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Hardly changed since Hiram Penniman built it in 1902 ... Shadeland in Walnut Creek.

Solidly planted by the side of a now-busy thoroughfare in Walnut Creek, Shadelands Ranch is a stubborn bit of turn-of-the-century Contra Costa County. Still flagged by a few of the tall palms that so often mark the homes of early California landowners, the farmhouse is much as it was when Hiram Penniman built it in 1902, though its once-extensive fruit and walnut orchards have since yielded to the developer's bulldozer.

Occupied for some years by Penniman and for many more by his daughter Bessie and her husband, Albert Johnson, Shadelands is an authentically furnished family farmstead, representing a continuum of domestic history. The house is owned by the city of Walnut Creek and run by volunteer docents from the Walnut Creek Historical Society, with help from a contingent of "Shady Ladies."

You can visit, free, any Wednesday or Sunday afternoon from 1 to 4, but this month there's special hospitality--the annual Tulip Tea, held April 8 at the same hours. Planners hope the date will coincide with peak bloom of Bessie johnson's splendid tulip beds out front. Admissions, tea, and cookies are free (donations welcome); docents will be on hand.

Built in a period of rebellion against Victorian gimcrackery and curlicues, Shadelands bears early traces of the Arts and Crafts movement--with clinker brick fireplaces, a mission-style dining table, and more straight lines than curves. (Not that the rebellion was quite complete: there are several bowed-glass windows, considered quite opulent in their day.)

In the parlor are family entertainments of a pre-electronic era: a mandolin, a meloden, a working Stella music box from 1885, and, for quieter evenings, a stereopticon. A porch kitchen offers a charming assortment of domestic utensils--from a curtain stretcher to the amazingly tiring vacuum cleaner shown at left.

Bessie's bedroom is set up as if she were taking tea in bed. Nearby is an extensively filled out dance card from her 1895 Cornell University prom; across the room stands a mannequin in her tiny-waisted cream satin wedding dress. "It looks as if Bessie went to college," said a Shady Lady with a wink, "to get her MRS."

A history room is open by appointment; it contains family memorabilia, plus old county maps, records, and newspapers.
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Date:Apr 1, 1984
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