Author Archive

Protecting the Story of Juana Briones & Her California Gem

Posted on: March 25th, 2009 by Guest Writer 7 Comments

 

Juana Briones (Credit: National Park Service's Point Reyes National Seashore Archives)

Juana Briones (Credit: National Park Service's Point Reyes National Seashore Archives)

On March 12, 1802, Juana Briones y Tapia de Miranda was born in Villa de Branciforte (present-day Santa Cruz), which was one of three secular villas in Alta California.

Juana’s father, a Spanish corporal, was a participant in both the 1769 Portola and the 1775-76 De Anza Expeditions. In 1812, the Briones Family moved north to the Presidio de San Francisco, and in 1820, Juana married Apolinario Miranda in Yerba Buena (current-day San Francisco), where she mothered 11 children between 1821-1841. In San Francisco, the Briones Family operated a dairy farm in what is now North Beach. In addition to being a rancher, Juana was a curandera, or a practitioner of traditional medicines, and was highly regarded by both early Californios and American settlers.

In 1822, Alta California shifted hands from Spanish rule to Mexican, and although the territory changed hands politically, little changed in regard to individual land ownership. In 1843-44, Juana purchased for $300 a 4,442-acre parcel (known as Rancho La Purísima Concepción) from Neophyte Indian José Gorgonio in the Palo Alto hills. Still standing today, the wood-framed, rammed-earth and adobe brick house is believed to have been built by American desertee sailors.

Juana Briones House, c. 1890 (Credit: Palo Alto Historical Association Archives)

Juana Briones House, c. 1890 (Credit: Palo Alto Historical Association Archives)

With the incorporation of Mexican California into the United States, land ownership for many early Californios was challenged by the requirement of proof of ownership. In keeping her rancho, Juana hired the best attorney in California, Henry Wager Halleck, and with her rich ancestry proved ownership to both the Land Commission and the U.S. Supreme Court in 1856, which allowed her to retain her property. At a time when American women could not own land, Juana’s case was unique, setting a precedent for other early settlers. In 1884, Juana moved to Mayfield (now Palo Alto), and eventually died in 1889 at the age of 87.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and Juana lives on in the ambition of local preservationists who are fighting to save her 165-year-old house. Designated a California State Historical Landmark in 1954, the house has sat abandoned in an affluent neighborhood for over ten years, open to the elements and suffering from earthquake damage. In 2007, it was threatened by the possibility of demolition, which encouraged twenty volunteers to document the building with a Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).

Just as Juana fought for custody of her lands, preservationists today continue to fight for her story in the hope of saving this early California gem.

- Corri Jimenez

Corri Jimenez received her master's degree from the University of Oregon in historic preservation. In 2007, she led a volunteer HABS documentation project on the Juana Briones House. She currently works as a preservation consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information on Juana Briones, see "Juana Briones of 19th Century California" by Jeanne Farr McDonnell (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2008) or visit online.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

A Lobby Day Throwdown: Bring It On

Posted on: March 24th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Admit it: you’re getting just a teensy bit tired of hearing about this coffee-guzzlin’, sandals-with-socks-wearin’, software-lovin’ group from the other Washington being touted as the biggest, baddest team of preservation advocates to storm the halls of Congress since, well, who knows when.

Although we’ve worked hard to earn this claim to fame (and loved every minute of the limelight this year), we’ve decided that the time has come to relinquish our title, but it’s gonna cost you.

Team Way Outside the Beltwayers is throwing down the gauntlet and officially challenging other states to take us down by bringing a bigger, badder team to Lobby Day in D.C. next year. What’s on the line, you ask? Nothing short of bragging rights and a round of drinks on us at the Willard Hotel. And, let me tell you that nothing beats raising a toast with your teammates in the Nest at the end of that long, yet rewarding day of lobbying. If you don’t believe me, just ask our friends from Indiana.

In the spirit of leveling the playfield (all for the good of the movement, of course), we’re even willing to offer a few tips to assist you in your quest to unseat us:

Talk it up. If you’ve had the privilege of carrying the preservation mantle for your state on Lobby Day, tell everyone you meet what an amazing and worthwhile experience it is. Tell them how thrilling it is to become totally steeped in the national preservation agenda, to experience D.C. from the inside, and to know you are truly making a difference by joining preservationists from around the country to advocate on this important day. Oh, and in describing the experience, you might want to leave out adjectives like hectic and exhausting. Also, omit the part about how you seriously thought your feet were going to fall off at the end of the day.

Think outside the box. Diversity is the key to a strong, well-balanced Lobby Day team. Some of our most passionate and articulate voices for preservation aren’t preservation professionals at all; they are historic barn owners, county council members, former educators, developers and maritime heritage enthusiasts. The common thread? We all share a belief that historic preservation makes a difference in our landscapes and in our lives.

Start recruiting now. For the best results in recruiting a well-balanced cadre of seasoned lobbying veterans and enthusiastic first timers, don’t wait until a few weeks before the trip to begin cobbling together your team. Plant the Lobby Day seed now, and cultivate it throughout the year by sending legislative updates and keeping potential participants informed and excited about what is going on. Oh, and try to recruit at least one representative from each of your state’s congressional districts. This will send a strong message that preservation matters in every corner of your state.

Show them the money. Traveling to and staying in D.C. is expensive, so make it easier for folks to make the trip by offering travel stipends. Even if you can’t cover all of their travel expenses, often times offering even a few hundred dollars can make it more possible for someone to participate. Also, remember to cultivate the ongoing support of your Lobby Day scholarship donors by keeping them informed throughout the year.

The ball is in your court now. Show Preservation Action, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and most importantly, your congressional delegation how much preservation matters in your state by putting together your largest Lobby Day team yet.

Beat Team Way Outside the Beltwayers and our consistent, double-digit team numbers next year, and the glory (and the libations) will be yours to savor…for at least a year.

- Jennifer Meisner

Way Outside the Beltwayer Jennifer Meisner is the executive director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Top Ten Tips From a Lobby Day Vet

Posted on: March 23rd, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

When Team Way Outside the Beltwayers first debuted on PreservationNation.org, I answered "too long ago to remember" to the bio question that asked how long ago I had been recruited to represent the State of Washington at Lobby Day.

It has, in fact, been a while, and I've picked up a tip here and there over the years. This morning, in anticipation of in-district lobby month (May is just around the corner, you know?), I want to share my top ten list with you.

1 - They work for us. Representative Norm Dicks told me this many years ago. Don’t be nervous about talking to your elected officials. They work for you and they respond to you.

2 - Know your stuff. There is no substitute for competence. If you are competent, you inspire confidence. If elected are confident in your information, then you’ve just won influence.

3 - Prioritize your asks. Each state should decide what they’re asking for. We can’t ask for everything or the message will be diluted. Determine what aspects of the national agenda are most important to you and your state.

4 - Tie your ask for a national priority back to the local district. For Washington, we give information on Preserve America grants, Save America's Treasures grants, etc. Let them know what those programs are doing back home.

5 - Try to have someone from the district in the meeting as a lead. If this can’t happen, the statewide or SHPO becomes the best person to lead the conversation.

6 - Get cards for follow-up. Staffers are extremely important, and relationships built with them pay dividends.

7 - Don’t dismiss staffers because they look like they’re 12. They often recycle into more senior-level positions with the elected official, or they go on to work with other elected officials or committees. Regardless, they can help you down the road, so ask where they’re from and try to make a connection with them.

8 - Schedule a meeting with your governor’s representative or chief of staff in Washington, D.C. They can provide invaluable advice about your delegation, and it’s good to have them up to speed.

9 - Value the time you’re given. Get to the point quickly. Make the ask. Try to get the member or the staffer talking. Ask them for feedback.

10 - Understand that lobbying is theater. The guts of advocacy happen at the district and state level. Get to know your local office staffers. Invite them to events. Take them on tours. Lobby Day is meant to convey the extent of the support for historic preservation, but it's not an end in itself. The real value of Lobby Day is building state advocacy networks, getting participants familiar with national issues, and building relationships with members and their staffers. The real work always happens back home.

- Mary Thompson

Way Outside the Beltwayer Mary Thompson is a preservation consultant and a member of the National Trust’s Board of Trustees. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Lobbying is Like a Box of Chocolates

Posted on: March 20th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Preservation Lobby Day comes full circle when you share your experiences and enthusiasm with your friends and neighbors back home, which is why I always prepare a long and short version of my tips, take-aways and observations. In the interest of time (I know you have other blogs to read this morning), I’ll share the latter.

First of all, everything you’ve heard on this blog and elsewhere about needing to have a canned elevator speech that you can rattle off at the drop of a hat is 100% true. Whether you’re on the Hill or in your mayor’s office, that quick, no-holds-barred appeal is one of the most important tools you can have in your back pocket. For instance, between our Hill visits this year, I happened to spy Congressman Dave Reichert (former King County sheriff and a lieutenant at the North Bend police precinct while I served as mayor) as he scurried across the walkway between the Capitol and the House office buildings. We had a great, spur-of-the-moment conversation about home and how historic preservation makes a real difference to the economy in his district. He pledged his support and said he would review our requests – all in about three minutes as other hurried staffers and lobbyists dodged us on the sidewalk!

Also, always anticipate setbacks and curveballs. One year, Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn was late for her appointment with our group, but she called requesting that we hang around for a while. Turns out, she had been unexpectedly called to the White House to meet with the president! She only kept us waiting for about half an hour, and we had a productive and enlightening conversation upon her return.

Most importantly, don’t leave a meeting without looking your elected officials (or their staffers) straight in the eye and telling them what you believe. Grab every opportunity you get, but don’t waste their time. As a former mayor, I can’t begin to tell you how effective this simple strategy can be.

And of course, be prepared for anything (and everything). After all, lobbying is like a box of chocolates…

Happy hunting.

- Joan Murray Simpson

Way Outside the Beltwayer Joan Murray Simpson is a preservation enthusiast and the former mayor of North Bend, Washington. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

March Madness has reached fever pitch at Washington High School, but I’m not talking about basketball.

You see, as soon as the afternoon bell sounds tomorrow, I (and all of my fellow Research History classmates) will officially be on Spring Break. And, as if the recurring daydreams about a week of uninterrupted bliss (no offense, Mr. LaRue) weren’t distracting enough, we’re also dealing with the constant background noise of banging furniture and packing tape. Why? Because Washington High School is moving…next door.

That’s right, when we return from vacation, we’ll report to an entirely new school building. Right now, we’re cramped in what has always felt like a makeshift home that was thrown together in 1968. Currently, you can find us fifth period Research History students held up in an upstairs math classroom vying for any unoccupied computers. During this particular period, Mr. LaRue teaches an overcrowded economics class, and has no real time or space for us. Rumor has it that, at the new school, there will be enough space in his room to house both the economic students and us Research History folks in harmony. And hey, more space and better technology means more blogging…

Earlier this week, I got to tour the new castle…I mean campus. Though I’m not a huge fan of graduating from a school that I’ve only attended for a few weeks, the new digs are pretty impressive when you consider how cramped we are now (see photos above from our updated Flickr photostream). However, there are rules about everything (stairs, doors, etc.), and there are surveillance cameras peeping out from everywhere. Oh, and no food either, which isn’t good news for Mr. LaRue and his animal crackers and banana bread.

Good or bad, all of this change (moving from a strange place to one that, in some ways, feels even stranger) has made my classmates and I look back at our middle school, which is a historic building across town that was built in 1913. We all (minus Marci, who joined us last year from a different school) love the beautiful and inspiring atmosphere of that building. We are so happy that it is being kept in use because that’s where we changed from little kids to teenagers.

I look back and remember in sixth grade when I basically broke my leg and had to wear an immobilizer. Between each and every class, I had to make my way up and down the three floors. In doing so, I definitely got to know the place, which is a good thing. Bryan really loves the band room there, and Brittney remembers sitting in the art room and drawing on those old, “artsy” desks. And we all loved kicking back in the auditorium for our reward movie days for not missing school.

Long story short, there are features of that school that you just won’t find anywhere else – including the shiny new castle. But change happens, and in addition to encouraging us to look back, it’s also prompting us to look forward. Graduation is not too far around the corner, and we’re all feeling excited, nervous and maybe even scared to death.

But whatever, that’s another topic for another blog. For now, it’s time for Spring Break.

- Sara S.

Sara S. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. For the remainder of this semester, she'll be working with her Research History classmates on a variety of preservation projects, including documenting and preserving Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.