An Update From
Friends of The Juana Briones House
January 2009

Dear Friends of the Juana Briones House:

Jeanne will be speaking at the book signing of her biography of Juana at the California Historical Society Museum, Bookstore, and Archives, on Thursday, January 8, 6 to 8 PM. This is located at 678 Mission Street, in San Francisco (near 3rd Street, between 3rd and Post).

There is some urgency regarding Tom Hunt's life interest in the cottage and about 1/3 of the Briones property. The cottage itself and the water tower beside it are historically valuable in their own right, but Tom has kept up the $3,000 plus costs annually as long as he has been able, as a tribute to his dedication to the historic value of the main house. I would appreciate suggestions to take to the PAST board meeting on January 7, the first I will attend as a board member. My own thoughts are that a non-profit should take on the life interest, and put the cottage to use. Meetings could be held there, tours done to explain the history of the property, a site to place the two exhibits about Juana Briones. I learned only recently that Olga Loya's very fine impersonation of Juana was based on that first exhibit. She saw it at the Army Museum at the San Francisco Presidio, and realized she could perform the life of that woman. This summer she has been invited to Ohio State University to participate in a week-long Chautauqua program. Please let me know your ideas about the life lease. Tom can legally assign it to a person or organization.

The Alviso Adobe is well worth a visit, and is an inspiration regarding the use that could be made of the Briones house. As one small point, at Juana's house, there is the largest prickly pear cactus I have ever seen. I will quote here the sign on a newly planted, smaller cactus at the Alviso Adobe:
“Early California rancheros used this cactus as natural fences. Carefully pealed fruit was eaten raw; cooked as a vegetable; pickled and boiled down to a syrup or paste; fleshy pods used as a poultice; and the boiled sticky juice added to whitewash to help it adhere to adobe walls.”A lot of reasons for Juana to plant hers.

Signs also note that 5,000 years of history can be seen at the Alviso Adobe, a statement that similarly holds true for the Briones property. Indians lived along Adobe Creek, one of the borders of Juana's property, for thousands of years. A resident once found an Indian mortar and pestle on the land when she was gardening. 
The City of Pleasanton has been largely responsible for the restoration and opening to the public of that wonderful Alviso Adobe. Perhaps Palo Alto needs a little more awakening about its history extending further back than we customarily do, even before 1844 when Juana purchased the Rancho la Purisima Concepcion from Indians.

~ Jeanne Farr McDonnell

Friends of the Juana Briones House
Jeanne Farr McDonnell
Clark and Kathy Akatiff
Tony Cisneros
Corrie Jimenez
Professor Al Camarillo
Your humble webmaster, Sally Watrolik, of InnerVisions Design
and All of You!

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Send inquiries to: Clark Akatiff
Thank you for your continued interest in Juana Briones' Heritage and our progress in saving her historic house from demolition and our plans for a living history program.


A Handful of Adobe, A Houseful of History...One Woman Built it, All of us can save it.

Jeanne McDonnell's book is in print
The biography, Juana Briones of 19th Century California, is now in print and available from the University of Arizona Press.

cover art pending

View Previous Action Updates from 2008
Update 7

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