Saturday, January 30, 2010

Alviso Adobe Community Park

As history plays out on the land, it leaves its mark. Sometimes the land remains relatively unchanged from generation to generation, but more often, changes accumulate in layers. In areas of extensive human activity the landscape often appears as a patchwork, with elements of older layers “poking through” newer layers, and surviving side-by-side with the elements of the newer layers. A useful analogy is that of the palimpsest, from a Greek word meaning “scraped or rubbed again.” A palimpsest is a writing material such as parchment from which writing has been partly or completely erased to make room for another text. Older writing can often be discerned under the newer writing. Landscape change occurs in a similar way with elements of past landscapes visible amidst more recent additions.” Quote from “Guidelines for Documenting and Evaluating Historic Military Landscapes: An Integrated Landscape Approach”, by Suzanne Loechl, Samuel Batzli and Susan Enscore.

The Francisco Alviso Adobe site in Pleasanton, California is a palimpsest with three eras of history. If you visit the park today you will see a Native American rock feature - similar to a grinding stone - that was used in ceremonies by the native people. You can tour the now restored Alviso Adobe, from the early Californio period – when California was still owned by Mexico. From 1898 to 1917 the Kroeger family, tenant farmers, lived in the adobe.

All photos used in this post were provided by the City of Pleasanton. This photo shows the Kroeger family in front of the adobe.

The park includes a reconstructed milking barn from the Meadowlark Dairy era. Meadowlark started in 1919, and was known for producing the highest quality milk available until it was closed in 1966. The barn and all the associated dairy buildings were demolished in 1968.

In 1995, my firm, PGAdesign was invited to work with the residents of Pleasanton to develop a master plan for the 7-acre Alviso Adobe Community Park. During community meetings discussion focused on which historic period to feature. Fortunately, the decision was to include them all. The extant adobe – built in 1854 was an obvious choice, and the addition of the milking barn created a new community space for events and performances. This is an excellent example of how history is not always simple and neat. Typically, history is multi-layered with interwoven relationships, and while interpreting these sites is challenging the result is more dynamic.

PGA retained Dan Quan to design the interpretive exhibits. Dan collaborated with Pleasanton staff and residents – some of whom had worked in the dairy, and their stories bring life to the exhibits.

Alviso Adobe Community Park is a perfect day trip for Bay Area residents. Plan a picnic in the park followed by a hike on Pleasanton Ridge. But, this is not a HALS site. One of the criteria for HALS is that the landscape features must have historic integrity. The California Register of Historical Resources defines integrity as "the authenticity of an historical resource's physical identity evidenced by the survival of characteristics that existed during the resource's period of significance." Other than several large native oak trees, little of the historic landscape remains from the Alviso era, and archaeologists were unable to find any significant features from the Meadowlark Dairy era. This site may not qualify for HALS documentation, but the adobe is a State Landmark No. 510 - that, the interpretive exhibits, and beautiful site make this park well worth visiting.

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