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December 10, 2013 > History Column: Highway to History

History Column: Highway to History

By Phil Holmes

Drivers speeding down Mission Boulevard may not realize that they are following an early pioneer route and passing some of the most historic spots in Alameda County. Stanford Winery at Warm Springs, Mission San Jose and the Vallejo Flour Mill are registered California historical landmarks. The historic Dry Creek Picnic area near Decoto is a regional park.

It takes a bit of imagination to visualize Warm Springs Landing. It used to be just beyond the Nimitz Freeway where it intersects Mission Boulevard at its southern end. The original Warm Springs Village was located nearby, where Mission Boulevard meets Warm Springs Boulevard; a lone palm tree serves as a reminder of days gone by.

Among the most interesting and historical features of our area, five of the six springs were located at the end of Stanford Lane. Water gushed from the side of a hill at about 90 degrees and contained a mixture of minerals, making it very soft. Spanish families came long distances to wash their clothes in the warm, soft water.

Clement Columbet piped the waters into his hotel at the springs and established the most famous and fashionable resort in California.

Leland Stanford bought the property in 1870 and asked his brother to build a race track, plant vineyards and establish an extensive winery operation. An historical landmark plaque states that the winery was founded by Leland Stanford; ÒThe vineyard planted by his brother, Josiah Stanford, helped prove that wines equal to any in the world could be produced in California.Ó

Restored buildings and the winery were later occupied and operated by the Weibel Champagne Vineyards that have moved to Mendocino County.

Ohlone College occupies the previous site of the famous Linda Vista vineyard, orchard, park and dairy. Below the campus is the relocated Mission Rectory and Museum of Local History. Located a short distance away, across Washington Boulevard, the famous Palmdale Gardens are located, now owned by the Sisters of the Holy Family.

Mission San Jose, the fourteenth of the Alta California Missions, was founded June 11, 1797. It grew until vast herds covered the land for miles around; its cattle and crops made it one of the most prosperous missions that supplied food to soldiers and others even when food was hard to get. A huge complex of adobe buildings was erected around a quadrangle of dormitories, workshops, storerooms and the church.

Under Father Narciso Duran, the mission became the administrative seat for all of the missions and gained fame for its talented native musicians.

Today you can visit the surviving Adobe that houses a museum, the reconstructed adobe church and adjacent cemetery.

Signs on Mission Boulevard note the Vallejo Flour Mill site, Historical Landmark No. 46. A small sign just north of Niles Canyon Road indicates that you have arrived at the site. Straight ahead are Eucalyptus trees, a pit and crumbling stone foundation, all that remains of what was one of the most famous flour mills in California.

These are vestiges of VallejoÕs second mill which towered over the site. His first mill, built in 1841, housed a 100 foot long, two-story adobe building. A 200 foot long wooden warehouse erected to the rear of the mill buildings formed a kind of quadrangle. A flume from Niles Canyon led the water around behind the warehouse to the mill where it turned a huge, 30 foot water wheel that powered the grinding machinery inside.

The City of Fremont owns the property and has periodically reviewed plans to reconstruct part of the mill, but so far, it remains in ruins.

Dry Creek was once the most famous picnic site in our area. The Dry Creek Apartment complex at Whipple Road and Mission Blvd. marks the former entrance to the picnic grounds well-known from about 1855 to 1883. Many great May Day and Independence Day celebrations were held here. Families came from miles around to enjoy refreshments, visiting, dancing, games, contests, sports, gunning, Maypole, speeches, music, literary and patriotic exercises. As more people joined the festivities, one day was not enough for the fun seekers so some May Day festivities were expanded to three or four days. Horse-drawn wagons and surreys sometimes were available to carry railway passengers from the train depot. Dry Creek Pioneer Park is operated in tandem with Garin Regional Park but is a separate park under terms of property transfer from previous owners, the Meyers sisters.

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