime between 1910 and 1915.

* * *

Since no one came up with the answers to my history mystery (what rodeo bumper sticker hangs in the Fair blacksmith’s barn and what is the historic headline on the Valley Times from 1980 on display inside the Agriculture Heritage Building) I’ll just wait another week to see if any correct answers come in.

 

The columnist can be reached via email at :

Historian2sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551

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