Who in Niles hasn't crossed from Mission Blvd to Niles Blvd. on Nursery Avenue a thousand times without giving it a thought. The new nursery, I mean. Not the rundown nursery that closed several years back or for that matter, the new park that the nursery has become.
This wasn’t just any nursery, it was actually designated as a California Historical Park and holds a lot of significance within the early history of the Bay Area. Just revamped in the last few years, it’s a great place to visit and learn our local history. Established in 1884, a group of investors purchased and leased the 500 acres with the plan to sell ornamental plants and trees by 1886.
The group purchased the land from Jonas Gilman Clark, founder of Clark University. The small adobo house that came with the property is now on the National Register of Historic Places list. The Vallejo Adobe as it is known was built in 1842.
Once the nursery was up and running they operated as a wholesaler and produced grape vines, roses, ornamentals and fruit trees for California’s booming agricultural industry. They were even the supplier of plants for the Palo Alto tycoon and eventual Senator, Leland Stanford. (You may know him from the fact he founded Stanford University) Soon they entered into the traditional retail space, with co-owner John Rock devoted to creating plant hybrids, often working with other breeders like Luther Burbank.
By the time John Rock passed away, the nursery was credited with creating more new plant species to California than any other. The next time you're bumping across the railroad tracks, caught in the over-improved bottle-neck that is Nursery Ave, you can take pride in knowing you're passing an important part of California history and one of the many little things that make Niles so special.