Sunday, March 28, 2010

Garin Regional Park

It’s the weekend, when I usually write my posts, but I just wasn’t in the mood to visit a historic landscape. Instead Dianne and I headed to Garin Regional Park for a hike and some bird watching. Garin Park is contiguous with Dry Creek Park and together they offer 3082 acres of open space in Hayward and Union City. It was a perfect time to visit the park because it was cool and sunny, a few wildflowers were out, and the trees were just leafing out, so it was easy to see the birds. There was a lot of bird activity – calls, drumming and flitting about, so we easily saw a Black-headed Grossbeak, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Western Bluebird, Warbling Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and the flashiest Red-winged Blackbirds with blazing epilates. We also saw a Red-throated Loon on Jordon Pond, which was unusual for this time of year.

We took a leisurely hike soaking in beautiful scenes – green coated hills, tight candles on the Buckeye, bright California Poppy, darting lizards, a quiet pond, families picnicking - walking under massive oak limbs, down narrow paths lined with fresh poison oak, and over the narrowest wooden bridge I’ve ever seen.

Everything was vibrant and I was taking lots of photos, and thinking, “I wish there was something historic here so I’d have a reason to write about this special place on my HALS blog.” After our hike we headed to the visitors’ center, housed in an old red barn, but found it closed with a note saying, “Out to lunch, back shortly.” Something about the note made me suspicious. We waited till nearly 2:00, but when I inquired at the entry booth, I learned that the visitor’s center does not open until Memorial Day weekend.

Fortunately, an interpretive sign provided me with just want I was hoping for – a historic hook, and not just an ordinary history about the ranching culture in the Hayward area. Turns out this site was once known as Ukrania. Here is the text from the sign.

A long the ridge behind this panel lies a 52-acre parcel of historical significance. This farmstead known as “Ukrania” was the home of Ukrainian patriot, writer, and publisher Father Agapius Honcharenko. He and his wife Albina lived here for 43 years during their exile from Ukraine. Born in Kiev in 1832, Honcharenko attended Kiev Theological Seminary and entered a monastery at 21. He was appalled by the Church’s suppression of peasants while the monks lived in luxury. This led him to dedicate his work to the overthrow of the feudal system in the Russian Empire. His writings and activities earned him his revolutionary reputation among government officials. Among freedom fighters and patriots, he was respected around the world. Honcharenko faced many hardships including arrest warrants and death threats, forcing his escape to New York. In 1867, while being stalked by Czarist police, he moved to San Francisco. Finally in 1873, he was tracked to the west. Honcharenko sought sanctuary on the remote farm they purchased in the Hayward hills. For decades, they quietly tended their orchards, while Honcharenko remained a champion of the under classes. He died in 1916, a year after Albina’s death.”

The site is State Historic Landmark No. 1025. Honcharenko and Albina are buried at the site.

East Bay Regional Parks acquired the property in 1965. Today little remains of the original farmstead except the barn, some remnant stone walls that appear to have lined the original drive to the barn, and a two acre orchard with 160 varieties of heritage apples. So, for history lovers, bird watchers, hikers or wild flower seekers – this is a great spot.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sakai and Oishi Nurseries - Part 3

This is the third post in a series; you should read the first post before this chapter. Since 2004 several studies have been completed for the Sakai and Oishi Nurseries. They have focused primarily on the history of the site, the significance of the cut-flower industry in the Bay Area, and the buildings and structures on the two sites. What has not been studied in detail are the various systems that were needed to operate the nurseries – these will be illuminated as part of the HALS work that PGAdesign and Denise Bradley are currently completing.

In part two, I wrote about the pedestrian circulation systems and how they differed on the two sites. I’ve mentioned the other systems. Part 3 is about those systems.

Water Sources and Distribution
Both nurseries have several wells on site, which were the primary source of water. In later years Oishi nursery had a connection to the city main. Pumps drew water up into wooden storage tanks – both on grade and elevated. Water was drawn out of the tanks to supply water lines for irrigating or was routed to the boiler room where it was heated to produce steam.

Water lines fed a manifold of galvanized pipe at the center of each greenhouse that branched at each flower bed and was connected to a plastic pipe and drip or soaker type lines spaced about 8 inches apart in each raised planter. These were used to water the flowers, initially manually and later the operation was automated

Fertilizer was mixed in large steel or plastic tanks and was injected into the water lines when needed. Manually controlled valves would release or shut off the fertilized water as needed.
Water Collection
Irrigation water was collected and channeled into concrete swales or curbed trenches that run outside and parallel to each greenhouse. These trenches, typically 19” wide, are found throughout both nurseries. There are small, wooden bridges where pathways cross these trenches. The water collection system of swales and curbed trenches includes collection pits of varying sizes, typically 36” by 24” and 30” deep. Some of these pits still have pipes running into or over them. These pits collected water or silt.

Steam Distribution
Steam was used to heat the greenhouses and to provide optimal humidity for the flowers.
Steam from the boiler room was pumped into insulated pipes that was routed to each greenhouse. Many of these pipes run overhead, about 10 feet in the air, and were supported on 4 x 4 posts spaced about 15 feet apart. The steam was released inside each greenhouse and the condensate was collected and returned to the boiler for re-use in smaller diameter pipes, also insulated.
Pesticide System
A separate and parallel set of small diameter pipes was used to distribute water that included pesticides or herbicides. These pipes extended to the center of each greenhouse, and from there one of the nursery workers would attach a special hose to a valve and apply the pesticides with a spray nozzle.

Air Circulation and Greenhouse Cooling System
Maintaining optimal temperatures and humidity inside the greenhouses was critical. The components of this system include roof and side windows, large diameter fans, and swamp coolers. Each greenhouse has both roof and side windows with manually operated wheels and pulleys used to open or close the windows. In later years some of these were automated.

Large fans, housed in 5’ by 5’ square box structures were built into the sides or ends of the greenhouses. These would draw air into and out of the greenhouse. To cool the greenhouses large mats were attached to the end or sides of the greenhouse. An overhead PVC pipe with 1/8” diameter holes drilled every 5” was mounted above the mats. Water fed into these pipes then dripped onto the mats to wet them. As the fans drew in air through the dampened mats it cooled the air inside the greenhouse.

In part one I mentioned that at one spot on the Oishi site we counted 9 parallel pipes. Tom Oishi, who met us on our first day on site, was able to identify what six were for: fresh irrigation water from the tanks, out-going steam, returning steam, pesticides, city water, and water that fed the pipe for wetting the mats. I’ll let you know if we figure out what the last 3 were for.
Left: Cooling mats at Oishi Nursery
Right: Raised beds with soaker type irrigation at Sakai Nursery

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sakai and Oishi Nurseries - Part 2

This week, between rainstorms, I finished the bulk of my field work at the Sakai and Oishi Nurseries in Richmond. In total it took most of four days to walk and record the landscape features on the 6.44 acre Sakai site and the 5.94 acre Oishi property. Each day I took 100+ field photos, printed color contact sheets, and labeled them. I’ve started transferring my field sketches onto clean base sheets, and conferring with James Stockham who is helping with the project. James will transfer the field notes onto the electronic site survey.

While in the field I mostly photographed buildings, paths, trenches, pumps, pipes, sheds, plants, etc. – things that it was obvious what they were. I also took pictures of features that I don’t know what they are or what their purpose is – this is part of the puzzle to be solved. For example, on the Oishi property there are several shed structures measuring about 4’ x 8’ with sloped roofs. They are located throughout the nursery and no doubt had a specific purpose, but I don’t yet know what that was. There are an assortment of carts and wooden containers - how were they used in the operation of the nursery?

There are many similarities between the two operations. They both have complex systems of pipes and trenches to move fresh, recycled and waste water, plus fertilizers, pesticides and steam. They both have wells with pumps, tanks, and boiler houses, and each property includes modest homes that housed the families – two on the Oishi site and four at Sakai. Plants around these homes are mostly typical for the era and locale. Both include species found in traditional Japanese gardens – camellias, Japanese maple, fern pine, and they also include an assortment of other common plants, like geraniums, calla lilies, magnolia and fruit trees – cherry, plum and citrus. An assortment of boulders found near three of the Sakai homes hint at Japanese-style rock gardens, but little is left to decipher.

There are also differences found on the two nurseries – some attributable to differences in what was being grown. The Sakais specialized in roses and the Oishis grew carnations, so the planting beds inside their greenhouses have different construction styles. The pedestrian circulation system around and between the greenhouses is different. At Sakai there are narrow concrete walks that run between parallel greenhouses and 21” wide paths that tee off at each door. The longer greenhouses have 2 sets of doors that subdivide each greenhouse into thirds. These doors and paths are aligned to allow one to walk through one to the next. On the Oishi property I noted only one such concrete path between greenhouses. Another difference is that at Sakai I found remnants of raised planters outside and between the greenhouses suggesting that they were maximizing efforts to utilize growing space wherever possible.

Now that most of the field work is complete, I am reading more of the previous research. The “Historic Architecture Evaluation” prepared in 2004 by Donna Graves, Historian, and Ward Hill and Woodruff Minor, Architectural Historians explains that, “The Sakai and Oishi properties are the only extant cut-flower nurseries begun by Japanese Americans before World War II in the entire Bay Area and are also the last remaining of Richmond’s community of Japanese American flower growers.” The report goes on to say, “The properties are rare surviving Bay Area nurseries, a once prominent industry in the Bay Area.” Their conclusion is that both nurseries appear to be eligible for the National and California Registers of Historic Properties.