Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lakewood? Walnut Creeks little Secret

I doubt that many of you have ever seen this place or know where to find it...It is a restricted lake and here's why... Lakewood was originally part of the Rancho Del Arroyo ,the Bolbones Indians were the first residentsback in 1772...
Thee next residents (besides wildlife) were William and Louisa Ish Rice.   According to the records the Rices paid $15,228.00  for 529 acres in  1860. The fourth residents were Robert Noble Burgess and his wife, Anne Webster Fish Burgess.
 There was a house (currently we called it the “Mansion”) on the Rice’s property as early as 1850.  It was built by Ygnacio (why the road is so named) Sebrian who was
Distantly related to the Pacheco Family of Todos Santos (now Concord). The house was also called the “old Sebrian Homestead.” The Rices  moved in to the one story house in 1860 and enlarged it.  There was a windmill on the hill above Walker Avenue and Homestead Drive.  The current tax records show the house was built in 1880. 

“The rural charm of Lakewood, its forestation and its lake were all due to the far-sighted plans of one man—Robert N. Burgess.  He was a developer who also developed Diablo Country Club and surrounding homes. 
He paid $75,000 with $25,000 cash down for 1750 acres to the Rice family.  He planned to develop most of the area into housing. When the Burgesses married in 1909 he gave Lot A—the old Sebrian Homestead to his wife, Anne, as a wedding gift.  It was used as a country home until later when they moved in. “
 According to the recent  “A History of Walnut Creek’s Unique Neighborhood” by Turalu Reed Brady, the house was enlarged and redesigned by architect George A. Applegarth.  The fan window over the front entrance was installed with beveled glass.  They built tennis courts, barns, and a swimming pool.  The old Rice barn was moved to Allegra and Hacienda Drives and remodeled into a home—the Green home.
  While Mr. Burgess developed the upper area into 250 homes, he planned a nursery with approximately 30 trees on the west side of Homestead, including West Holly. Mrs. Burgess ran the lower area orchards as a business.  She also grew tomatoes and other crops. See the original map that Burgess called “Lakewood.”  It is far smaller than what we now call Lakewood.  It consisted only of Lakewood Road and Circle with “Lower Lakewood being the lower, flatter area of Homestead towards and including West Holly Drive.  What what missing was WATER so in 1909 Burgess built two dams in a canyon above his home (according to Mrs. Brady’s book) for irrigation.  It was “engineered by University of California men and checked by the State for safety.  It was called the Homestead Lake.”
 Apparently later the smaller lake was filled in.  The water flooded over the dam in the mid  1950’s “due to debris”.
Burgess drilled wells to supply water to the new homes he built, many of which were made of adobe (and still exist).
A newer dam was built in 1911 or 1912.  
 The housing development was planned by Burgess as a restricted park—like Diablo which he also developed but minus the costs of the Country Club—for residents only.
The plans included a three acre lake with a center for recreation and tennis.  The dam cost approximately $50,000 and construction began in 1930.  It was expected that the 1936 opening of the Caldecott Tunnel would increase the demand for housing in Walnut Creek.
  The lots were between one third and one half acres and required a minimum improvement of $3500.  They were to be sold for $800 minimum.  Burgess would be blown away to see our 2006 values!  The Lakewood homes were planned way before post war developments with winding streets (which now lend charm to contemporary Lakewood) and without zoning laws. There are approximately seven of the adobe homes built by Burgess including the recreation
 facility on the lake which is now a home. The lack of construction materials during the war halted the development.  The last of Burgess’s lots were sold in the 1960’s and he moved to Santa Barbara (per Mrs. Brady).
 The above is from Turalu Reed Brady’s, “Lakewood: a History of Walnut Creek’s Unique Neighborhood.” 2004.
Mrs. Brady is still a resident of Lakewood along with her husband, Fred,  residing in one of the homes built by Burgess
 Many people remember the peacocks who marched along
Lakewood Road.  They made a lot of noise and are now history too.

The above History of Lakewood was written by Turalu Reed Brady, a longtime resident of Lakewood. Her book was published in 2004, has lots of old photos and news articles. It can be purchased at the Walnut Creek Historical Society, Shadelands Ranch Museum (a great place to visit Wednesday-Sunday afternoons, 2660 Ygnacio Valley Road.
The lake pictures above were taken today by Smokey...

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