actual photo of Juana Briones

Photograph of Juana Briones
Courtesy of NPS Point Reyes National Seashore Archives

An Update From
Friends of The Juana Briones House
Spring 2009

Corri Jimenez submitted a blog article to the National Trust on Juana Briones, the first blog the Trust has posted for Historic Women's History Month. Corri wishes to thank you all for your own diligence to the cause, and to please enjoy the article!

Dear Friends of the Juana Briones House:

Jeanne will be a speaker at National Hispanic University's 'Homenaje a la Mujer: Back to the Future' program on April 24 and Olga Loya will also do a short version of her Juana monologue. I learned only recently that Olga Loya's very fine impersonation of Juana was based on an exhibit she saw 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.

The Western Association of Women Historians' annual conference will be at Santa Clara University this year, April 30 to May 3. Jeanne will be a panelist with the session chaired by Robert Senkewicz, 'Women in Community and Commerce in California History' on Friday May 1. Her talk is titled 'Juana Briones: A Biographer's Dilemma.'

An recent article in the Palo Alto Daily about the Town & Country shopping center told how a new owner had thought of tearing it down and starting over, but he “was told by residents and officials that it wouldn't fly politically.” How not to be reminded that the City of Palo Alto issued a demolition permit for the Briones House, the oldest structure in the City and a rare building style for all of California. 

No response that is known of has been made to the Briones House owners' statement, through their attorney, that they would consider a settlement and a donation. Their suggestion, that most of the historic house would be torn down and they would build another house on the rest of the lot, appears impractical from a preservation standpoint.

Jeanne would like to hear opinions about how or whether we should be responding to the owners. Her personal opinion is this:  Open negotiations based on the understanding that the owners would agree to donate the entire property as is, with no financial impediments attached. Persons interested would attempt to locate one, or a coalition of several, public entities willing to accept the donation of the acre and a half of land and structures.

Besides the obvious, here are some positive points: 22-acre Esther Clark Park in Palo Alto across the street was originally part of the Briones ranch. The land was owned by Dr. Clark, who for a long time was the only pediatrician between San Mateo and San Jose. Her being a doctor, as Juana was a curandera, seems a pleasant coincidence. Juana died in 1889, Dr. Clark died in 1990 It also seems significant that her brother, Birge Clark, was a noted Palo Alto architect, who could have been helpful in assessing the historic building still standing at 4155 Old Adobe Rd. 

There are remnants of Indian occupation of the site and some other positive points: Many schools over the years brought children to the Briones House for lessons in California history when the Women's Heritage Museum sponsored public tours 20 days a year. Several tours led by docents each of those days would be scheduled to accommodate the many who applied to attend. Also a small fee was charged, so potentially there would be some income to whatever agency or agencies took it over: school districts, city, county, non-profit organizations. Funding sources would need to be approached, as well as organizations that could be interested in planning for use of the property.

~ Jeanne Farr McDonnell

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

Join In The Action!
Our Public Relations Team brings together an enthusiastic group with experience in community leadership, education, fund raising, law, and business.
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
Action Update 7
Action Update 8

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