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Demolition Has Begun at Historic Juana Briones House
by Mei Bo Chan
Thursday May 26th, 2011 4:51 AM
After more than a decade of legal battles, in which owner Jaim Nulman faced off against preservationists, a decision by a final court ruled against the group Friends of Juana Briones House. It was hoped that Nulman would let archeologists enter the property before any demolition of the house on his property began, so that experts might salvage some of the historic parts of the pioneer latina's original home, the oldest house in Palo Alto. Nulman told local papers that "only dismantling", not demolishing the house.

photo: At a 2009 Juana Briones' Park gathering, picnic goers carried signs in Spanish and English: "Save the Juana Briones House"
Juana Briones was a pioneer latina who healed the sick and cared for the poor. An elementary school and park in Palo Alto both bear her name. Her house, parts of which were built in 1844, is being destroyed by property owner Jaim Nulman, who has fought off historic preservationists, latino activists, and descendants of Briones for years. Feminists joined in the struggle for the home's preservation as well. Jeanne McDonnell, biographer of Juana Briones, stated that historic buildings associated with women are more likely to be demolished than those associated with men.

When Nulman bought the property more than ten years ago, the conditions of purchase were clear. The house was named a significant historic landmark and with it carried legal restrictions on any changes that could be made. A person with interest in preservation had hoped to buy it at that time, and examined the sale conditions carefully. Nulman was the ultimate buyer and he chose to ignore the legal requirements for preservation, choosing instead to battle local supporters of the house and history experts.

The imminent destruction of the Juana Briones House is painful for descendents of Briones, some of whom reside in Santa Clara County, and for activists seeking to preserve the history of the Californio period of the state's history.

Professor Al Camarillo of Stanford University says the city of Palo Alto could have taken appropriate action to save the house. Others agree with Camarillo's accusation, but ultimately the blame falls on Nulman who has belittled the concerns of historic preservationists, Stanford archeologists, latino activists, and feminists, all of whom sought to save the home.
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Not only that...Sophie T. HansThursday May 26th, 2011 5:09 AM