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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Painting a tale of pink houses, spiral staircases

Jerry Bowen

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Pair of families built their homes in Suisun Valley

In my last column, we went over the history of the Perry family and the house that was built in the 1860s that still stands, although probably not for long.  The last of the Perry family, Clyde, will vacate the house just before demolition, likely in the near future.

At the Vacaville Heritage Council we were discussing the fate of the house and looking at a photo, when one of our research staff, Elissa DeCarro, made a statement about where the house was located. Carol Noske and I said, no, it’s on another site. So Elissa went out and took a photo of the house and sure enough, there was a house that looked almost exactly the same right down to the pink paint!

Doing a little research provided some very interesting details. When we did the Perry article, we learned that the Davisson family house had burned down around the 1960s. What we didn’t know then, was that it was their first home - a somewhat crude cabin. Their second home was built in the early 1860s and Elissa’s find was the Davisson house.

So who were the Davissons?

If you read my last article you know that Andrew Jackson Perry married Elizabeth Cecilia Davisson. Elizabeth, who traveled by covered wagon across the prairies in 1853 with her parents to California, was the daughter of Obadia and Hulda Davisson. Obadia and Hulda built this econd home about the same time the Perrys built theirs.

Several generations of the Davissons grew up in the home and later generations of the two Suisun Valley families remained good friends. This home has also been recently sold to someone and some say it may be restored to its former glory, although I don’t know that to be fact. What we are doing is trying to locate the owners to get permission to photograph it inside and out.

If this house also has a circular staircase like the one in the Perry home, then they both have a stairway like the one in Gen. Vallejo’s home in Sonoma. What a coincidence.

Obadiah and Hulda Davisson lived out their lives in Suisun Valley and are both buried in the Fairfield Cemetery.

In another location in Solano County, Headwaters Development Company has gone out of its way to preserve a unique Rubblestone structure. We interviewed longtime resident Joseph McNeill III, a partner in the company, several months ago and it was obvious his love of Solano history was high in his priorities.

The Pony Express Business Park, as it is known, is located on Westamerica Drive. They are doing a fantastic job in making the structure a centerpiece of the business park. It proves that a caring developer can make a difference and we in the history community commend Headwaters highly for the effort.

There is also a possibility the building is much older than currently thought.  Rubblestone buildings were among the earliest stone structures in the county. It bears a remarkable similarity to the Santa Eulalia Rancheria Mission building we recently discovered and with its close proximity to the mission, it could prove to have been part of the mission colony.

That means there is a possibility it could have been built as early as 1824!  We’re still actively researching that.  The Santa Eulalia structure recently has been confirmed by an archaeological study by Sonoma State University.

It is also possible that the huge olla (Spanish water vessel) uncovered in the Nelson Quarry near Cordelia in the 1950s has some relation to the Santa Eulalia Rancheria Mission. It was an underground structure capable of holding several thousand gallons of water; probably used for irrigating crops. It also appears to have been lined with “Spanish cement.” The early Spanish used crushed seashells as an additive to their cement. We’re also looking into this.

It once again verifies that the Suisun Valley is host to the oldest recorded history in Solano County.

Perhaps more effort should be made by the county and city elected officials to make sure that historic structures are taken into consideration as a higher priority.