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Pioneer Day: Casa Grande Reopening

November 13, 2010

On November 13, 2010, after being closed for restoration in 2009, the Casa Grande was reopened in a ceremony and open house event as part of NAQCPA's annual Pioneer Day. Visitors parked at the Hacienda staging area to Almaden Quicksilver County Park and were taken to the Casa Grande by horse-drawn wagon. About 1000 people came to the event. The Casa Grande was originally built in 1854 and is the second oldest building in Santa Clara County. It was remodeled in 1888 by mine manager James Randol. Since then, it has undergone remodeling and changes of ownership until it was purchased by the County Parks in 1998 and turned into the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum. The latest restoration cost $5 million, with funding from a variety of national, state, county, and private sources.

On display in front of the Casa Grande are classic cars.

NAQCPA president Kitty Monahan (left) with park interpreter Chris Carson, dressed in traditional equestrian riding garb.

Park interpretive programs manager Robin Schaut greets the visitors.

Opening Ceremony

At the opening ceremony, from the left: County Supervisor Don Gage, San Jose Councilmember Nancy Pyle, County Parks Deputy Director Jim O'Connor

Jim O'Connor greeted the visitors and introduced the speakers.

Father Larry Hendel, pastor of St. Anthony's Church in New Almaden and on McKean Road, gives a blessing.

NAQCPA President Kitty Monahan talks about the New Almaden families, particularly the Pope Family.

DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) members, led by First State Historic Preservation Chairman Susan Bergtholdt (left) are recognized for their efforts in providing antique furnishings for the rooms in the Casa Grande. Clockwise around the table, after Sue, are State Vice Chairman Thelma Hayes, Honorary State Regent Leonora Branca, June Fromm, Billie Spence, Greg Spence, and Doug Bergtholdt.

Don Gage presents a letter from Congressman Mike Honda to Jim O'Connor, commemorating the occasion.

Supervisor Don Gage presents a plaque from the County Board of Supervisors to the DAR, honoring them for their work on the Casa Grande. The DAR members, starting from the left, are Gabilan Chapter Past Regent Martha Slater, Leonora Branca, and  Sue Bergtholdt.

San Jose City Councilmember Nancy Pyle, who represents the Almaden Valley, thanks the visitors for coming to the event.

Keynote speaker, author Craig MacDonald, talks about the history of New Almaden and the Casa Grande.

Gage McKinney, portraying an intinerant Methodist preacher who preached to the miners, gives a final blessing.

Part of the crowd at the ceremony.

Part of the crowd at the ceremony.


Lunch was catered by Rebecca Mapes. Nancy Mapes and Lisa Blakeslee prepared the food. The County Parks Dept. paid for it. County Parks Volunteer Coordinator John George helped serve lunch, along with Ranger Paula Bergmeier and parks staffer Alex. The lower level of the Casa Grande includes a kitchen.

Mike Boulland,  Friends of Santa Teresa Park president and co-author (with Art Boudreault) of a book on New Almaden, helped serve lunch, which consisted of roast turkey sandwiches, fruit salad, and cranberry sauce. Other servers included Kitty Monahan, Jeff Bright, and Tere Johnson.

Activities Outside the Casa Grande

At the east end of the Casa Grande, guests sat down and listened to live band music. The three floors of the building can be seen. The upper floor was not open to visitors. It holds offices and archives.

View of the back side of the Casa Grande, with the new garden.

Michelle and Mike Boulland with Father Larry. Mike is dressed as Robert Bulmore, the last General Manager of the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Company, and the last official resident of the Casa Grande.

Music was provided by the Tenor Band.

Note from Mike Boulland on the Tenor Band, whom he helped set up: "The Tenor Band played fantastic that day. They played "Moonlight and Roses", which was written by Ben Black on the porch of the Casa Grande.  Alene Jacobs is the sax player in your picture.  Their band leader, Leonard, arranged the music for the band to play " Moonlight and Roses".  The music is very difficult to play due to the different arrangements.  Leonard was told to play music from the 1850 to the 1910 to recreate the sounds of the Casa Grande Era."

On the second floor veranda were paintings of New Almaden by Gilian Altieri.

On the east end of the second floor veranda, pen-and-ink artist Jim Campbell (right) displayed his drawings of New Almaden and the Almaden Mines.

Along the front of the building, Ranger Eric Goodrich looks at photographs taken of the Casa Grande as it went through the restoration process.

View of the lawn and gardens from the second floor.

Ranger Paula Bergmeier waves hello from the back of the Casa Grande with her intern. Greg Bringelson, head of the Park Trails Program is on the right.

After the County bought Almaden Quicksilver, geologist Mike Cox (left) was hired to close the mineshafts and tunnels to make the property safe for park use.

Caricature artist Dennis Moran sketches a visitor.

View of the Casa Grande from the lawn.

The California Pioneers of Santa Clara County showed historical pictures of the Almaden Mines

The DAR's display on their work furnishing the Casa Grande.

Raffle ticket prizes.

Art Boudreault (dressed as James B. Randol, who managed the New Almaden Mines from 1870 to 1892) reads off the winning raffle ticket numbers. NAQCPA Board member Martha Hanisch holds the prize bags. Tamara Clark Shear, who chaired the Casa Grande Dedication Committee, and Jim O'Connor look on.

Park staff and volunteers watch the raffle. Park interpreter Heidi McFarland in period dress is on the left.

Park staff and rangers watch the raffle.

Badminton and croquet games were played on the lawn.

People relax on the lawn, while kids play by the stage near Alamitos Creek.

Blacksmith Shop

Blacksmiths demonstrate their craft at the Blacksmith exhibit. They use hand-cranked forges to heat metal.

Visitors watch the blacksmiths heat up metal and work them.

Gold Panning

The United Prospectors had a gold panning activity

The United Prospectors showed visitors how to pan for gold and gems.

Bottom Floor Rooms

Downstairs there was a temporary exhibit of mine artifacts in a room that will eventually be used for audio-visual presentations.

A miner is trying to break through the wall.

There was an exhibit on tools used for blasting in the mines.

There are photographs and decorated fireplaces.

Gift Shop

The gift shop was moved from a corner next to the old front entrance of the museum to its own room, which once held a reconstruction of the mine office. In the museum's gift shop, author Craig MacDonald signs copies of his book.

Park Interpreter Supervisor Julie Lee (center), along with Park Interpreter Heidi McFarland (in the dress) help with the sales in the gift shop.

Period Rooms

Park employee Feather Tippetts in the dress above, designed and made the period costumes worn by several of the park staff. She greets visitors to the period rooms. The most noticeable and impressive change made to the interior are three rooms furnished in genuine antiques, collected by the DAR. They are the front parlor, the drawing room, and library. The DAR solicited donations of family antiques and purchased items from all over the state. 

The interior design work was done by Martha Slater, Cheryl McLean, Thelma Hayes, Park Interpreter Mary Berger, and Sue Bergtholdt. When they were decorating, Ann Fay and Sue Criste added many items to the rooms which had belonged to their grandmother, Ida Caroline Doane Fay, who was an artist. The Wehrmans had antiques shipped from Atlanta, Georgia, for the parlor. Glo Smith purchased Lady Liberty andirons from the East Coast for the parlor's fireplace. There were many wonderful donations. (Thanks to Sue Bergtholdt for the background information.)

Baby's crib and children's furniture in the drawing room.

Piano and grandfather clock in the drawing room.

Cigars, desk, and bookcase in the library.

On the desk are historic mercury production documents.

Fireplace, lamps, and mantle clock in the library.

Fireplace and bookcase in the front parlor.

Martha Slater of the DAR in the front parlor. On the couch is the DAR's award from the county.

County Parks Construction Services Manager Mark Frederick (center) is in the front parlor. Left of Mark is David Pierce, who is the Grants Program Manager for the County Parks and obtained funding for the restoration project. Mark's wife Peggy is on the far left.

Front parlor.

Front parlor.

Docent and photographer Ron Horii in the front parlor (picture courtesy of Sue Bergtholdt).

Mining Museum

Park Interpreter John Slenter, dressed as a miner, talks about the mining equipment on display.

Displays showing profiles of the mines.

Activities for kids.

Park Docent/photographer Ron Horii in the Mining Museum (picture courtesy of Jeanne Carbone Lewis).

A horse-drawn covered wagon took visitors to and from the Hacienda staging area to the Casa Grande. Transportation was provided by Indian Valley Carriage of Novato.

While the Casa Grande was open to the public at Pioneer Day, it was not officially open on a daily basis. At the time of this writing, the transfer of the Casa Grande from the contractor still had not been signed off. The building was not cleared for occupancy, so the park interpreters could not move in. Check the Quicksilver Mining Museum webpage for more information.

Update: After delays due to final inspections and fixes, the Casa Grande was finally open on January 14, 2011.  It is now open to the public Fridays from 12 to 4, Sat. 10 to 4, Sun. 10 to 4.

Created 11/23/10, updated 2/4/11 by Ronald Horii