Published October 20, 2015
Volume 23, Number 10

Ravenswood Historical Site Offers a Glimpse of Local Life in

the Victorian Era


By Jay Hipps

One of the most remarkable attributes of the Tri-Valley is its wealth of history. A quick glance at the area reveals numerous buildings from the 1800s and onwards, many with a well documented story behind them. Among the most impressive of these is the Ravenswood Historical Site in Livermore, once part of a 100-acre vineyard and winery and now one of the prize properties of the Livermore Recreation and Park District (LARPD).

“There are a lot of wonderful Victorian homes in the area but most of those are private residences, so Ravenswood is really the only place where the public can come in and learn about that lifestyle and that timeframe in the valley,” says Maryalice Faltings, Ravenswood’s docent program coordinator. “It’s a wonderful historic resource.”

Ravenswood began life in the 1880s under the Buckley family, who planted the 100 acre site as a vineyard and constructed a winery and four other structures which served as a summer residence. The property was purchased in 1931 by a Catholic order known as the Redemptorist Fathers, who used it as a retreat until it was privately purchased in 1968, when roughly a third of the site — 32.6 acres — was given to the City of Livermore for use as a park. The 1891 Main House and 1885 Tank House were restored by the LARPD in 1979, followed by a restoration to the 1885 Cottage in 1986.

Tours are offered on two Sundays per month by volunteer docents who dress in period Victorian garb and relate the history of the site and what it was like to live both on the Buckley property and in the Tri-Valley in that era. “The cottage is a house museum, and it’s furnished as it could have been in 1896,” says Faltings. Even the remaining vineyards — about 10 acres — are “head-pruned,” a style consistent with agricultural practices at the time.

The site also hosts two special events each year, an Ice Cream Social in August and Ravenswood Yuletide, which this year will take place on December 13.

“For the Yuletide celebration, the houses are decorated as they would have been in the 1890s,” says Faltings. “We have some real interesting exhibits in the barn that have to do with blacksmithing and coopering (barrel making), as well as entertainment, and there are desserts and hot apple cider for sale.”

“We have a wonderful gift shop in our Tank House,” she adds. “We have a beautiful array of Victorian Christmas ornaments that are really unique and a variety of all kinds of cool gifts, Ravenswood items, and Victorian items.”

The site is also available for event rentals and is particularly popular for weddings which involve 150 or fewer guests. “I got married there and a lot of my docents’ kids have gotten married there,” Faltings says.

Ravenswood Historical Site is open from noon to four p.m. on second and fourth Sundays of each month except for the second Sunday in May (Mother’s Day) and the fourth Sundays in November in December. Ravenswood is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a State of California Historical Point of Interest and is a City of Livermore Historic Preservation Landmark Site. For additional information, access the LARPD web site at www.larpd.org or call (925) 373-5700.


Also in this issue...