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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lodena Edgcumbe

James Kern

Last month marked the 100th anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. April, 2006 also marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of a prominent Vallejoan - Lodena Edgcumbe. The two stories are closely connected.

When San Francisco was destroyed by the quake and subsequent fire, thousands of residents fled the city. Many of those refugees came to Vallejo by ferry and settled in this city while San Francisco was rebuilt. A tent camp was established in City Park, and refugees found space at the old Naval YMCA on Santa Clara Street, and at other locations around town. Discovered on board one of the ferries was an infant girl, reportedly about ten days old. She was taken in by Alfred and Sarah Edgcumbe. At the time, “Alf” Edgcumbe worked at Mare Island, but he would later become Vallejo’s City Clerk. Numerous attempts were made to find the baby’s birth parents in San Francisco, all to no avail. The orphaned child was eventually adopted by the Edgcumbes and named Lodena Francisca - her middle name chosen to honor the city of her birth.

Lodena Edgcumbe was educated at St. Vincent’s Convent in Vallejo and showed early talent as a dancer. Her parents encouraged her talent and she received training at the Hirsh-Arnold Studios in San Francisco. The internationally famous Russian dancers Pauley and Oukrainsky took notice of Lodena and she soon joined their company, touring throughout the United States, Mexico, and Europe. Later she formed “Lodena Edgcumbe and Company” and toured on the Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit.

Lodena returned to Vallejo in 1933 and eventually opened a dance studio here. For nearly forty years she was a teacher and mentor to hundreds - if not thousands - of Vallejo youths. Throughout her long career she supported all aspects of the arts and culture in Vallejo, and is fondly remembered by many of her former students. She passed away in 1978.

Later this year, in honor of Lodena Edgcumb’s centennial, the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum will hold a special program and exhibit about her life and career. Former students and other Vallejoans are encouraged to contact the Museum if they have photos, memorabilia, or stories to share about this remarkable woman. Or better yet, post your memories to the Local History Blog!