The main house on the Shadelands Ranch grounds, built by Walnut Creek pioneer Hiram Penniman (1824-1907), is a 1903 redwood-framed Colonial Revival structure that now showcases numerous historical artifacts, many of which belonged to the Pennimans. 

Penniman arrived in California in 1853 and three years later he purchased 500 acres (2.0 km2 ) of land from Encarnación Pacheco, the daughter of Juana Sanchez de Pacheco, then owner of Rancho Arroyo de Las Nueces y Bolbones from which the 500 acres (2.0 km2) were taken.

Penniman planted a variety of fruits and nuts including peaches, pears, apricots, grapes, almonds, and walnuts, as well as prunes, which was the most important and profitable crop for Penniman. Penniman’s original name for the ranch was “Shadelands Fruit Farm.” In January 1897 Hiram Penniman fell ill and ranch care and oversight became largely the responsibility of Penniman’s eldest daughter, Mary.

Upon Hiram ‘s death, the ownership of the ranch passed on to Mary, then to Bessie after Mary ‘s death. The ranch was mainly managed by Bessie and her husband Albert Johnson from afar, as Albert’s business concerns lay primarily in distant Chicago. In 1921, Bessie hired Edmund Moyer to reside with his family at the ranch and oversee it. Bessie died in a car accident in 1943, and Albert himself became seriously ill not long after. Albert Johnson formed the Gospel Foundation in 1947, with an eye to his own mortality, an organization that was meant to oversee his extensive assets after his death. Johnson died of cancer in 1948, and dedicated his entire property to the Gospel Foundation, including Shadelands.

The Gospel Foundation continued to administer Shadelands until 1970, when it gave the city of Walnut Creek, California the remaining 1.5 acres (6,100 m2) of land and ranch house. Today it is run by the Walnut Creek Historical Society, and has been open to the public as a historic museum since 1972, the ranch house still furnished with much of the original furniture of the Pennimans. The house was placed on the Historic Places National Register in 1985.

It also houses a rich archive of the history of Contra Costa and Walnut Creek in its old newspaper collections, photographs, and government records. 

The Burgess Room in Sherwood is open Wednesdays from 1 p.m. By 4 P.M. for individuals wishing to conduct research on local history.

The museum is on the National Register of Historic Places and belongs to the City of Walnut Creek, but is managed by the Society through fundraising and a dedicated volunteer corps. The Museum is closed from early November to the first Sunday in February each year. The Society holds public events around the holidays during the annual hiatus, and performs on-house routine maintenance every January.

This amazing attraction is located near the following must-see sights in Concord, California:

  • Diablo Foothills Regional Park
  • Shell Ridge Open Space 
  • Todos Santos Plaza
  • Benicia-Martinez Bridge
  • California Grand Casino 
  • Shiva Murugan Temple
  • Newhall Community Park

All of these landmarks are located just a short distance from our location in downtown Walnut Creek, Spaulding Concrete on Locust Street!