San Pablo history in full Blume

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San Pablo: History in full Blume
Blume House (Photo: Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

The Standard recently caught up with Janet Pottier, president of the San Pablo Historical and Museum Society, for insight about the historic Blume House, one of several historic structures serving as museums at Church Lane and San Pablo Avenue.

And we also got some good news: Even though San Pablo City Hall, which is located next to the museums, is moving in April into a brand new building about a quarter-mile away, the Blume House and its neighboring historic structures — including the Bunk House, Alvarado Adobe and little Texiera cottage — will remain at their current location and will be enhanced by a newly created park, Pottier said.

That’ll offer more access to learn about the large Blume Farm House, which was built by German immigrants in 1905, during San Pablo’s agricultural era spanning from 1847 to 1940. While it originally existed at the site where Hilltop Mall sits today, the Blume House was moved to its present site in 1974 in order to make way for the mall’s construction. 

“The new immigrants who were coming to San Pablo, were now displacing the Mexicans, who had displaced the Ohlone Natives,” noted Pottier. 

San Pablo’s history started in the early 1800s when the Castro Family had a 20,000 acre land grant. Juan Baustista Alvarado, the first native born governor of California, married one of Castro’s daughters and they lived in the Alvarado Adobe, which is located a stone’s throw from the Blume House.

Many of the ranchers that would come to San Pablo were new immigrants from Germany. One such immigrant was Henry Blume, who arrived in San Francisco in 1856 from Prussia. He worked in hotels until he had a enough money to buy a piece of the Castro land grant. When he started ranching, he grew hay and grain, along with cattle and chickens at Hilltop.

After his death in 1895, his wife Frederika and their five sons kept farming. Then in 1905 they had a enough money to build the luxurious Blume House which consisted of seven bedrooms, running water and a parlor.

“The house was totally empty back 1974,” Pottier said. “So we fully furnished it with original 1900s-era furniture that would have been more than likely in the Blume House…the original wood-burning stove was the only artifact that came with Blume farmhouse back in 1974. Later a family from El Sobrante donated and returned the original round dining room table with the lions claws back to the Blume House.”

Pottier noted the Blume House also has a fully functional indoor bathroom complete with a pull chain toilet and the original bathtub.

“When Frederika’s son and daughter in-law, who lived in the house with her attempted to bring a gas stove for to cook on, she wanted nothing to do with it,” Pottier said. “She preferred and continued to cook on her wooden stove.”

Next door to the Blume House is the Bunk House, which came from the original Hilltop location as well. Pottier said the Bunk House was built in 1890 and housed hired hands upstairs and farming equipment downstairs. Some of the original farming equipment is still there and even some of original blacksmith tools, she said.

By the 1930s, the Blumes no longer lived in their home. Standard Oil would acquire the land, which would become a rental property until the early 1970s.

Today, the Blume House operates as an important reminder of San Pablo’s rich history. The Blume House and Alvarado Adobe museums can be seen by appointment. There are no admission fees. For more information, call (510) 255-7488 or email sanpablomuseums@gmail.com.

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