California Nursery Historical Park

 The Water Towers
low tower, 1968   low tower, 1936  

The distribution of water has been a highly debated issue in California’s agricultural industry. The California Nursery in Niles of Fremont played a significant role in efficiently administering water to various planted fields through the use of its Water Tower.   The Water Towers were a support for a gravity flow auxiliary holding tank, which was part of a distribution system for watering container plants. Because the area of the property had an abundant water supply, several wells were placed, providing enough water to supply farmers’ needs locally for irrigation. Many of these wells came from the Niles Cone Groundwater Basin, which collected water from past floods and copious rains. Alameda Creek was one of the many free-flowing creeks that supplied farmers.

The original irrigation system developed by Rock used a flume system from Alameda Creek which included deep, narrow channels with streams running through them.   In 1888, Spring Valley Water Company agreed to supply the nursery with up to 50 million gallons of water per year. The company allowed permission for the tanks to be filled. A 12-inch Scottish welded pipeline was split in half, with one end heading into the irrigation system while the other was used as a pressure line to fill the tanks. Horses were then used to furrow out the land for irrigation. However, repairs that needed to be made on the line became difficult, as the pipeline was built deep within the streets of Niles and encased in cement. The streets had to be dug up for pipe renovations. Furthermore, the increase of inhabitants in nearby neighborhoods began the deviation of plentiful water supply.  

By 1910, a water shortage due to the Bay Area’s increasing population became more prevalent. This led to the establishment of the Washington Township Water Committee in 1912, which ensured that water remained in Washington Township rather than auctioning and exhausting the waters from Alameda Creek and the Niles Cone Aquifer. The formation of the Alameda County Water District (ACWD) soon followed. This became the first water district founded in California. The water supply was monitored carefully and the Alameda County Water District (ACWD) produced a dependable stock for its clients in alignment with federal and state regulations.  
                                                              1904 high tower frame 1935 high tower

There were two water towers on the California Nursery Property. The first water tower was built in 1888 by American nurseryman John Rock and held 15,000 gallons of water that serviced nursery operations and front homes. The water was used for daily amenities such as cleaning, washing, and drinking. The pillars from the first tower are still present on the property. The second tower was built around 1910 and held roughly 7,000 gallons of water.

These two towers serviced the front sixty acres of the property. A third larger pressure tank was later built in 1946 and used to irrigate the lath houses. Unfortunately, balancing water and air pressure within the tank became difficult. To perform checks or repairs, vertical ladders along the base and side of the tank had to be climbed. The towers were removed and sold in the 1950s due to advancement in irrigation and the movement of water through pipes. New irrigation lines were built along Mission Boulevard and water for use in businesses and homes was provided. The tank unfortunately exploded in 2011 due to the imbalance of water and air pressure. Thankfully, the California Nursery had long term contracts with the Citizens Water District, later known as Alameda County Water District (ACWD), for wholesale water rights.  

Today, what remains of the Water Towers is now enveloped in a rose planted 175 years ago known as Rosa banksia, with its more common name as the Lady Banks’ Rose. This particular species on the property was planted by Rock. It is native to China and can grow up to twenty feet tall. Its unique physical attribute in comparison to other roses is that it is nearly thornless. In Eastern countries, it is used as a treatment for developed stages of leprosy and gangrene. The wood used for the construction of the Water Towers in 1888 has endured to this very day. The area today greatly needs attention and tender care.   Math Science Nucleus President Dr. Joyce Blueford hopes to improve the current state of the Water Towers. Over the years, maintenance has been neglected. “We would like the preservation of the Lady Banks’ Rose and an outside display depicting the importance of water and water towers to the growing California Nursery Company as well as other agricultural areas in Fremont,” Blueford states. By conserving the Water Towers, the California Nursery’s remarkable role in agricultural water distribution can be commemorated  role of retail within the agricultural industry transformed how the California Nursery dealt with the change of wholesale business. California Nursery is one of first in the nursery business to implement retail chains, creating a platform that would later expand their company.

Contribution by: Joyce Blueford, Charlene Dixon (TriCity Voice)


managed by Math Science Nucleus
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City of Fremont

36501 Niles Blvd, Fremont
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