The Northern California Chapter of HALS held its eleventh quarterly meeting on May 15, 2007 at the national register home of Governor George Pardee, in downtown Oakland, California.
Pardee House Executive Director David Nicolai gave our group a short history of the property and family. The house was built in 1869 by Enoch Pardee, a former Oakland mayor and California State Assemblyman and State Senator. George Pardee took ownership upon his father’s death in 1896. George also served as mayor of Oakland in 1893 before becoming California’s 21st governor in 1903. Mr. Nicolai described in detail the original furnishings in the family dining room where we held our meeting. Sitting at the head of the table to conduct the meeting, no doubt where Patriarch George Pardee had sat with his family, I felt confident that he would approve of our mission of civic involvement.
Our agenda included status reports on the activities our chapter is engaged in. Sub-committee meetings were scheduled to outline and delegate the tasks of writing content for our planned website, which the University of California at Berkeley has agreed to support.
Cathy Garrett, ASLA, of PGAdesign, gave a somewhat breathless report on plans for Olompoli State Park, having driven directly from the kick-off site visit to the meeting. Cathy had spent the entire day doing field work and meeting with The Olompoli People, a grass-roots organization committed to preserving, rehabilitating and interpreting this 700-acre historically-rich site and its multiple layers of historic significance.
Fredrica Drotos of Friends of Piedmont Way reported that their group is nearly complete with their rehabilitation plan for Olmsted’s first foray into parkway design. Piedmont Way and the master plan for Mountain View Cemetery are examples of Olmsted’s contributions to California’s landscapes. Both will be explored during ASLA’s convention in San Francisco in October. You should not miss the tours of these landscapes…sign up now.
Designed by Ted Osmundson, FASLA and John Staley, ASLA in 1959 for industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, the Kaiser Roof Garden is one of the earliest such gardens in the United States and included many innovative design features as well as being an excellent example of post-war modernism. Marlea Graham, who is leading the research and preparation of the HALS nomination reported on interviews with the following Kaiser Roof Garden designers:
- Lisa Guthrie, landscape architect, whose husband, Walter Guthrie, worked on the plans for the garden.
- David Arbegast, FASLA, Project Designer, and John Sue who prepared the contract documents and did much of the original research on light-weight soil mixes, strategies for placing trees where they would have sufficient support, and an innovation approach to the roof-top drainage system.
- Cornell Maier, who started working at Kaiser Industries in 1949 and ultimately became Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation. Mr. Maier provided rich background on founder Henry J. Kaiser and personal recollections of how the garden was used by employees and for company social events. These first-person oral interviews are augmenting Marlea’s records research.
The SWIG Company, currently owners of the property, has provided copies of a nearly complete set of the contract documents, which were thought to have been lost when the partnership between Ted Osmundson, FASLA, and John Staley, ASLA ended. PGAdesign had the plans scanned and is in the process of creating three sets of drawings for our HALS submission: The garden “as designed”, “as constructed” and “as it exists today”.Our progress is made in “fits and spurts” corresponding to gaps when billable work is stalled.
The meeting concluded with HALS member Tom Brown’s slide show of historic images of the Pardee garden and research on plants known to have been planted by the family. Cathy Garrett, who in 1999 did a master plan for the rehabilitation of the garden, led a tour of the rehabilitated garden with Tom. This property was owned and occupied exclusively by three generations of one family. The home and its contents remain as they were the day the last of four unmarried daughters died and left the property to the Pardee Home Foundation. The master plan for the front, formal garden preserved much of the original features. The side and rear yards have been rehabilitated to accommodate current uses and to accommodate events that occur at the garden and help support its maintenance. Chris Pattillo, ASLA, is Co-chair of the HALS Northern California Chapter and President of PGAdesign, Inc. She can be reached at email@example.com.