Pardee Home Museum for Independence Day
July 4th can be a confusing holiday for me (a different kind of confusion from Christmas), but nonetheless confusing. I want to unabashedly celebrate family and friends and lofty ideals and our little part of American life, but I also want American life to be better for more people and the habitats that support us. Since I see America as more of a dialogue than a fixed concept, it can’t be a time for basking without consideration of the continued efforts that must be made for this beautiful place to work.
Case in point – the 100th birthday of the environmentalist David Brower was yesterday, the same day that 70 of the California State Parks were supposed to close due to budget cuts. They didn’t close, but without the attention focused on making America the country we we want it to be, the things we take for granted these days, like parks, could disappear. These are parks, I was reminded yesterday on a visit to Earth Island Institute, that were fought for for 100 years. It would be a shame for them to vanish while we’re busy decorating flag-shaped cakes on Independence Day.
I’m making the 4th a day about my passion for America, with the thrill of an old fashion celebration to boot. I’m going to make time to read about water – use, practices, policies, conservation – something I have been wanting to spend more time on. Then there’s some good old fashioned fun to be had at the Pardee Home Museum. It might involve one of those flag cakes, but how can I seriously complain about cake?
Pardee Home Museum is squarely in my top favorite places in Oakland. Sure, there are a lot of shiny new things going on, but this house is the heart of the city, and its’ original residents, from what I’ve learned about them, would fit right in to the forward-thinking, creative community that’s sprung up on the surrounding blocks.
The Pardee Family have lots of stories, and I recommend you hear them from the docents while standing in these stately rooms on their tours, but there are a few stand-out things that make Pardee Home so special to me: a Pardee was the Oakland mayor during the 1906 Earthquake and welcomed displaced San Franciscans into Oakland; it was a Pardee who brought the first versions of solar hot water heating to California from the Worlds Fair; a Pardee founded the East Bay Municipal Utilities District. There were strong female Pardees, too, more concerned with anthropological explorations than simply keeping up appearances, as you can see when you tour the inside of the home.
There are lots of fun events at Pardee Home throughout the year, and many locals don’t even know about them! Despite the lack of social media presence, the place is very much alive and well – in fact there’s a shiny new sign labeling the museum that was just put up in the last month.
The most intact Italianate villa estate in Northern California is wonderful inside and out. The gardens are much like what I dream of – some stately, storied trees, a utilitarian kitchen garden, a few fruit trees, some native perennials, and lots of nooks to sit in the sun or shade and dream of a quail coop. Going on now until the beginning of August, there is an antique hat exhibition I look forward to perusing. Oakland still has independent milliners and kitchen gardeners that have once more taken up the small scale work which fills Pardee Home, making it a centerpiece of living history.
Come out for a taste of Independence Days gone by, or some afternoon for high tea in the dining room. On the 4th the events go noon to 4pm with lots of kid-friendly things to do including crafts and old Americana sing alongs. The barbecue will be all fired up; $15 for adults and $5 for children 5-12. High tea and light tea services are available by reservation and come with a private guided tour of the home, $25 and $15 per person, respectively. Regular tours are held every Wednesday at 10:30 as well as the second Saturday of each month at 2 for $5, but you can arrange a tour any time by calling in advance between the hours of 9 and 4. More info here.