The Pardee H
ome & Family
THE HISTORY OF A PUBLIC FAMILY and THEIR LEGACY
Oakland’s Pardee Home is one of the loveliest architectural and historical treasures of Northern California. First-time visitors might initially be attracted by the exterior beauty of the house and its gardens, but after entering the house they learn of its outstanding historical importance and of its unique interiors and artifacts from throughout the world.
The Pardee Home, including its carriage house and water tower, is a centerpiece of Oakland’s Preservation Park Historic District, within a short walking distance of such downtown landmarks as Old Oakland, City Hall, and Preservation Park. Once threatened by the construction of Interstate 980, the successful effort to save the house in the 1970s was an important early chapter in the historic preservation movement in Oakland. It was designated a city landmark in 1975, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and was named a California state landmark in 1997.
The house was built in 1868-69 by Enoch Pardee, a Gold Rush immigrant to California from the Midwest, who became an eye doctor in San Francisco after mining gold. He also pursued a vigorous public career in the East Bay during the 1870s and 1880s, including mayor of Oakland, state assemblyman, and state senator. Enoch’s only child by his first wife Mary, George C. Pardee, followed ever so closely in his father’s footsteps, also becoming an eye doctor in San Francisco and mayor of Oakland. Unlike his father, George did not serve in the state legislature in Sacramento; however, he was elected governor of California in 1902.
Governor Pardee is best remembered today as the “earthquake governor,” who received universal praise in 1906 for his remarkable leadership during the worst tragedy in California history. But his public career extended much beyond this one crisis. With Theodore Roosevelt as his close political mentor, George was a co-founder of the Progressive Party in California and was one of the most important early conservationists in the nation. He also played a key role in wresting control of the Oakland waterfront from the Southern Pacific Railroad and returning it to the citizens of the city, an accomplishment rewarded when he was elected a founding commissioner of the Port of Oakland in 1927. Late in life George was the founder and longtime President of the local water utility, EBMUD, which honored him with the naming of the Pardee Dam, still the dominant source of water for this region.
Governor Pardee stands to the right of President Theodore Roosevelt as Roosevelt accepts the Republican nomination for the presidency in 1904.
The Pardee Family
Left to right (front), Miss Madeline, Mrs. Helen, Miss Helen, Governor Pardee, and Miss Carol; Miss Florence in the rear, 1902.
George’s wife, Helen, was one of the most prodigious private collectors in California. She accumulated many thousands of objects from all corners of the world… scrimshaw from Alaska, tobacco pipes from the Philippines, altarpieces from China, and rosaries from Mexico, to name but a few. In 1897, when George and Helen moved their young family into this house after Enoch’s death, Mrs. Pardee began creating a private house museum, with exhibits of her scores of collections eventually dominating most of the public rooms. Mrs. Pardee’s artifacts from the nations of the Pacific Rim, along with the museum’s notable collection of California fine arts, set this house apart from similar homes in other regions of the country. Helen was a renowned hostess and loved to give house tours with an emphasis on her collections, often followed by a cup of tea …a tradition that lives on today.
Governor and Mrs. Pardee lost two of their four daughters at early ages, but the two surviving daughters, Madeline and Helen, lived in this house as single women for many years after their parents’ deaths in the 1940s. The Pardee Home Foundation was established following Helen’s death in 1981 with the goal of preserving their lovely home and its contents as a public museum. The house is shown today just as it evolved over the years, and as such represents a unique historic site, illustrating over a century of the Pardees’ lives as well as the larger history of their city, region, and state.
GEORGE PARDEE, 1879
GEORGE COOPER PARDEE
EMILY SOPHIA ELLIOTT