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.

1 comment:

  1. Sir,you have a wonderful job.I am enjoying your posts and learning more of my California history from you.Thank you so much for sharing with us.