Daily Independent Journal from San Rafael, California on February 27, 1960 · Page 21
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Daily Independent Journal from San Rafael, California · Page 21

San Rafael, California
Issue Date:
Saturday, February 27, 1960
Page 21
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IN SHADOW OF OLD CHURCH 3mVnrmVnt-Itiitrnal. Saturday, Feb. 27. I960 MS Marins Garden Of Rare Wild Flowers By CORENA GREEN On a little knoll looking down on Tiburón and in the shadow of historic Old St. Hilary’s Church huddle some California plants so rare that they now grow nowhere else in the world. There is hope that a current movement for the preservation of the picturesque chapel will also result in the preservation of these rare flowers. Certainly the plants have beauty and an interesting heritage as strong arguments for their preservation. But perhaps the strongest “string in their bow’’ in their hopes to avoid destruction before the bulldozer is the Belvedere- Tiburón Landmark Society’s program for the establishment of a museum in Old St. Hilary’s. One important by-product of the landmark society’s efforts could well be the saving of these jaunty little wild flowers so that future generations of Tiburón Peninsula residents will still be able to get some idea of what their hills looked like in a less-congested era—when the slopes wore a colorful carpet that made them one of the most interesting and remarkable wild flower gardens in all the world. NO PLANT IN California is more treasured historically than the California poppy (Eschscholtzia californica). It grows there on the rocky slope just as beautiful as it was nearly 150 years ago when it was first discovered by the Russian expedition under Kotzebue in 1816. And growing along with it is Pha- celia californica, sometimes mistakenly called wild heliotrope, which was collected by the Russians at the same time. Both plants were named by Chamisso. the botanist on the expedition, the poppy in honor of his friend Eschscholtz, who was the doctor on the expedition. Then there is the tall slender-stemmed buckwheat, (Eri- gonum nudum). This was first collected over 130 years ago by David Douglas, botanical explorer, whose name is commemorated in the well-known Douglas fir. The tall stems rise above a cluster of attractive basal leaves and carry small pom-poms of white or pinkish flowers. The chapel is built almost on a spring from which water seeps down the lower steps and over an old concrete walk and then on down a sloping marshy strip below. In this dampness grow several rare plants: Brodiaea peduncularis, one of the ,rery loveliest species; Zigadenus fontanus, a lacy star-lily named by Alice Eastwood; Stachys pycnantha, a rank smelling hedge-nettle but botanically interesting and Helenium Bigelovii, a beautiful golden-flowered sunflower. But it is in the open dry rocky grassland west of and north of the chapel where even rarer plants are found. Two of these are not found anywhere else in the world— only at Tiburón. These are the Black Jewel-flower (Streptan- thus niger) a member of the mustard family and the Tib­ urón Paintbrush (Castilleja neglecta). BESIDES THESE two extra­ special rarities there are rare plants qn the dry slopes such as: Carlotta’s lace fern (Cheil- anthese Carlotta-I j illiae), pitted onion (Allium lacunosum), congested flax (Linum con- gestum), rosin-weed (Calyca- denia cephalotes) and Tibiiron buckwheat (Erigonum Cani- num). Edward Lee Greene named this plant in the 1880’s or 90’s before he went to Berkeley to start the University of California Botany Department. He gave it the name “caninum” from the Latin for dog because that is the closest he could get to Tiburón in Latin. Tiburón is shark in Spanish and another common name for shark is dogfish. So “canium” applied to Tib- buron buckwheat does not mean dog buckwheat but rather Dog-fish or shark buckwheat. It is Tiburon's very own flower. This interesting information has come to the landmarks society from John Thomas Howell, curator, department of botany, California Academy of Sciences. Howell learned that this group had organized to preserve Old St. Hilary’s Catholic Church in Tiburón and wrote to the president, Mrs. Robert Bastían, describing these botanical treasures, clustering around the chapel, and pleading for their preservation as part of the group’s objectives. The existence of these rare plants was discovered by Howell while he was exploring the Tiburón Peninsula collecting data for his book “Marin Flora.” I he procedure for saving this tloral diadem is extremely simple, Howell reports. In fact it is so simple that it probably won’t be followed, he laments. “ALL THAT IS required,’* he advises, “is to let the area alone, absolutely and always. It must not be disturbed, landscaped, planted, weeded, irrigated or walked on — just leave it to nature, whose garden it is and whose care is adequate. What nature has created through a millenium, man might destroy in a day by ‘improvements’.’’ Fortunately for the garden and for the chapel a group on the Peninsula is dedicated to just this task and is inviting those interested to become members of the Belvedere- Tiburon Landmarks Society, a non-profit corporation. Old St. Hilary’s Church which is easily visible from most of Tiburón and Belvedere was dedicated in October of 1888. The land had been donated by Dr. Benjamin Lyford, pioneer developer of the area, and his wife, Hilarita. Mrs. Lyford was the daughter of John Reed who in 1834 was given the Mexican land grant —the huge Rancho Corte de Madera del Presidio, including much of Mill Valley, Alto and Corte Madera as well as all of the Tiburón peninsula. The bell which first called the faithful to mass was donated by Baroness von Schroeder, daughter of Peter Dona­ SEATED IN FRONT of historic Old St. Hilary's Church in Tiburon, Dr. John Thomas Howell, center, curator, department of botany, California Academy of Sciences, talks about the beautiful and rare wild flowers that abound in the vicinity to Mrs. Robert Bastían of Belvedere, president of the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmark Society, and Dr. Robert West of Mariner's Cove, Corte Madera, an amateur botanist. (Independent- Journal photo) hue, who had brought the railroad to Tiburon in 1882. For 65 years the bell was rung for services in Old St. Hilary’s and when the new church was built on a knoll above Hawthorne Terrace the bell was the only appointment removed from the old to the new building. It rang in its new tower for the first time on Christmas Eve in 1953. BUT SIX MONTHS before Old St. Hilary’s passed from use, there were faint echoes of hope that it could be preserved. The Tiburon Peninsula Pelican in an editorial of June, 1953, bemoaned the fact that young folks were growing up with hardly a notion of the interesting history of the Tiburon area. The editor felt that the old building should have a purpose in keeping with its past and recommended it as a likely spot for a museum. Interestingly enough it was a group composed largely of non-Catholics who took the plunge toward preservation. Spearheaded by Mrs. Bastian, they referred to themselves as the Protestant Protective Society for Old St. Hilary’s. Through the generosity of an anonymous donor the property war acquired but with the stipulation that a corporation be formed. So a year ago a group was gathered representing various community interests, occupations and with a geographical balance. This is the present board of directors. Many familiar names are on the list including Mrs. Richard Dakin, historical writer; Mrs. John Erieson, analyst for the * * % < * , , public nealth service; Mrs. David Teat her, public relations and authority on local history, Mrs. Howard Allen, Mrs. Eric Pedley, Mrs. Vera Schultz, Marin County supervisor from southern Marin; Thomas Procter, official in a real estate firm; and Russell Keil, estate manager and former president of the California Pioneers. Others on the board are Thomas Lacey, attorney; Dr. Robert Watkins, mayor of Belvedere; Vice - admiral Frank Beatty, US Navy (retired); William Brantman, exporter; William Brooke, architect; Lewis Vogeler, public relations, and Mrs. Bastian. The group has had the building professionally surveyed and learned that it is built right on the ground with no foundation and that damp rot has caused decay in some sills and supporting timbers. Considering the age, manner of construction and maintenance however, the surveyors report it to be remarkably well preserved. UNFORTUNATELY, since the chapel was vacated, vandals have taken their toll. Windows have been broken, replaced and broken again, Even a stained glass window depicting St. Hilaire, which was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Lyford, has not been spared. Consequently the society has boarded up windows and padlocked the doors. Once the building is obviously in use it is their hope that vandalism will vanish. Immediate problems which the society faces include the replacing of timbers and im­ proving the access road up which churchgoers have walked for many years. Utilities must be brought in as there is no water, no gas and no sanitary facilities. In addition the roof needs repair and the windows need replacing. Once the repairs are made the society hopes to fill the building with books on California, maps, pictures, photo­ stats and exhibits. It is their hope that this will become a retreat, a quiet place to come to and browse much like the Bancroft Library at the University of California. Whether all this can be done dj-pends on the response to the membership drive now under way. Several types of memberships are available including regular for $2.50, family for $5 and founding for a minimum of $50. Charter members are those who join before March 1. Checks should be mailed to Post Office Box 134, Belvedere- Tiburón. Fund raising events are also part of the society’s plan. Last night they sponsored the opening night of the Cove Players production of “You Can’t Take it With You.” On Tuesday, March 8, the first annual meeting is scheduled to be held in the old church, starting at 8 p.m. Officers will be eiected and plans for the coming year discussed. 'With road fixed, windows replaced, timbers installed and the flowers gaily lending their encouragement, the society hopes to rededicate the building in October of this year, 72 years after it was first dedicated.

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