Well, it’s a new year, and what better way to start the New Year than visiting a historic garden for HALS. Last year we drove to Fremont, California on January 1st and visited five historic sites. This year we are a bit slack – it’s already January 3rd and we only went to one local site, but it was a dandy.
I’ve known about the Meyers House for awhile and wanted to visit it for some time. Today, my last day of the Christmas – New Year holiday was the day. My firm, PGAdesign worked on the Meyer family summer home in Union City, but I’d never seen the family home. For the summer home we helped the East Bay Regional Park District, that now owns the property, to identify the species of plants originally planted by the Meyers family by studying historic photos, and we created a plan for the restoration and maintenance of the garden. More about the summer home later.
Today was a lovely day to visit the family home in Alameda – a light sweater day in California – sorry, friends (Loren and Jorge) in Minneapolis where it was minus 9 degrees. The garden was far more than I’d imagined. The house, a colonial revival is rather ordinary, but the garden is wonderful. The most striking feature is that it is apparent that the garden was all designed as a coherent composition, and fortunately, the garden’s integrity is very much intact.
Integrity, hum, there’s another one of those words. Integrity means the ability to convey the design features that reflect the period of significance, or are the features that make this garden important still present? At the Meyers House those features are present and in good condition. A richly detailed arbor and gate separates the front, public garden from the private garden. It is painted white and highly detailed. These details are repeated in a smaller fence and arched gate that defines the opposite side of the garden, in the property line fence, and they can be seen in the garage. The entire property is one cohesive design and as such very pleasing.
Henry H. Meyers, a local architect designed and had his family home built in 1897. He and his family – a wife and four daughters, lived at the property from 1897 to 1993. A plaque in the front of the home, now owned by the City of Alameda, notes that Meyers designed the portals to the Posey Tube – an underwater tunnel that connects the City of Alameda to Oakland – one of 4 connections this island city has to the rest of the Bay Area. Interestingly, my paternal grandfather helped build the Posey Tube – he was part of the crew who poured the concrete. In this photo, my grandfather is 6th from the right.
Meyers also designed the Alameda Veterans Building and Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. One of his four daughters also became an architect.
So, Happy New Year – I hope you’ll enjoy many visits to your local historic sites.