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New Visitor-Education Center Building
Planned at John Muir National Historic Site

June 3, 1998

SAN FRANCISCO--Construction of a 5,500 square foot Visitor-Educational Center at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez is in the final planning stage, representatives of the John Muir Memorial Association reported at a news conference here today.

The Center would replace a small existing structure currently being used by the National Park staff at the 1890-1914 home of John Muir, famed turn- of- the- century conservationist. Under the auspices of the Association, a public subscription drive is being held to raise $2. 2 million to construct and initially endow the planned facility. The Center would be about 5,500 square feet and would house a 90-seat auditorium, library and curatorial work area, interruptive visitor display facilities, the book center and functional administrative and work space for the Park Service staff. The present Center will be razed and the new structure site on the same ground.

Conceptual design of the new facility is being done by George Homsey, of Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis, noted San Francisco architects. Homsey is familiar with the desires of the National Park Service in its treatment of historic structures such as the Muir Manor, he recently has been the architect of facilities at Yosemite, Sequoia and Montana. The Park Service itself is working with the Association to plan the interpretive usage of the new facility.

The building design provides for a facility reflecting the rural Coastal farming and agricultural buildings of Muir¹s period. It will be a wooden frame structure and visually blend into the park so as not to distract from the Muir home and surrounding orchards and property. The visitor to the site will enter the Center via a covered porch and exit to the grounds them self into an open assembly courtyard where the focus is uphill on the Muir Manor.

Presently, the architect, the Association and Park Service representatives are putting the final touches to the conceptual design. Detail design work will follow with an eye toward permitting construction to be contracted by late fall. Actual construction is expected to take about one year, thus It will be one of the new buildings of the new century.

The Association is holding a picnic and festival at the Site June 6 to mark the opening of its public subscription drive to raise the nearly $2 million construction cost plus some funding to endow the operation of the expanded facility.

Presently, the Association has received contributions totaling more than $400,000 to fund the project. The Association was chartered in 1956 with a goal of saving the aged structure where Muir lived for future generations. Working with the Contra Costa Historical Society, they achieved this goal in 1964 The Association, all volunteers, works with the Park Service in assisting it with educational and like activities at the Park. The membership totals about 300 persons and is nationwide in scope. The building when completed will be donated to the Park Service: One of the first privately financed in the country.

The John Muir Historic Site was established by Congress in 1964. It consists of the large Muir Manor atop one of the small hills at the south end of Martinez surrounded by small orchards and vineyards depicting the agricultural activities of the era when Muir lived on the property. Muir lived there from 1890 to his death and wrote many of his articles and books in his study in the large mansion. Initially the home was built by one of California¹s pioneer agriculturalists, Dr. John Strentzel, in the 1870s. Muir married Dr. Strentzel¹s daughter, Louie, April 14, 1880. The property also is the site of the Martinez adobe, late 1840s home of Vincente Martinez whose rancho embraced the land.

Attendance at the Park in 1997 totaled about 30,000 persons. During the school year just concluding, 85 schools in the region sent one or more tour groups to the visit the site, view the famed conservationist¹s home , grounds and to study the lifestyle of the late 1800s and early 1900s. One of the features planned for the Center will be a library and research area where some of Muir¹s written works and other memorabilia will be exhibited. The area will have special environmental controls to safeguard the valuable manuscripts.

Dale Cook 925.516.0570
or Dale Stickney 925.253.0769

Source: "John Muir Memorial Association Press Release ", June 3, 1998

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