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December 6, 2005 > An Ardenwood Reunion

An Ardenwood Reunion

"It was an eerie feeling to drive into Ardenwood again," said Leslie Buck as she remembered past visits to her family's estate. Her father was one of George Patterson's grandsons. She and her cousin Virginia Sargent were busy on the last day of November decorating one of the George W. Patterson House bedrooms with family heirlooms in preparation of a special viewing by Patterson House Foundation members and subsequent tours by the general public.

Randy Hees, Patterson House director for the city of Fremont has been busy coordinating volunteer groups that decorate each room of the house for the Christmas season. He commented that the result is "different and spectacular!" A history buff, dedicated to the preservation of the historic home and gardens, Hees was able to help the cousins understand and fill in some of their family background as they gazed at books, pictures and other artifacts of the family. As the women reminisced about their childhoods and family stories, the house seemed to take on another dimension - no longer just an old house, but rather a home with personality - "the men visiting in grandpa's gun room and the women retiring to the kitchen and kids roaming throughout; it was simply "grandpa's house."

"Clara Patterson was my great-grandmother's aunt," said Sargent. My great-grandmother's mother (Charlotte Hawley) was Clara's eldest sister. Their parents were James and Hettie Hawley. My great-great grandmother married into the Whipple family and had 8 children. When Charlotte was young, her mother died and Clara Patterson took "more than an average interest" in the young girl. My great-grandmother was taken by her eldest sister to live with the Hawleys but Clara took the young woman under her wing and paid for her education at the Anna Head School for girls in the 1890's. Anna Head was an Oakland High School classmate and very good friend of Clara Patterson.

Virginia's mother, Donna Sargent, noted that Clara was a forward-thinking woman who thought modern things were wonderful. "She was the reason the railroad station was built on the property," says Hees adding, "George swore he would never use the railroad as long as he lived and as best we can tell, he never did."

Moving through the Patterson House room decorated by Virginia and Leslie, a small chair with a "B" emblazoned on it, is displayed. It was thought to have been made by James Hawley, a skilled carpenter, who carved the initial for his granddaughter Bertha. It is believed that James helped George build the old section of the Patterson House. "This is probably our oldest family heirloom," says Virginia "and we are happy to share it with everyone this Christmas season." On a nearby table, books are displayed that were used by Virginia's great-grandmother (Bertha) and aunt Jean. A cuddly teddy bear sits nearby, also a family heirloom.

A picture on the wall shows Bertha's two daughters, Virginia (Virginia's namesake and grandmother) and her sister Jean. Virginia was born about 9 months after Donald Patterson, the eldest son of William Patterson. Another picture in the room shows the cousins playing together on the porch of another Patterson home that burned down. The family also has postcards from Europe from when Donald Patterson accompanied his grandmother on one of her trips and asked for cards to be sent to his playmate. The room is filled with additional well-preserved items including Bertha's handmade bedspread.

Virginia noted that this is the first year a significant number of family heirlooms have been put on display for the Christmas open house. There are a few other items in the house that have been donated by the family on a permanent basis. "This is a rare home in that not only is the home intact, but family furniture is in the same location as it was when the family lived here." Even though some of the pieces were not owned by the Pattersons, there is a family connection and it is historically accurate."

An interesting note to this display is that although Virginia was aware of the family history, she and Leslie were strangers until they recently discovered their common heritage. In fact, Virginia attended Kathryn Branson School in Marin County a year ahead of Leslie's younger sister, Laura and never knew they were related until a few years ago. "The more I research my own family history, the more I can share; and the more Randy [Hees] and other people do archival history here, the more it enriches my understanding of my family."

Christmas Evening at the Patterson House

Friday, December 9

5 p.m.

Christmas in the Patterson House

Saturday, December 17

11 a.m.

Patterson House Tours also scheduled for December 10, 11, 17, 18

Ardenwood Historic Farm

34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont

(510) 796-0663 (Ardenwood)

(510) 791-4196

Adults $4; Children $3 (includes park entrance)

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