A rainy Saturday morning didn't stop the crowds from coming out for the grand opening of Mountain View's newest parkland. About 150 people braved the heavy downpour for the ribbon-cutting for Heritage Park, what city officials are describing as a "passive-agrarian" homage to the city's agricultural roots.
That means anyone seeking soccer fields, playgrounds and barbecue grills should head over to one of the city's other 40 or so parks. Heritage Park is clearly designed with two main user groups in mind: history buffs and gardeners.
The 1.2-acre site at 771 N. Rengstorff Ave. was formerly home to the Stieper family's house and orchard, and was sold to the city for use as a park. While the family's house was demolished last year, city staff designed the new park to retain as much of the original orchard as possible, including a variety of fruit trees, such as apricot, apple, fig and olive.
Could visitors help themselves to some of the fruit off the tree? Mountain View senior planner Rey Rodriguez said he didn't see why not.
"We're not going to be able to stop anyone," he said with a shrug.
Free fruit is just scratching the surface of the farming features planned for the new park. The local green-thumb group, Soil and Water, is planning to showcase a demonstration garden at Heritage Park to educate people in growing techniques. The park also has three "kitchen gardens," raised planting beds perfect for herbs and spices.
Meanwhile, at the back of the park a large apiary will one day be buzzing with activity to demonstrate beekeeping. That is still a work in progress, Rodriguez said. On the advice of beekeepers, city staff decided it wouldn't be a good idea to transport hives during bees' wintertime lull.
The centerpiece of the park is the Immigrant House, a shack built around 1888 that was once used to house migrant workers for the local farms. The dilapidated building has undergone a makeover, and now sports a new paint job, wallpaper and extensive work to repair years of damage from the elements.
Today, the spruced-up Immigrant House looks good enough to live in -- and it would be a bargain if it was still being rented out. In the 1930s, the owner charged tenants just $11 a month for rent, or about $160 in today's inflation-adjusted dollars. Of course, those tenants didn't have modern luxuries like WiFi, electricity, running water or toilets.
For now, the Immigrant House is mostly empty, but its preservationists said they are working to collect period-appropriate antiques to decorate the interior.
Mountain View resident Mary Kay Marinovich, whose grandparents once lived in the Immigrant House after migrating from Europe, is spearheading a search for old furniture and household items from around the 1920s. In particular, she said, she would like to acquire an old bed, ice chest and oven. With the help of city staff, she has learned much more about the people who lived in the house, but many specifics of their lifestyle are still unknown, she said.
Marinovich, who launched the effort to preserve the tiny building, said she encourages anyone with appropriate antiques to contact her through the Friends of the Immigrant House Facebook page.