Shadelands Ranch Museum
A site on the National Register of Historic Places, the Shadelands Ranch Museum is a time capsule of turn-of-the-20th-Century Walnut Creek.
Completed in 1903, the Museum was originally the ranch home of Hiram Penniman, an early Walnut Creek pioneer who came to Walnut Creek in 1850 and eventually owned some 500 acres of fruit and nut orchards in the Ygnacio Valley.
Penniman and his second wife, Carrie Morris, raised four children, two sons and two daughters. Penniman built the large redwood-framed Colonial Revival house on the ranch to provide for the future security of his unmarried daughter, Mary. The house is furnished with many original family furnishings and treatments.
The Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum is operated by the Walnut Creek Historical Society. The building also serves as the Society’s headquarters. Learn about:
- Museum tours
- Educational programs
- Annual special events at the Ranch
- Private rentals
From its curved glass bay windows to the classic white columns of its front porch, the Penniman home stands as a testament to the craftsmanship and materials of a bygone era.
The Penniman home architecture is typical of Colonial Revival design — a style characteristic of the early 1900s that blended diverse styles and was intended to ensure convenience, gracious living and artistic effect. The columns on the large, wrap-around porch are under scale yet show fine effects of color, texture, and handling of quality materials. Other Revival design details include the weathered, handcrafted appearance of the shingle roof, the hand-hewn front door of golden oak, the newel post staircase, and the clinker brick fireplaces.
From Family Home to Historical Museum
Penniman built the ranch home for daughter Mary Penniman. Unfortunately, Mary died of influenza in 1909, only a few years after the house was built. On her death, the house and ranch property went to Penniman’s other daughter, Bessie, who had married Albert Johnson, son of a wealthy Ohio businessman. On Bessie’s death in 1943, Johnson, inherited the property. Shadelands continued as a fruit and nut ranch until 1948, the year that Johnson died.
At the time of Bessie’s death, Johnson formed the Gospel Foundation of California to administer Shadelands and his other assets. Following Johnson’s death, the Gospel Foundation continued to administer the Shadelands Ranch until 1970, when the foundation donated the home and 2.67 acres of land to the City of Walnut Creek for the purpose of preserving and interpreting local history. The City appointed the Walnut Creek Historical Society as administrator. The house and grounds were opened to the public as the Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum in 1972.