|Shortly after gold was discovered in California,
many farmers, including a number from St. George island off the coast of Portugal, emigrated
to the area that is now Fremont. They built their homes and farm buildings from old growth redwood, cultivated
the rich land, and shipped their produce to San Francisco.|
The archives we have from this era tended to concentrate on those of high status in the community and rarely mention the lives of these small farmers, and their historic contributions to the prosperity of the Bay Area is largely unremarked today. The City of Fremont is now sponsoring an historic architectural inventory project, and archiving the location and remaining buildings and rediscovering the history of these early-day farm families is one part of the work being done.
These small farms once got their water from a shallow well with a windmill-powered pump, which raised the water to an elevated tank in order to provide water pressure. The open space under the tank tower was often enclosed to provide shelter for animals, as a tool-shed, or perhaps as a spare room. There's something whimsically charming about these old tank house structures. Whether it's the angled walls which echo the bracing legs of the tower, the small size and high ceiling of the enclosed space, the open staircases or the quality of light streaming down from windows high overhead, these structures have an almost magical quality, part tree house, part play house.
When piped water became available the tanks and windmills were no longer needed, and only the 'tank house' base of the tower was still useful and left standing. Although these remnants of Fremont's farming heritage are being torn down as high-density housing replaces the old farm homes, enough still stand to remind us of Fremont's rich farming heritage.
If you would like to see more pictures or a bit of history about a specific tank house, click on the index below. Note: although these pictures have been posted as interlaced 89a .gif files, some of them are as large as 250KB and may take some time to load to your browser, depending on the speed of your connection to the internet.
Last update 29 August 2008