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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

Alviso Adobe passes 150 year mark

By Barry Schrader.................................September 15, 2005

One of the most neglected and least visible state historic landmarks in the Tri-Valley stands forlornly on Old Foothill Road about 3 miles south of I-580 just off “new” Foothill Road.

But its prospects for restoration are the brightest since the 1960s when it was then part of the Meadowlark Dairy. The Pleasanton City Council has one last opportunity to return it to its original condition when it served as a ranch home for Francisco Alviso (son of Francisco Solano Alviso) beginning in 1854. There was an older adobe, built about 1845 a third of a mile to the north that was temporarily used as a school from 1854 to 1856 until the Murray School was completed. That adobe no longer exists.

Alviso and his wife Isabelle had at least 10 children so probably needed the larger adobe which is the one still standing today. Legend also has it that Gen. John C. Fremont withdrew from the Battle of Sunol Canyon with Californianos and used the house for his headquarters for a few days.

After the death of his wife, Alviso sold the 300 acre ranch and adobe in 1872 to land speculator J. W. Martin for $4,730. Martin (who later became mayor of Oakland, president of the Union Savings Bank and a UC Regent) then sold the place to Anthony Chabot, the wealthy “water king.” But some of the Alviso children (then grown) were still listed in the 1880 census as living there, probably working the farm land and ranch for Martin and later Chabot. The adobe and land were later acquired by the Contra Costa Water Company and a succession of families lived there. It was damaged in the 1906 earthquake, which left large cracks in the chimney and walls for several years, according to a later article in the Hayward Daily Review.

In the early 1900s the adobe still had a dirt floor and burlap ceiling. Surrounding it were fields of sugar beets and grain, farmed by Chinese workers. Then in 1919 the land including the adobe was sold to Walter M. Briggs who started the Meadowlark Dairy there. Briggs recognized the historic significance of the adobe and so in the early 1920s had it renovated. Various farm workers lived in the adobe until 1969.

Dairying became big business in the Amador Valley by mid-century. There were six dairies totaling 1,250 head of milk cows in 1949 according to historical records.

Upon the death of Briggs’ son in 1966 there were estate tax problems and the family sold the property to the Great Southwest Corporation, a Texas conglomerate that wanted to build a $20 million “Six Flags Over California” amusement park on the site. Local residents and the Pleasanton Times put up such a fight that the Texas company’s plans were abandoned. The dairy finally closed in 1969 with the remaining cows moved to pastureland near Tracy. The land including the adobe was later sold to the DeSilva Group which turned most of the acreage into a housing development, but deeded the adobe and a few acres to the City.

It had been declared a State Historic Landmark No. 510 in 1954 and an impressive marker placed there, no longer to be seen. The plaque erroneously stated that Francisco Solano Alviso built the adobe in 1844, but it was his son Francisco instead, and in 1854.

A very informative and comprehensive consultant’s report was prepared for the City in 2000, from which most of my information has been drawn, This report offers the following conclusion: “The 1854 Alviso Adobe is significant as a rare surviving example of an early American period adobe complex, occupied by the same family for nearly 30 years. The building and its associated archeology offer significant research potential for examining the acculturation process of a one-time vaquero, who became a mayordomo, and then a ranchero.

So stay tuned and see what the Pleasanton City Council does in the coming weeks to assure its survival or seal its doom. The crumbling walls probably cannot withstand many more rainy seasons, so there is precious little time left to save it at all.

***

Oldest correction in newspaper history? The Herald’s Randy Hashagen received a call from an old cowboy last week whose photo appeared in the paper in 1974. His family apparently didn’t believe the yellowed newspaper clipping showing him astride a notorious rodeo bull named “Little Oly” because his name was badly misspelled. So since I am the person responsible as editor of the Herald in 1974, I want to officially correct the spelling of his name to Mike Bills, now a Tracy resident, and apologize on behalf of the reporter or photographer who made that mistake 31 years ago. Now that has got to be a contestant for the Guinness Book of World Records….

***

The question for this week is: How many State Historic Landmarks have been designated around Alameda County and which is the most recent?

***

The tricky history mystery question this past week was too difficult for anyone but friends of Simon Read, Herald cops and court reporter, to solve. You see, Simon wrote a book called “On the House: The Bizarre Killing of Michael Malloy” which is due for release in early October. The book traces the murder of a paralytic drunk who was supposedly done in by a gang called the Murder Trust in New York during the bleak Depression-era winter of 1933.


***

Speaking of history and books, Don Larsen, former Jackson Avenue School principal in Livermore, just had his second book published. Entitled “The Prairie Tides, the Ebbs and Flows of an Era” it tells the story of his grandfather, family and neighbors struggling to survive on the Kansas plains a hundred years ago. In reviewing the book, Kansas Historical Society editor Bobbie Park writes: The author leads us on a journey into the prairies of the past, capturing the heart and soul of not only his farmboy days, but of family, neighbors, and community. His memories, sparked with humor, are stories of a time and a place we love to remember, even though we’ve not been there before.”

I was also privileged to review the advance manuscript of his new book and loved every chapter, reminding me of my German ancestors’ struggles as they emigrated to America, ending up in Illinois farm country that supported them for three-quarters of a century, until the Depression took it all away.

 

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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