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2023 Virtual Programs

The History of the Moraga Adobe Virtual Program - November 16, 2023 

Kent Long, President of the Friends of the Joaquin Moraga Adobe, provided an in-depth look at one of Northern California’s oldest surviving adobe structures.

Built between 1841-1848, the Moraga Adobe was the home of Joaquin Moraga, whose grandfather founded both the San Francisco Presidio and the city of San Jose.  His father was also an important military leader and explorer. This connection to influential families in early California history sheds light on the politics and rancho society of the era.

Long discussed the one-story adobe’s long history, from the Mexican rancho period through the American ranching period, and into the 20th century. In addition, he covered the adobe’s unique architecture, its initial restoration in the 1940s, and the current work to further restore it and open it as a museum.


The Story of the Escape from Alcatraz - October 19, 2023

Alcatraz is one of the most famous prisons in the world, and the story of its most famous escape is one that has captured the imagination of people for decades. David Kruh, author of Inseparable: an Alcatraz Escape Adventure, led us on this fascinating journey.  

In this virtual program, David delved into one of America's most enduring mysteries; what happened to the inmates who, in June 1962, escaped from Alcatraz prison in a raft they constructed inside the prison.  

During his presentation, David took questions and asked to hear audience theories and speculations.


BART: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow - September 21, 2023

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the virtual program was cancelled. We hope to have Michael Healy share his presentation in early 2024. 

BART copy

Chinese in the Napa Valley:
The Forgotten Community That Built Wine Country - August 17, 2023

John McCormick shared the impact of the Chinese in the development of the Napa Valley.

Chinese laborers were once the backbone of the Napa Valley. Throughout the late 1800s, they toiled in the grape fields, mines, hop farms, leather tanneries and laundries, and carved out neighborhoods in towns throughout the Valley. These contributions did little to deter discrimination and Anti-Chinese Leagues sprang up to harass and intimidate these immigrants. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act hastened the decline of local Chinatowns and these once vibrant communities disappeared while the industries they helped to foster flourished.


Deep Oakland: How Geology Shaped a City - June 15, 2023

In Deep Oakland, geologist and author Andrew Alden excavated the ancient story of Oakland’s geologic underbelly and revealed how its silt, soil, and subterranean sinews are intimately entwined with its human history—and future.

Poised atop a world-famous fault line now slumbering, Alden charted how these quaking rocks gave rise to the hills and the flats; how ice-age sand dunes gave root to the city’s eponymous oak forests; how the Jurassic volcanoes of Leona Heights gave way to mining boom times; how Lake Merritt has swelled and disappeared a dozen times over the course of its million-year lifespan; and how each epochal shift has created the terrain cradling Oaklanders today.

Deep Oakland

The Maritime History & Heritage of Belvedere and Tiburon - May 18,2023

Dave Goth, Historian for the town of Tiburon, discussed the maritime history of Tiburon and Belvedere. 

Dave has been the Town of Tiburon Historian since 2015 and recently retired as the Archivist for the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society after occupying that position since 2009. He continues to make short films about Tiburon Peninsula history utilizing the vast collection of photos and historic information contained in the Landmarks Archives.   

Dave explored the many industries and pastimes that evolved along the shores of this scenic part of the North Bay. From a key role in the mid-1800 gold rush, providing ships for WW2 to today continuing to playing a critical role in the maritime life of the Bay Area.

Pano RR 6 b&w ps copy

The Quilt as Art- Public and Personal - April 20, 2023

Dolores Miller, from Studio Art Quilt Associates, is a textile artist living in San Jose, CA. Her art often expresses wonder at the vastness and complexity of the universe and explores our place in it, our sense of belonging. Dolores is a board member of Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), whose mission is to promote the art quilt. She has been a juror at national textile art events and curated several regional art quilt exhibitions.

Both traditional quilts and art quilts can be visually appealing, but unlike traditional quilts, which are primarily created to be functional, art quilts are created as artistic expression.  While they incorporate traditional quilting techniques, art quilts may also include non-traditional materials and methods and may address contemporary issues. Art quilts can range in size from small wall hangings to large installations and are often displayed in galleries and museums and are now being seen as fine art.

Ms. Miller talked about her role in the world of art quilts with Studio Art Quilt Associates as well as personal work created during the COVID period.


History of the East Bay Regional Park District:
Democracy in Action - March 16, 2023 

Beverly Lane, retired longtime EBRPD Director,  presented a lively virtual program on the East Bay’s huge Regional Park system. The Regional Parks grew to cover 125,000 acres because leaders saw the need for open space parks and people regularly voted to support these parks – but never without controversy.

She told several stories about the Park District’s 89-year history. The 1930's debate surrounding the District's creation featuring two giants of the twentieth century, Governor George Pardee and Major Charles Lee Tilden. Contra Costa voters decision in 1964 to join EBRPD doubling the districts size. Last, but certainly not least, how the Iron Horse Trail came about in the 1980's a combination of citizens demands, Park District master planning and elected officials saying "yes".


The History of Eastern Contra Costa County - February 16, 2023

This virtual program explored the rich history of the eastern part of Contra Costa County.   The program was presented by noted local historian, college professor and long-time east county resident Carol Jensen. Ms. Jensen  discussed settlers, landmarks, and historical events that have shaped the community. She  also discussed the growth of the region in the 20th century. 


BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: California Wildflowers and Climate Change - January 19, 2023

Internationally acclaimed conservation photographers Rob Badger and Nita Winter took the audience behind the scenes of their twenty-seven-year journey photographing wildflowers throughout California and the West. In addition, they discussed how climate change threatens this part of our natural history.

Their many journeys led to the award-winning coffee table book Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change. Their book blends art and science together with their stunning photographs.

Gorgeous scenery isn’t the only thing that makes the “Beauty and the Beast” wildflower photos so special. The photographers showed how they create wildflower portraits in the field, lugging 80 pounds of cameras and their “natural light” studio equipment from below sea level in Death Valley National Park to 13,000-foot-high mountain passes.

Field of wildflowers, California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Lupine (Lupinus bicolor) and Desert Goldfields (Lasthenia californica), with snow on the San Gabriel Mountains.  Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, Los Angeles County, California, USA

Authors of "Beauty and Beast: California's Wildflowers and Climate Change" coffee table book. Part of Rob Badger and Nita Winter's fine art documentary photography project "Beauty and Beast: Wildflowers and Climate Change" a sponsored project of Blue Earth Alliance.

Peter Raven, Jose Gonzalez, Wendy Tokuda, Kenna Kuhn, Kitty Connolly, Erin Schrode, Dr. Margaret Leinen, Will Rogers, Gordon Leppig, Susan Tweit, Mary Ellen Hannibal, Genevieve Arnold, Ryan Burnett, Doug Tallamy, Ileene Andersen, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Amber Pairis,

2022 Virtual Programs

The Pageant of the Pacific - December 15, 2022

As you cross the Bay Bridge you pass Treasure Island but what do you know about it? 

In the 1930s, San Francisco built a brand-new island on San Francisco Bay, as tension grew between the United States and Japan. How did the international crisis affect plans for this new island? The "Golden Gate International Exposition: A Pageant of the Pacific" chose "Pacific unity" as its theme, which deeply influenced the fair's lovely and exotic architecture, its art, programming, choice of participants, and even entertainment. How did Treasure Island get transformed into a Navy base? And how did the Treasure Island Museum emerge from all of this? 

Anne Schnoebelen is a writer and historian who has served as a board member at the Treasure Island Museum for many years. She is an advocate for the preservation of Treasure Island's legacy in print, interviews, programs and social media. She has given many programs on the history of Treasure Island, ranging from its military and aviation origins, its founding, and its Pacific theme, to its influence on Walt Disney.

Treasure Island

The History of Canyon, CA - November 17, 2022 

Most residents of the East Bay have heard of the town of Canyon, but few know where it is located or anything about its rich history.

Liam O’Donoghue, the host and producer of the East Bay Yesterday podcast and co-creator of the Long Lost Oakland map, shared the story of Canyon. Joining Liam on the presentation was long time Canyon resident and retired teacher Esperanza Pratt Suris with stories of Canyon. 

The community of Canyon has a colorful history. Starting with logging camps and saloons in the nineteenth century that gave it a rowdy and colorful reputation. The twentieth century saw much of the land become part of EBMUD and the community fight against development. The logging camps and saloons are gone but Canyon has kept its free and independent spirit with its unique homes nestled among the redwoods. Learn all about this most interesting community.

Canyon CA cropped

The History and Story of Lake Merritt - October 20, 2022

Noted Oakland historian and award-winning author Dennis Evanosky shared the interesting story of Lake Merritt.  

Lake Merritt is a major landmark in the city of Oakland. Surrounded by a Cathedral, a children's fairyland, housing and not to mention runners, bikers and picnickers it is a busy and vibrant place.  What do we really know about the lake? Is it manmade?  If so, who did it and why? Why is it called Lake Merritt? Has it always played such a central role in the city of Oakland?  These and many other interesting and entertaining stories were told during the presentation.

Lake Merritt

The Geography of Eugene O'Neill  - September 15, 2022

Our presenter was Eric Fraisher Hayes, artistic director of Eugene O’Neill Foundation, Tao House. Under his leadership, EONF has become the leading producer of the plays of Eugene O’Neill in the country. Eric has directed 29 of O’Neill’s 51 plays including this September’s O’Neill festival production of A Moon for the Misbegotten at Tao House. This past July, he presented his theatrical lecture “Eugene O'Neill: 51 Plays in 51 Minutes” at the Eugene O'Neill International Conference in Boston. In October, his production of O’Neill’s Welded will be featured at the 3rd Eugene O’Neill International Festival of Theatre in New Ross, Ireland. At the same festival, he will be directing a production of O’Neill’s Shell Shock with an international cast.

The places Eugene O'Neill lived and experienced during his lifetime greatly influenced his plays. In this presentation, Eric explored the many intersections between the playwright's biography and his fiction. Danville, New London, New York, Ireland and the open sea all shaped the man and the plays that changed the American theater.

Eugene O'Neill

The History & Story of Mare Island Naval Shipyard  - August 18, 2022

Dennis Kelly who has long and very deep ties to Mare Island was the presenter. He worked for 22 years in managerial well as technical positions ranging from nuclear engineer to facilities manager. He was assigned by the Department of Defense to be the ombudsmen for the conversion from a military base to civilian use in 1993.  After the closure he has been involved as a Board Member and officer of the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation since its inception in 1995.

Learn about the German Spy the British nicknamed the “Blonde Bombshell” who collaborated with two other saboteurs to cause a powder magazine explosion rocking the entire North Bay during World War I.

Hear about how and why Mare Island came to be the first US naval base on an isolated coast.

There is no question that Mare Island has played a critical role in the Bay Area and the world.

Mare Island Shipyard

Imagining History’s Lost Voices: Women of the Gold Rush - May 19, 2022

When gold was discovered in California, dreams of adventure and instant wealth made westward movement the all-consuming passion of the nation. "Go West Young Man" became the catch phrase of the era, but joining these young men were a hardy collection of women. Prostitutes and preacher’s wives, escaped slaves and society women, reformers, teachers, saloon keepers, cross dressers, criminals…the women of the Gold Rush helped shape the region and the nation. Yet their stories have been largely forgotten. Who was Mary Ellen Pleasant, Georgiana Kirby, Mary Hallock Foote, Madam Mustache?

During this engaging one-hour lecture Mary Volmer explored how the interplay of fiction and history allows for the compassionate reimagining of history’s lost voices. Ms. Volmer is a published author, college professor and the Director of the Alta Mesa Center for the Arts. Her most recent books are Crown of Dust and Reliance, Illinois.


The Story of James Dougherty - April 21, 2022

Beverly Lane, Museum Curator and Board Member, presented The Story of James Dougherty.

The Dougherty name adorns a valley, a major road, hills, shopping areas, and schools, both an elementary as well as a high school. Obviously, there must be a reason this name has become such a prominent part of our valley.

The Dougherty family has been in the United States since the 1700's immigrating from Ireland.  James Witt Dougherty traveled from the deep south to make his fame and fortune in what was to become the Dougherty Valley. Learn about his many and varied exploits. Have you ever heard of the town of Dougherty?


A Celebration of St. Patrick's Day and the Irish - March 17, 2022

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, the Museum of the San Ramon Valley presented a virtual program on the Irish.

Elizabeth Creely, from the Irish Consulate, discussed Irish immigration to San Francisco during the gold rush.

Steve Minnear, the historian for the City of Dublin, CA, spoke about some specific Irish immigrants:  Michael Murray, Jeremiah Fallon and Eleanor Fallon.  You are probably aware of Fallon Road or Fallon Middle School. Learn about the interesting impact these immigrants had on our community.

St Patricks Day

The Amazing Travels of John Muir  - February 17, 2022

We all associate John Muir with Yosemite and rightly so.  But do you ever consider that he was a world traveler and had a large impact on the world far beyond California?

Garrett Dailey, an attorney and noted authority on John Muir, returned with a fascinating program on the Muir's worlds travels and the impact he had. Ever heard of the Muir Glacier? Yes, the same Muir but his impact was to extend far beyond North America.

JohnMuir 2

The Movie Industry in Fremont CA  - January 20,2022 

Join Rena Kiehn and David Kiehn from the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum discussed the time when major movies were produced right in our backyard. In addition, they told about the interesting and unique museum that is located in Niles celebrating silent movies and the stars who made them.

Rena and David shared about the time from 1913 to 1920 when this area was a hot spot for producers of silent films.  Essanay Studios built a western production studio in Niles to take advantage of the areas beauty and good weather.  The studio brought in multitudes of actors, directors and stage crews to staff their westerns, romances and comedies.  Charlie Chaplin's famous movie The Tramp was filmed there in 1915.

Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum

2021 Virtual Programs

The History of the Caldecott Tunnel - December 16, 2021

Mary McCosker and Mary Solon, historians and authors of the book Building the Caldecott Tunnel, shared with us the history and story of this most interesting tunnel.

They told about this very important tunnel that opened in 1937 and how it started to change our area of small rural communities into one of growing suburbs. Today it is still very much a critical part of our transportation infrastructure.

Caldecott Tunnel Presentation Slide

The History of Alamo - November 18, 2021

This month's presenters were the authors of the book Historic Tales of Alamo, local historians Beverly Lane and Sharon Burke. Beginning with the area’s geology and native peoples, Historic Tales of Alamo tells the story of the history of this vibrant community in the north part of the San Ramon Valley.

During the presentation, they talked about the early settlers, the origin of Alamo’s name, the early ranchos, and title controversies. In addition, the program covered the twentieth century challenges the community has faced. Beverly and Sharon presented rarely seen photographs of Alamo too.

Historic Tales of Alamo

The History of Mt. Diablo - October 21, 2021

Mount Diablo State Park is celebrating 100 years since being established in 1921.

Our speaker was Stephen Smith a Danville native and hiking enthusiast and leader who acts as a natural history docent and volunteer team leader for trail signage and maintenance projects in the park. He is also the president of MDIA and oversees its many programs and committees that solely benefit Mount Diablo State Park.

Stephen explored the human history of the mountain. From its humble beginnings to the present day including the historic Civilian Conservation Corps who built most of its infrastructure. Discussions included the history of early Native Americans, cattle ranching, horse racing, automobile racing and tourism on the mountain. Learn how the park has grown in size thanks to visionaries like Mary Bowerman and Raymond Force.  See how different organizations protect the mountain like Mount Diablo Interpretive Association (MDIA) and Save Mount Diablo (SMD).


The Story of the Old Mint in San Francisco
July 15, 2021

*Due to technical difficulties, the virtual program was not recorded. We apologize if you planned to watch the recording of this virtual program. 

Katherine Petrin, an Architectural Historian and Preservation Planner in private practice in San Francisco, California, her hometown as our speaker. Katherine currently serves as the Project Manager for the planning phase of the U.S. Old Mint Restoration Project in collaboration with the California Historical Society and the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

To say that the Old Mint is an interesting and historic building would be an understatement.  Consider the following:

  • The Mint was the built in 1874. It was the first Federal building in San Francisco.  The construction of the mint was a large step to make Californians feel part of the nation. It was a source of great pride to the young state.
  • The mint exceeded all expectation as can be seen in 1837 when the US produced $83M in gold and silver coins. $50M of which came out of the SF mint.
  • In 1906, it was the only financial institution to survive the earthquake. It opened (under armed guard) 3 days later. This saved the city from economic chaos.
  • In the 1930's, 30% of the United States gold reserves were held in the mints ground floor safe.

Katherine discussed the future of this historic irreplaceable building.

Old Mint 1878__view_sfpl

Moving the Depot - June 17, 2021

25 years ago this month the Lopez Brothers home movers arrived in Danville to move the depot which is now the Museum of the San Ramon Valley. Its new home would be the corner of Railroad and Prospect. The museum which was originally a Southern Pacific Depot was located a block further south at the corner where Lunardi's is located today.

Ed Best, a longtime museum volunteer, former president of the museum, and a key member of the team that was involved in the move and restoration gave a first hand eye witness presentation of that eventful day.  It is fair to say that moving an old building in disrepair is not for the faint of heart. See pictures and a short video of the actual move as well as hear about some of the surprises the move encountered.


Soldiers Memorial Monument - May 20, 2021 

In celebration of Memorial Day, John Mercurio from the Contra Costa Historical Society presented a program titled "Sheriff Veale and the Pursuit of a Worthy Memorial" about the Soldiers Memorial Monument.

Driving through Pleasant Hill it is hard to miss the Soldiers Memorial, standing 45 feet in height and weighing 45 tons. Oh yes it is also almost in the middle of Monument Boulevard. Its story begins with Contra Costa County Sheriff Richard Veal who was thankful that his son had returned safely from the Great War, WW1. Many other Contra Costa County residents were not so lucky. So, using his prominent position in the county he set out to raise funds to erect a memorial to those that died. The result of his efforts is the Soldier’s Monument in Pleasant Hill.


John Muir: California's Most Famous Resident
April 15, 2021

Garrett Dailey, an attorney and noted authority on John Muir, presented John Muir: California's Most Famous Resident. Mr. Dailey is a resident of Alamo and a part-time resident of Scotland. Mr. Dailey developed and taught a course on John Muir at the University of Edinburgh OLL as well as lectured and spoke with various groups and organizations. In this one-hour presentation, you will learn about why John Muir was officially voted California's  most famous resident. You will follow John Muir's life from Scotland to migrating as a child to America. His education and quest to save nature and the beauty it holds. Beyond being voted California's most famous resident, you may likely come away thinking of Muir as one of the world's most interesting men.

JohnMuir 2
Camp Parks: When War and National Security Came to the San Ramon and Amador Valley
March 18, 2021 

Steve Minniear, historian for the town of Dublin CA and past president of the Dublin Historical Society, presented Camp Parks: When War and National Security Came to the San Ramon and Amador Valleys.

Today the area around Camp Parks is a growing residential community bordering a BART station. It is hard to imagine that at one time its boundaries spanned from San Ramon to Dublin and played a major role in both our local history and national history. Since 1942, hundreds of thousands of US armed forces personnel lived and trained at this base. It is fair to say Camp Parks played a key role in WW2 involving the pacific theater.

Huge New Camp Builds Warrior Builders 1943
The History and Future of the Sunol Water Temple  February 18, 2021

Carla Schultheis, the Watershed and Environmental Improvement Program Manager for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, spoke on the history and future of the Sunol Water Temple.

There are only three water temples in the United States. One of them is located in Sunol CA. It was commissioned by William Bowers Bourn, the fabulously rich owner of the Empire Gold mine and the Spring Valley Water Co. The Spring Valley Water Co. had a monopoly on supplying water to San Francisco.

Hear about the critical and interesting role the Water Temple has played in the development of the Bay Area. In addition, learn about the exciting new role it will be playing during the 21 Century.

Sunol Water Temple3
The Secret History of San Ramon - January 21, 2021

Bill Clarkson, the former mayor of San Ramon and noted local historian presented an informative and entertaining virtual presentation on the Secret History of San Ramon.

He spoke about the only graveyard in San Ramon. Would you believe it dates back to 1858? Are you aware of a visible fault line in San Ramon or where the boundary oak is located? These and many more interesting facts and stories were covered in Mayor Clarkson's virtual presentation.

A Village street scene (1)

2020 Virtual Programs

Niles Canyon Railway - December 17, 2020

Henry Baum, President of Niles Canyon Railway, covered a variety of topics about the railroad and the role it has played in the development of our community.

Henry shared the amazing railroad history of our valley. He also talked about the lost town of Radum and how the Iron Horse Trail was involved with the Transcontinental Railroad to name just a few of the interesting topics covered.

Nile Canyon Railway
Adolph Sutro Program - November 19, 2020

Diana Kohnke of the Sutro Library gave a presentation on Adolph Sutro and the Library he left to the city of San Francisco. Her presentation discussed how this German immigrant made a fortune in the Comstock Lode. He became one of the largest landowners in San Francisco was elected mayor of San Francisco, planted his own forest, and, started a library to name a few of his accomplishments. To say this man led a full and interesting life would be an understatement.

Adolph Sutro
Alamo Cemetery Tour & Program - October 22, 2020

Jana Haertl, museum volunteer, took participants on a virtual tour of the Alamo Cemetery. 

Established in the 1850's the cemetery is the final resting place to the many early families who established and built this valley. Jana shared stories of the history of the Alamo Cemetery and families such as Humburg, Baldwin, Stone, Wood and Bollinger to mention just a few.

This little jewel is tucked away at the bend of El Portal just off Danville Blvd on the border of Alamo and Danville. You may have passed it on your way to Hap Magee Park without giving it a second thought. It’s actually a peaceful resting place to stroll through and admire the headstones of many pioneer families in a park-like atmosphere. 

Humburg Gravesite at Alamo Cemetery
California's First People: Then and Now - September 24, 2020
Who lived in the San Ramon Valley beginning around 5000 years ago. How did they get there? What was their life like? What did they eat? How were they housed?
Museum docent Renee Spitz discussed these interesting topics and much more. Also, modern day descendants are shown reinterpreting and invigorating their ancient traditions today.
A special thanks to California Indian Heritage Center Foundation for the use of their beautiful picture.
First contact by Alicia Maria Siu, Antonio Moreno, Vicente Moreno, Vicente Teoxiutleko Moreno
First contact by Alicia Maria Siu, Antonio Moreno, Vicente Moreno, Vicente Teoxiutleko Moreno

Correction - The Seunen tribe lived in present day San Ramon. The Saclan tribe lived in the Lafayette area.

Women Win the Vote in California & the Country  - August 20, 2020

Beverly Lane, Museum Curator and Board Vice President, presented a program that featured a video of the current Women Win the Vote exhibit at the Museum filmed by Tory Taylor and a PowerPoint presentation on the history of woman suffrage 

By Henry Mayer
Highway 21 to Interstate 680  - June 18, 2020

Steve Minniear, local historian and author presented photos and maps about the road in the museum's first virtual event.

Whether it is called San Ramon Valley Road, Danville Blvd., North Main Street or even Contra Costa Blvd., it was for a long time Highway 21.  And between the 1930s and the 1960s, it was the only way to go north and south through the San Ramon and Amador Valleys.  Steve talks about the “only road through town” and how it shaped farm life, regional business and eventually the suburbs.

Hihway 21 (2)