Monday, May 10, 2010

Niles - Local Keepers, Round 2

One of the places I still needed to visit was the grounds of the old California Nursery Company, now a historic park and home to Naka Nursery. Another nursery, Mission Adobe, recently vacated the premises and Naka will be out by the end of this coming July.
The California Nursery Company once sat on 600 acres, using water from Alameda Creek for irrigation. Today's park is 35 acres in size. Here is the main road that led from Mission Blvd. into the nursery grounds. The people you see are heading into Naka Nursery.

This lath-covered walkway is one of the iconic images of the California Nursery Company. It leads out to a large circular area also covered with lath. Lath helps protect plants from too much hot sun.

I did not see any signs announcing the historic park. Mas Nakamura, brother of the late owner of the Naka Nursery, toured me around the grounds and showed me this sign. It is posted on Niles Blvd. quite far from the park entrance. It appears to have lost its lower board reading "Park."

I made a second run to the Museum of Local History on Saturday afternoon; they had an old order pad from the California Nursery Company on display. Actually, Niles had two displays-one of the nursery heritage, which featured the California Nursery Company and Shinn's Nurseries, the two most influential nurseries in the area. The second display was on the Essanay Film Studio, which I know Maurice is writing about.

The old water tower support beams, made out of heart redwood and as strong today as when they were first used. The rose is a Lady Banks, one of the more popular in Niles.

The J.J. Vallejo adobe that I wrote about earlier has been preserved and is in the central area of the remaining 35 acres. John Rock, who started the California Nursery Company in 1884, used it as a fumigation house. The Roeding family restored it (I think during the 1930s) and it has since undergone additional preservation.

A painting of the growing fields with the foothills in the background. The highest peak is Mission Peak, in Mission San Jose.

These coast live oaks were waiting to be planted within the park but have rooted right through their containers into the ground. These trees are not going anywhere now!

The California Nursery Company supplied plants for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, including palms for the Palm Court. They came back to the nursery once the fair was over and were planted along one edge of the property. This cluster is close to Niles Blvd.

Palms are planted all over the property, including some rare specimens.

A painting of one of the palms on the property.

The Friends of Heirloom Flowers (the same folks volunteering at the Shinn Historic Park) maintain this rose garden next to the driveway. The old windmill is left over from the tulip festivals held by the California Nursery Company in the 1930s.

The last office of the California Nursery Company.

A shade garden has been planted close by the office.

The old Landers house, lived in by the owner of the nursery between John Rock's death in 1904 and George Roeding's purchase of the nursery in 1917. This house is now the work office of Naka Nursery. Mas Nakamura is standing to the right of the photo. He very generously and kindly loaned me some historical materials that he had and drove me around the grounds in his electric cart. He also made a gift of a framed photograph of California Nursery Company workers taken in 1890, plus found an 1889 map of the grounds for me.

Mas driving me past one of the old California Nursery Company barns.

A row of sheds and barns, close by the Landers house.

Much of the grounds has been allowed to grow wild. It is totally cool.

One of the old roads that led between planted fields of trees and flowers.

A pile of discarded nursery pots and stakes.
The nursery display for Niles at the Museum of Local History. Note the two three-legged fruit picking ladders hung on the wall.

The 1926 price list of roses offered for sale by the California Nursery Company.

The Museum of Local History also had one Shinn's Nurseries catalog.
They also had an engraving of the Shinn property, with the farmhouse built in 1876 featured prominently, along with a water tower and lots of trees.
I got off work early Friday and took advantage to go and visit the old grounds of the California Nursery Company. They are just about a mile away from where I live. I had been told the property was both a historic park and home to two nurseries, but both of those nurseries were in the process of closing. Mission Adobe moved out over the past month and Naka Nursery will be gone by the end of July. I believe the City of Fremont is looking for new nursery tenants.
Bruce Roeding, the grandson of George Roeding Sr., is a member of the California Nursery Company Legacy Council. This group has been formed to maintain the park and (I believe) create a museum or archive of the company's papers and other memorabilia. I called him this past Saturday and left a voice mail message asking to talk to him, but haven't heard anything back yet. I'm really hoping to touch base with him.
Mas Nakamura was working in the Naka office when I was wandering around the grounds on Friday, and one of his workers took me in to talk to him. Mas immediately loaned me what files he had on the California Nursery Company and then took me around the property in his electric cart. He was the one who identified the 1915 Pan Pacific palms for me and showed me where the official park sign was. He was very helpful, to say the least! He also gave me a framed photograph of the California Nursery Company workers taken in 1890. Way too cool!
I asked Mas how his brother got started in the nursery business and he told me he learned it after WWII. The family was not associated with nursery work before the war. His brother passed away and now Mas and his sister run the business. However, part of the reason they are closing is that the son and daughter who inherited the business are split on whether or not to keep it or sell it, with court mediation banging the hammer down on the place. So Naka Nursery is in the midst of closing down, which made Mas's time for me all the more generous.
On Saturday I made a second visit to the Museum of Local History. It was another quiet and peaceful day with just Corrinne and me in the place. She let me scan all of the nursery-related materials used in the Niles display, plus located photographs of both the Shinn place and the California Nursery Company. I scanned those as well and now need to take some time to sort through all of these primary materials that I have been collecting over the past weeks.
Coming up: Niles-Shinns's Nurseries and Niles-The California Nursery Company

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