Monday, May 13, 2013

Celebrating the Sempervirens Story — More than 100 Years of Conservation

San Jose, CA – May 6, 2013

On May 18, 1900 the Sempervirens Club was founded by photographer and painter Andrew Putnam Hill of San Jose to save the old-growth redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains. The Sempervirens were pioneers in the conservation movement, and the home of Andrew and Florence Hill is now located in History Park.*

In order to celebrate Sempervirens’ 113th Anniversary, History Park will host a family day focused on trees, photography, painting and conservation. Andrew P. Hill, founder of the the Sempervirens who helped to save the Big Basin Redwoods, documented his studies with paintings and photography, which will be featured inside his home, open in History Park for the festivities on May 19.

Mountain Charlie McKiernan will be on hand at 2 PM with his story of a fight with a grizzly bear, and how he lived to tell about it. Mountain Charlie will be available for photo opportunities, as will Portraits of the Past characters dressed in attire of the period.

Children are invited to go on an edu-trek, which focuses on the trees of History Park, while the entire family will learn through fun activities.

Sunday, May 19 is also Archaeology Day.

Fun for children includes Dig San José: Public Archaeology Day with Stanford Archaeology Students providing guidance and an opportunity to dig and become a junior archaeologist.

The Print Shop will be open to learn about printing before computers. The Printers Guild will demonstrate by giving away souvenir bookmarks printed on an 1884 platen letterpress.

Plein Air Painters will be painting throughout the Park and hosting a beginner’s workshop from noon to 3 PM.

Hill was also known for his documentation of nature, so those who bring their cameras may follow Master Photographer John Paulson from 1 – 3 PM on a photographic trek of the Park.

Live music will be performed in the bandstand at History Park and the trolley will be available for rides throughout the park.

Refreshments will be available for purchase from O’Brien’s Ice Cream Parlor and Tony’s Popcorn Cart.

Admission is free for HSJ members, or $5 per person, 4 years old and older. City parking lots are $6. History Park is located at Senter Road at Phelan, in San Jose, CA. (for GPS purposes, use 635 Phelan Avenue, San Jose, CA).

Buildings Open on Sunday, May 19:
  • Pacific Hotel Galley & the Leonard & David McKay Gallery 
  • Trolley Barn with California Trolley & Railroad Corp. 
  • Print Shop with the Printers Guild 
  • Hill House with the Victorian Preservation Association 
  • Paulson House with the California Pioneers of Santa Clara Valley 
  • Chinese American Historical Museum with Chinese Historical and Cultural Project 
  • Portuguese Historical Museum with the Portuguese Heritage Society of California 
  • Dashaway Stables 
  • Stevens Ranch Fruit Barn 

*About Andrew Putnam Hill and the Sempervirens: A selection of photographs by A. P. Hill, as well as portraits of the Hill family, can also be found in History San Jose’s Photographic Collection and the Leonard McKay Collection.

Guide to the Sempervirens Club of California Records
Search the History San Jose online catalog
Purchase prints of A. P. Hill’s photographs through History San Jose’s PrintRoom gallery

Bear in Mind: The Story of the California Grizzly

San José, CA – May 7, 2013 — Does a bear walk through the woods? We don’t know, but the California Grizzly will be touring through History San José beginning in May.

Opening to the public on Sunday, May 25 at the Leonard & David McKay Gallery at the Pasetta House in History Park, the touring exhibition, Bear in Mind: The Story of the California Grizzly, brings ecology and history together.

“It is this type of historic exhibit that makes the History San José partnerships so significant,” said Alida Bray, President and CEO of History San José. “Grizzly bears, nature, science, art and photography — all of these monumental stories are what evolves the Santa Clara Valley into today’s Silicon Valley.”

Over the centuries, the relationship that Californians have had with the grizzly bear is one of dualities -– expressed in fear and fascination. Although now extinct in the state, the grizzly has long been a central character in California’s history. Illuminating the story of the grizzly bear, this exhibition will run at History Park through December, 2013.

Scientists estimate that 10,000 grizzlies once lived in California, perhaps the densest population of brown bears on the continent. However, through increased human settlement, loss of habitat, and hunting, by the early 1900s the California grizzly had vanished and could only be seen on the state flag.

It is through exhibits and artifacts, some from the collection of History San José, that Bear in Mind provides an in-depth look at the history and science of one of California’s most revered and feared animals.

The exhibition is produced and toured by Exhibit Envoy and was developed in concert with The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley and Heyday Books, and supported by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation with additional funds from the Bank of the West.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

San Jose’s First Piano

Martha "Patty" Reed Lewis in Capitola,
circa 1910 (History San Jose)
(Part of our “From the Piano Bench” series, reprints from the San Jose Historical Museum archives)

By Anne-Louise Heigho

An article in the San Jose Mercury of December 22, 1941, traces the history of the first piano in San Jose: it was a rosewood square grand, made by an Albany builder named Burns in 1849. Purchased by a Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, it then made the voyage by ship around the Horn to San Francisco. Mrs. Wilson insisted that the instrument be accessible for playing, not consigned to the hold for ballast [what effect do you suppose that had on its tune and condition?], and that was her last chance to enjoy it. Upon arrival at Yerba Buena (as the fledgling city was still called], her husband pawned it to the newly rich James Frazer Reed for $1000. If the Wilsons were successful in the diggings they could redeem the instrument; otherwise, another $500 would give Reed absolute ownership. [This, in a time when you could build a large house for about $100...] The piano was moved to San Jose by wagon — why not by water, when there were no responsible roads? Again, we question the effect on the hapless instrument.

James Frazer Reed, survivor of the infamous Donner-Reed overland party, had himself struck a Golconda in the goldfields and returned to San Jose to buy up much of the downtown property between the SJSU campus and route 280. Local streets are named for his family: Margaret, Martha, Virginia, Reed, etc. He wanted the piano for his daughter, Virginia, to use, and contracted with a local Frenchman named Love for a series of piano lessons for $175. Another kind of love interfered with that project, for Virginia soon quit and got married. The rest of the lessons were snapped up by younger sister Martha [nicknamed Patty], who was apparently more receptive to music, for she persisted in the art. Patty’s succeeding teacher, Jessie B. Winlack, was luckless enough to be returning to her Scottish family by way of the steamer Jenny Lind when it blew up at Alviso in 1858, killing her and most of the other passengers.

Patty had later connections with the Pacific Conservatory, whose faculty member J. M. Moody wrote a series of “Nine Songs,” and dedicated one to Patty, now designated as Martha Reed Lewis. She had married and moved to Capitola, where she was one of the founders of St. Johns’ Episcopal Church. According to the newspaper article, the “first piano” had come with her and was still in the family home in 1941.

Read more about History San Jose’s Music Collection.