It has been far too long since I’ve posted to this blog (or since I’ve received a postcard, for that matter). I hope to add a few cards here in the next few weeks, starting with this vintage map card showing San Francisco Bay in California. San Francisco is probably my favorite city in the United States and I have many fond memories visiting relatives around the Bay while growing up.
My most recent “extended stay” was in late May and early June of 1997 when I spent around 10 days there in order to attend the Pacific 97 International Stamp Exhibition at the Moscone Center. During this time, I stayed with my Uncle Ed and Aunt Gladys in the heights outside of Walnut Creek (using the BART trains as transport between the East Bay and downtown each day). I believe my first visit to this house owned (built?) by my dad’s older brother must have been around 1972. I only made it to the summit nearby of nearby Mount Diablo once, when I was perhaps 13 or 14 years old.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any postcards from Walnut Creek but I was surprised to see the town (and Mount Diablo) marked on this particular map-card which was mailed from San Francisco on the evening of April 25, 1923.
Located in Contra Costa County 16 miles (26 kilometers) east of the city of Oakland, Walnut Creek has a total estimated population of 69,122 and serves as a hub for its neighboring cities because of its location at the junction of the highways from Sacramento and San Jose (I-680) and San Francisco/Oakland (SR-24) and its accessibility by BART. Its active downtown neighborhood features hundred-year-old buildings and extensive high-end retail establishments, restaurants and entertainment venues.
There are three bands of Bay Miwok Indians associated with early Walnut Creek: the Saclan, whose territory extended through the hills east of present-day Oakland, Rossmoor, Lafayette, Moraga and Walnut Creek; the Volvon (also spelled Bolbon, Wolwon and Zuicun) near Mt. Diablo; and the Tactan located on the San Ramon Creek in Danville and Walnut Creek.
Today’s Walnut Creek is located within the earlier site of four Mexican land grants. One of these land grants – measuring 18,000 acres (73 km²) – belonged to Juana Sanchez de Pacheco, who eventually passed the land down to her two grandsons. Ygnacio Sibrian, one of the grandsons, created the first roofed home in the valley in about 1850. The grant was called Rancho Arroyo de Las Nueces y Bolbones, named after the principal waterway, Arroyo de las Nueces (Walnut Creek), as well as for the local group of indigenous Americans (Bolbones). The Arroyo de las Nueces was named for the evidence of the native species of walnut tree, the California Walnut.
With the coming of American settlers following the Mexican–American War, a small settlement called “The Corners” emerged, named because it was the place where roads from Pacheco and Lafayette met. The site of this first American settlement is found today at the intersection of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and North Main Street. The first town settler was William Slusher, who built a dwelling on the bank of Walnut Creek, which was called “Nuts Creek” by the Americans in 1849. In the year 1855, Milo Hough of Lafayette built the hotel named “Walnut Creek House” in the corners. A blacksmith shop and a store soon joined the hotel, and a year later, Hiram Penniman (who built Shadelands Ranch) laid out the town site and realigned the Main Street of today. Two decades later, the community changed its name from The Corners to Walnut Creek.
In December 1862 a United States Post Office was established, and the community was named “Walnut Creek”. The downtown street patterns laid out in 1871–1872 by pioneer Homer Shuey on a portion of one of his family’s large cattle ranches are still present today.
Walnut Creek began to grow with the arrival of Southern Pacific Railroad service in 1891. On October 21, 1914, the town and the surrounding area of 500 acres (2.0 km²), were incorporated as the eighth city in Contra Costa County. A branch line of the Southern Pacific railroad ran through Walnut Creek until the late 1970s. The East Bay Regional Park District’s Iron Horse Trail, used by walkers, runners and bikers, runs over what were portions of that branch line. The mainline of the Sacramento Northern Railway passed through Walnut Creek. Both railroads had stations here. Today, the Antioch–SFO/Millbrae line of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) serves Walnut Creek with a station adjacent to Highway 680.
With the 1951 opening of the downtown Broadway Shopping Center (now Broadway Plaza), Contra Costa County’s first major retail center, the city took off in a new direction, and its population more than quadrupled – from 2,460 in 1950 to 9,903 in 1960.
Walnut Creek – the actual waterway that runs through town – has been routed underneath downtown through a series of tunnels starting at the southwest end of Macy’s and ending just southwest of Maria Maria Restaurant.
Walnut Creek owns more open space per capita than any other community in the state of California. In 1974, Walnut Creek voters approved a $6.7 million bond measure that allowed the city to purchase 1,800 acres (730 ha) of undeveloped hillsides, ridge lines, and park sites. Walnut Creek owns parts of Lime Ridge Open Space, Shell Ridge Open Space, Acalanes Ridge Open Space, and Sugarloaf Open Space. The East Bay Regional Park District operates Diablo Foothills Regional Park and Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area, both in Walnut Creek.
Mount Diablo is nearby, south of Clayton and northeast of Danville. It is an isolated upthrust peak of 3,849 feet (1,173 m), visible from most of the San Francisco Bay Area, appearing from many angles to be a double pyramid. It has many subsidiary peaks, the largest and closest of which is the other half of the double pyramid, North Peak, nearly as high in elevation at 3,557 feet (1,084 m) and about a mile northeast of the main summit. The summit is accessible by foot, bicycle, or motor vehicle. Road access is via North Gate Road or South Gate Road.
The peak is in Mount Diablo State Park, a state park of about 20,000 acres (8,000 ha). The park was the first public open space of a complex — according to Save Mount Diablo — now including 38 preserves, including nearby city open spaces, regional parks, watersheds, that are buffered in some areas with private lands protected with conservation easements. Preserved lands on and around Mount Diablo total more than 90,000 acres (36,000 ha).
Mount Diablo is sacred to many California Native American peoples; according to Miwok mythology and Ohlone mythology, it was the point of creation. Prior to European entry, the creation narrative varied among surrounding local groups. In one surviving narrative fragment, Mount Diablo and Reed’s Peak (Mount Tamalpais) were surrounded by water; from these two islands the creator Coyote and his assistant Eagle-man made Native American people and the world. In another, Molok the Condor brought forth his grandson Wek-Wek the Falcon Hero, from within the mountain.
In 1851 the south peak of the mountain was selected by Colonel Leander Ransom as the initial point — where the Mount Diablo Base and Mount Diablo Meridian lines intersect — for cadastral surveys of a large area. Subsequent surveys in much of California, Nevada and Oregon were located with reference to this point. Toll roads up the mountain were created in 1874 by Joseph Seavey Hall and William Camron (sometimes “Cameron”); Hall’s Mount Diablo Summit Road was officially opened on May 2, 1874. Camron’s “Green Valley” road opened later. Hall also built the 16-room Mountain House Hotel near the junction of the two roads, a mile below the summit (2,500 foot elevation, operated through the 1880s, abandoned 1895, burned circa 1901). As far north as Meridian Road, on the outskirts of Chico, California, the summit was used as a reference point. The road is colinear with the summit, and is named for the meridian which intersects it.
An aerial navigation beacon, the Standard Diablo tower was erected by Standard Oil at the summit in 1928. The 10-million-candlepower beacon became known as the “Eye of Diablo” and was visible for a hundred miles.