A fragment of the wall from Juana Briones' 1850s home has been saved from demolition, but we need your help to preserve and display it.

Juana Briones (1802-1889) was one of the earliest and most important pioneers of San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties. As a child, Briones traveled with her parents from Villa de Branciforte (present-day Santa Cruz) to the Presidio de San Francisco in 1812. By 1836, Briones had married a Presidio solider and moved to the nascent village of El Pueblo de Yerba Buena, now the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Briones established a small farm and dairy and sold produce to sailors, merchants and visitors from a spot beside the San Francisco Bay.

In 1844, Juana Briones purchased the 4,000 acre Rancho la Purísima Concepción, in Santa Clara County, from two Ohlone Native Americans and built a home in the foothills of what is now Palo Alto. After the American conquest of California in 1847, Briones presented her claim for Rancho la Purísima Concepción to the U.S. Board of Land Commissioners, beginning the lengthy process of proving the validity of the grant. She lived at her ranch home through the 1870s, after which she divided her land among her children.

At the close of the twentieth century, a small group of educators, historians, architects, neighbors, and business and community leaders united to oppose the destruction of the rare, historic building on the site of Rancho la Purísima Concepción. They were joined a little more than a decade later, in May 2010, by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which added the 1844 site -- at its core one of California’s oldest residences -- to America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list. Despite the impassioned efforts of these women and men, the Juana Briones homesite was demolished in May 2011 after more than a decade-long preservation battle.

Recently, the California Historical Society has partnered with community members, activists and the Friends of the Juana Briones House to preserve the last remnant of the rancho - a portion of wall from the original 1850s structure. This wall, a wooden frame with rammed earth in-fill, is a direct and valuable link to California history and will be showcased in the upcoming exhibition: Juana Briones y Su California ~ Pionera, Fundadora, Curandera (January 26-June 8, 2014).

We need your help to preserve and secure this evocative last remnant of the home, to ensure that future generations can learn and be inspired by the many threads of Juana Briones' life.

The Friends of the Juana Briones Home have already raised over $5,000 to towards conservation of the wall, but we still need your help to meet our goal. Give as generously as you are able to ensure that this piece of California's architectural history isn't lost.

The California Historical Society (CHS) is a 140-year old, non-profit organization with a mission to inspire and empower people to make California’s richly diverse past a meaningful part of their contemporary lives. We hold one of the top research collections on California history, which includes over 35,000 volumes of books and pamphlets, more than 4,000 manuscripts, and some 500,000 photographs documenting California’s social, cultural, economic, and political history and development, including some of the most cherished and valuable documents and images of California’s past.

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