The Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum, located at 2660 Ygnacio Valley Road, Walnut Creek, CA 94598-3445, was opened November 18th, 1972 by a group of avid history lovers from Walnut Creek who were known as the Walnut Creek Historical Society. The history of the land the Shadelands Ranch sits upon goes back a lot further than that, however. Its history stretches all the way back to early California settlers in 1856, who bought it as one of the earliest and largest farm properties in its area.
Hiram Penniman came to the beautiful lands of what would later become Walnut Creek California in 1853, and three years later he bought 500 acres of land from Encarnación Pacheco. Encarnación Pacheco was the daughter of Juana Sanchez de Pacheco, the owner of the Mexican land grant where the 500 acres were taken. That land was originally part of the 17,782 acres that made up Rancho Arroyo de Las Nueces y Bolbones.
Penniman made great use of the land, and the most valued crop he would plant would be pruned; while maintaining a healthy variety of fruits and nuts such as pears, peaches, grapes, and almonds to name just a few. What he established as “Shadelands Fruit Farm” would go on to be a successful farm until he fell ill in 1897. By that time, responsibility for the farm would be left in the hands of his daughter, Mary Penniman. Mary struggled to maintain the farm after gaining the Ranch, as they were devastated by a drop in crop prices. The farm only scrapped by with the financial support of Albert Johnson, who was the millionaire husband of Mary’s youngest sister, Bessilyn Morris Penniman.
Eventually, in the middle of the 20th century, Mary, Bessilyn, and Albert would all pass away from various causes. Albert would establish the Gospel Foundation, an organization built for the intention of overseeing Albert’s massive amount of properties and assets after his death. The Gospel Foundation ran Shadelands ranch until the 1970s when they donated the remnants of the ranch and the house to the city of Walnut Creek. By that time, only a measly 1.5 acres of the original 500 acres were left.
Today, Shadelands Ranch is a historical museum that’s maintained by the Walnut Creek Historical Society. The house is now a showcase for an assortment of historical artifacts owned by the Pennimans and is on open display to the public. While the social and physical landscape of California remains ever-changing, the Walnut Creek Historical Society is still working every day on their mission to preserve the history forged by the state’s early settlers.
If you want to visit the Ranch’s museum, they are open for tours on Wednesday and Sunday 1 PM to 4 PM. Their office hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 9 AM to 3 PM, and Wednesday 10 AM to 4 PM. The admission prices are pretty fair, with adults paying $3, students between the ages of 6-17 getting in for $1, and free admission for children under 6. They also ask that large groups make a reservation before coming.
Getting to Silva & Associates from Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum, Walnut Creek
via CA-24 W
- Get on CA-24 W from Ygnacio Valley Rd
- Head southeast toward Ygnacio Valley Rd
- Turn right onto Ygnacio Valley Rd
- Ygnacio Valley Rd turns right and becomes Hillside Ave
- Turn right onto the 24 W ramp to Oakland
- Follow CA-24 W to Brush St in Oakland. Take exit 1C from I980 W
- Continue onto CA-24 W
- Keep left at the fork to stay on CA-24 W
- Continue onto I-980 W
- Use the right 2 lanes to take exit 1C for 12th St
- Continue on Brush St to your destination in Alameda
- Merge onto Brush St
- Continue straight to stay on Brush St
- Turn left onto 7th St
- Use the right 2 lanes to turn right onto Webster St
- Slight right to stay on Webster St
- Continue onto Webster Street Tube
- Use the left lane to turn slightly left onto Constitution Way (signs for Marina Village Pkwy)
- Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto Marina Village Pkwy
- Turn left
- Turn right
- Sharp left