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August 27, 2013 > End of an era?

End of an era?

Submitted By Al Minard

On Monday, July 15, 2013, the City of Fremont allowed demolition of the Otto Hirsch home and barn at 42800 Caldas Court. The Hirsch family, one of the pioneer families that came to California and settled in what became the Irvington area in 1867, built several commercial buildings in Irvington that still stand. They purchased 181 acres of Paul and Louise de Vaux vineyard in 1918 when the amendment to the Constitution to prohibit the sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages (prohibition) was being submitted to the individual states of the United States. The Mission San Jose and Warm Springs area had, before prohibition, over 50 wineries; de Vaux winery was the eighth largest in Washington Township.

After prohibition was passed, most of the wineries closed and were transformed into other forms of agriculture. One of the more common in Washington Township was dairies: seven or eight fairly large dairies milking a total of several thousand cows a day. The Hirsch family leased their land to farmers to build and run a Grade B dairy because it did not have a concrete floor. Milking was probably done by hand, as there is no evidence of piping or multiple electrical outlets to run milking machines, although there is evidence of knob and tube wiring to power lights. This dairy was milking 50 cows at a time and needed one ton of hay for each of two milkings a day to feed the cows. The barn is set up with a rail system to move the hay easily through the barn.

This barn was the last milking barn in Washington Township. It is a purely California style barn with a monitor roof that allows ventilation. Hay was stored on the ground near, but not in, the barn. The California climate allows this type of operation without building a much larger and more substantial barn to store the 300 tons of hay needed for 50 cows during the winter.

The City of Fremont has a demolition ordinance that refers any building over 50 years of age to the Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB), but this building was not reviewed by HARB. The City got a historical analysis, called a DPR 523A Form done by Matthew Davis of Architectural Resources Review Group, Inc., based in San Francisco. Mr. Davis determined that all buildings on this site were ineligible for the National Register of Historic Places, the California Register of Historic Resources and ineligible under the City of Fremont's criteria of significance. This was determined after stating that the buildings had integrity of materials, design and workmanship. These buildings had never been moved and were in decent repair except for a small horse stable.

The City of Fremont's Historical Architectural Review Board has as one of their duties, "18.175.040 (e) To participate in the evaluation of buildings, structures and objects 50 years old or older to determine if such buildings, structures and objects have sufficient historical significance and integrity to merit classification as potential register resources or listing as register resource;"

The State Office of Historic Preservation through the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) normally mandates listing in the California Register of Historic Places for the first and last building of a significant type and those designed by a recognized architect or lived in by a person of historic significance. The ranch house and pool fell into the category of being lived in by a person of historic significance but because several other commercial buildings were built by this family, the building was not preserved. The milking barn was not used by the Hirsch family, but was the last remaining building of its type in Washington Township.

How was this overlooked?
Why was this property not sent to HARB?

Fremont City Manager Fred Diaz attempted to disband the City of Fremont's Historical Architectural Review Board just a few months ago. Is Fred Diaz, the Fremont City Manager, now trying to keep them from reviewing historic properties? Is Fred Diaz, the Fremont City Manager, working with developers to destroy the historical integrity of Fremont?

What is next? The City of Fremont owns Ardenwood Farm. This farm has several buildings that were moved onto the ranch with high hopes of restoring them and making a village of historic buildings. East Bay Regional Park, who leases the Farm area, does not want to restore historic buildings and in fact has problems even maintaining the buildings they do have.

At the present time, the one room Mowry School, located at Ardenwood Farms is being seriously considered for demolition. This is the last one room school house used in Newark. Also the Brown House which was home of the ranch manager for Ardenwood is also scheduled for demolition. Why are we, the public, allowing these historic buildings to be demolished? How can we preserve our heritage by destroying the historic buildings of this area? How can we preserve our history if we allow these homes to be demolished just because they are not "pretty"?

What can you do? Attend the Fremont City Council meeting that meets Tuesday, September 10, 2013 beginning at 7 p.m. at 3300 Capital Avenue, and speak on this subject under Public Comments at the beginning of the Council Meeting. Then attend the Newark City Council meeting the following Thursday, September 12, 2013 that meets at 7:30 p.m., at 37101 Newark Boulevard, Newark, near Thornton. The opportunity to speak is under "Open Communication" near the end of the agenda, but these meetings are often over in one hour or less.

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