A new interpretive center honoring the first periods of California history will be unveiled at the Sanchez Adobe site in Pacifica in a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 26, which is also Ohlone Day.

Ohlone Day is an annual celebration of Ohlone Indian heritage and culture, and the day’s program is part of the countywide commemoration of the first sighting of the San Francisco Bay by those on the Portola expedition 250 years ago.    

Located at 1000 Linda Mar Blvd., the new 2,500-square-foot building will be home to classrooms and an exhibit gallery with displays on the first people to live on the site. That includes the Ohlone, who created a settlement there called the village of Pruristac more than 550 years ago, Spanish explorers established a mission outpost on the site in the late 18th century, and then the Francisco Sanchez family, which lived there during California’s Mexican era in the mid-19th century. The adobe house in which they lived, which exists today, was built between 1842 and 1846. 

“This is our salute to the people who were first there,” said Mitch Postel, president of the San Mateo County Historical Association, which manages the site. “Their story shouldn’t be forgotten. They had civilization and a history of their own that we’re looking at and honoring.” 

The $2 million building was funded by San Mateo County and, along with other site improvements, has been contemplated for decades, Postel said. It includes two classrooms that will allow the San Mateo County Historical Association to accommodate about 7,000 students a year in its popular after-school program — twice as many students as it serves today. That program includes a variety of hands-on experiences reminiscent of “old” California during Mexican times, including making adobe bricks, grinding corn, using a reata (rope) and making candles, according to a press release.

“For us to double up on classes will be a big benefit for the schools of San Mateo County,” Postel said. 

Sanchez Adobe site in Pacifica

Reuters The new, 2,500-square-foot interpretive center at the Sanchez Adobe site in Pacifica. The building will be home to classrooms for educational after school programs as well as exhibit space dedicated to the first people to live on the site.

The center’s roughly 1,000 square feet of exhibit space unfortunately will not be completed by Oct. 26, but will eventually include displays on the few dozen people who lived at Pruristac before the Spanish arrived, Spanish exploration and the creation of a mission outpost on the site and the life and times of the Sanchez family.

The exhibit will feature a large-scale and detailed painting of Pruristac and another of the site in the 1790s as well as a feather headdress and cape that would have been worn at the time. Artifacts from each of those first three periods of California history will also be on display, including a mortar and pestle and other tools plus an 1803 cannon. The cannon was confiscated off a Russian ship to be used by American Marines against Francisco Sanchez and his band of rancheros and vaqueros during the winter of 1846-1847, while the Mexican-American War was raging, Postel said. The cannon sat underground for 100 years before it was discovered in the 1950s. It hasn’t been accessible to the public since 1998 and will be permanently on display at the interpretive center, Postel added.

The Oct. 26 festivities begin at 10:30 a.m. with Ohlone basket weaving and clapper sticks demonstrations followed by the ribbon cutting a couple of hours later. There will also be scholarly presentations by Ohlone people about their history and the effects of Spanish colonization. One of those speakers is Linda Yamane, who is responsible for the aforementioned painting of Pruristac and some of the crafts demonstrations.

A second phase of the project is expected to be complete within a year, Postel said. For that project, the Adobe Sanchez house will be furnished exactly how it was when the Sanchez family lived there in the mid-19th century. A historian has been hired to come up with an authentic furnishing plan and procure the appropriate artifacts. Postel said he initially thought the home would have to be furnished with facsimiles, but discovered the California Parks System has plenty of authentic ones in storage that can be used. 

The Oct. 26 ribbon cutting and Ohlone Day celebration spans 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

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