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October 18, 2011 > Archives illuminate local history

Archives illuminate local history

By Julie Grabowski

Celebrate National Archives Month by exploring a wonderful local resource and delving into history. The Sisters of the Holy Family invite the community to join them Saturday, October 22 for a lecture and tour of their archives located on the beautiful Fremont grounds known as Palmdale.

This event allows the public to tour the newly renovated Archives Building where they can view articles of interest such as photographs, heirloom artifacts, diaries, personal biographies, and oral histories. The archives date back to the 1870s when the Sisters of the Holy Family was founded, and provides a narrative of early California life and the women who helped bring culture and civilization to San Francisco when it was still a frontier town.

Sisters of the Holy Family is a community of Roman Catholic Sisters founded in 1872 in San Francisco by Elizabeth Armer and Father John Joseph Prendergast with the mission to minister to the poor and needy, especially children and families. In 1948 the Motherhouse was moved to Fremont upon purchase of the historic Starr and Best homes as well as the property called Palmdale Estates, from which the Sisters still faithfully serve the community today.

At Saturday's event, Sr. Michaela O'Connor will give a lecture about the historic Palmdale property and its previous occupants, a line that reaches back to the Ohlone Indians. In addition to exploring the archives, refreshments will be served in Armer Hall and attendees may take a self-guided tour of the grounds before or after the lecture. The Motherhouse grounds are approximately 14 acres with palm trees and native California trees, gorgeous lawns, gardens, and pond, making it a popular site for weddings.

"The archives encompass much more than religious history; it offers an insight into daily living in the early days of San Francisco, and documents the important contributions made by women religious in the development of education, arts, culture, religion and family life in California," says Charlotte Hall, who has worked with the Sisters since the early 1990s and wrote a book on them with her husband James W. Hall entitled "A Legacy of Caring." "The event will appeal to people interested in local history, Catholic history or the history of California."

But the opportunity for discovery isn't only for those who come to the event. The Sisters want the community to know about the abundance of information they posses, and are more than happy to share with students, scholars, writers, or anyone interested in learning more about their local history. Those interested in exploring the archives should call (510) 624-4596 for an appointment and ask for archivist Sr. Michaela O'Connor. The new building doubles the basement space previously used, and makes the archives more easily accessible to others and open to exciting new possibilities.

Explore the rich history and beauty of this local spot while supporting the importance of preserving a record of memory and history, acknowledging all that has come before in order to make us what we are today.

For more information contact Sr. Loretta Marie Marbach at (510) 624-4515.

Archive Tour
Saturday, October 22
2:30 p.m.
Sisters of the Holy Family
159 Washington Blvd., Fremont
(510) 624-4515

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