Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mrs. George Roeding Jr's History of the Old Adobe and its Garden

The Bay Area architect, Frederick Reimers, renovated the Old Adobe. Johannes Reimers, his father, designed the garden around the Vallejo Adobe.

This 1974 Argus column "An Informal History of California" by John Sandoval (The Argus, Sunday, August 04, 1974, page 12 ),  turned up while looking for Johannes Reimers.  It also answered the question about the bulb shows.  I added the photos.

An informal history of California

Another view of the Old Adobe in Niles

by John Sandoval

Our article about the California Nursery some weeks ago evoked a few letters and comments, augmenting the information in the column.

Mrs. George Roeding Jr. has added some information about the "Old Adobe" building which even today is the trademark of the California Nursery Co.

"J.J. Vallejo raised cattle and fine Mexican cavalry horses on his Rancho de Alameda.  The old adobe was one with walls 36" thick and with a single opening for a door.

"An old employee of the nursery, Frank Garcia, was born in the adobe in 1867.  His father was in the employ of J.J. Vallejo and he remembered living in the structure very well.  He said there was a hole in the middle of the roof, under which the family cooked, so that
 the smoke could go out, and some fresh air could come in.  Each corner of the structure was used for a different purpose.

"One corner was used for sleeping, another for storage of supplies, the third for quarters for domesticated fowl and animals, and the fourth for a family chapel.

"When George C. Roeding, Jr. took over management of the California Nursery from his father in 1926 the "Old Adobe" was used as a storage shed for late export nursery shipment so that the stock would be kept cold and dormant.

"For a while one end of the building was partitioned off and used as a fumigation chamber.  The building consisted of four unpainted adobe brick walls, some of which had been badly eroded and washed away by the elements, a dirt floor and a door at the southwest side of the building.

"In 1930 Roeding saw the possibilities of restoring the adobe as a focal point for public relations activities, charity affairs, garden club an trade association functions.  The first meeting of the California Nurserymen was held there.

"George wanted it to be an attractive "guest house" which customers could enjoy as well as professional groups but also wanted to keep the restoration as authentic as possible and in keeping with its heritage.

Historic American Buildings Survey Robert W. Kerrigan, 
February 15, 1937 VIEW FROM NORTHEAST
Rancho Arroya de la Alameda Adobe,
Niles Boulevard & Nursery Avenue,
Fremont, Alameda County, CA

View this image in the Library of Congress

"He secured the services of San Francisco architect Frederick Reimers, who was known for his early California architectural designs.  Reimers liked to combine the old with the new, and spent a lot of time traveling the state to study old missions so that he could design and restore the old building consistent with what was a appropriate and usable during the early 1840's, keeping in mind that we wanted it to be attractive and functional as well as adhering as much as possible to the past.

"Two original beams were kept, the center low beam, running cross wise, and the long high beam running lengthwise to the building.  The other two beams were found in an old shipyard, and hand hewn to match the others.  Eucalyptus logs from the Patterson Ranch at Newark were used for the other rafters which supported the especially designed and hand made tile roof.  Krafttile of Niles made special floor tiles and three concrete buttresses were constructed to support the Southwest side of the building.

"The front door on the northeast end of the building was carved out of the 3 foot thick wall and a heavy handhewn redwood door was designed by the architect to adorn the opening as well as a similar door for the original side opening - both portals were furnished with suitable leather latch locks.

"Three windows were like-wise opened in the thick adobe wall, two in the north side and one to the right of the original door.  Reimers also designed an attractive round fireplace in the southwest corner of the building which was constructed by one of the nursery employees.
 Historic American Buildings Survey
Robert W. Kerrigan, Photographer
February 15, 1937
Rancho Arroya de la Alameda Adobe,
Niles Boulevard & Nursery Avenue,
Fremont, Alameda County, CA

Find this picture in the Library of Congress

"Adobe bricks were needed to restore the crumbling walls.  so an old Spanish employee, Antonia Torquemada, who knew the art of making adobes, set up an area to the side of the ancient structure and dug a big hold, gathered special adobe soil from the nursery property, and after his helpers dumped the clay into the pit, added some straw and water, and mixed all to the right consistency.

"The workmen poured the mixture into wooden forms, and then left them to dry in the sun for several weeks before they were fitted into the repaired walls.

"Johannes Reimers, Frederick's father who was a landscape architect for the Santa Fe Railroad designed the garden around the adobe, as he had done two decades before at Roeding Park in Fresno.

"From 1935 to the early 1960's, during the months of March and April, the California Nursery had an annual bulb and flower show at which time friends and customers from all over California came to visit and enjoy the hospitality of the "Old Adobe"

"The Show Gardens were ablaze with thousands of tulips and other bulbs., flowers and blooming trees of many varieties.  The interior of the Adobe was filled with flower arrangements to show the possibilities of different combinations of bulbs and flowers, and long branches of flowering trees hung from the overhead beams.

"On Sundays as many as 5,000 visitors crowded the nursery grounds.  The nursery served free tea, coffee and cookies to the visitors, and Spanish costumed musicians entertained the throngs. Volunteer guides from the Toyon Branch of the Children's hospital, under the direction of Mrs. James R. Whipple of Niles, sold sandwiches for the benefit of the society.  Local girls as well as students from Mills College and UC Berkeley dressed in costumes of Dutch or Spanish derivation and acted as hostesses in the gardens during the shows.

Postcard from Golden Gate International Exposition,
from eCollections
"In 1939-40 on Treasure Island on the occasion of the World Exposition, Roeding build an exact replica of the Old Adobe.  An attractive garden was created around the building.  Spanish musicians in costume were an added attraction.  It was the only nursery exhibit at the Exposition and drew world-wide comment for its beauty and originality."

More references

Argus, August 21 and August 22, 1976 Brightside. Frances talks about entertaining.

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