Captain Sim

cottageWilliam Sim (who called himself "Captain") built the small cottage that is now located at the park's entrance, on the left, from two schooners abandoned at Mayhew's Landing in Newark during the Gold Rush. The original location of the cottage was along Alameda Creek. It was moved to this location when the area was quarried along Alameda Creek. It is referred to as Sim's Cottage or Shinn Cottage.

Dr. Joseph Clark

When Dr. Joseph Clark came to California, he set up his practice in San Francisco. He purchased this 250-acre ranch in 1856 in the area then known as Vallejo Mills, now known as Fremont. Eliza Sim, wife of Captain Sim, sold 250 acres of their Ex-Mission San Jose land to Dr. Clark in 1856 at a price of $2,280.00.

Dr. Clark wrote to his sister Lucy Shinn and her husband James and convinced them to come to California and run this 250-acre ranch. James and Lucy left Texas with their son Charles Howard, and daughter Annie. They traveled by ship to Panama crossed the Isthmus and took a steam ship to San Francisco.

James and Lucy lived in the Sim Cottage with up to five children until the Big House was completed in 1876.

Shinn's Nurseries

nurseriesIn 1860 Clark sold the ranch to James and Lucy Shinn (Dr. Clark's sister). The Shinn's, in partnership with Dr. Clark, started one of the first nurseries in California. They imported rare trees and plants from the Far East and other parts of the world. Some of these specimens still remain in the gardens today. The nursery ran from the mid 1870s to 1887.

The Shinn House

nurseriesThe "Big House" was started in 1865 and completed in 1876. It is a rare Victorian Farm Style with Bavarian influence. The house is structurally sound even after several earthquakes and has never been destroyed by fire, flood or earthquake. The foundation is of fieldstone, brick and concrete. The joists, structural elements, casework and exterior are all constructed of heart redwood. The interior arrangement followed the typical Victorian plan of a 2-1/2-story rectangular with one-story back kitchen wing. The first and second floor have four rooms that surround a central hall, there is also an attic and a full basement.

Shinn Bungalow

Joseph and Florence Mayhew Shinn constructed the two-story Bungalow located to the right side of the entrance to the park, in 1910. Florence did extensive remodeling to the Big House, after Lucy died in 1916. The family moved from the bungalow to the Big House in about 1922. Joseph Shinn passed away in 1947 while swimming in the quarry ponds between the house and Alameda Creek.

The Shinn Family

nurseries James and Lucy Shinn produced 7 children but only four survived to adulthood, Charles, Annie, Milicent and Joseph. Annie died in early adulthood.

Charles Howard Shinn was a noted author, historian and became the first ranger of the Sierra National Forest. Milicent Washburn Shinn, Ph.D., was editor of the Overland Monthly, author of Biography of a Baby and the first woman to earn a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. Joseph Clark Shinn was a horticulturist, respected community leader and the first president of the Alameda County Water District, the first publicly owned water district in California.

Joseph Clark Shinn left the University of California, Berkeley after one year to help his father manage the ranch after his father, James Shinn had become ill. Joseph Clark Shinn married Florence Mayhew Shinn at the Shinn Ranch in 1905. Joseph and Florence had five children, Joseph Jr., Allen, Lucy, Anna and Elizabeth. Florence was actively involved with many civic organizations including starting a health clinic for children that is now Washington Hospital.

Shinn Historical Park & Arboretum

The City of Fremont, in 1962, accepted the gift of a 4-1/2-acre portion of the Historic Shinn Ranch from Florence Shinn with approval of her children. Florence continued to live in the house with a companion/housekeeper until November 1968, when Florence became seriously ill. Florence lived with her daughter in Marin for a while and passed away while living in a nursing home in 1971.

The Japanese Garden

japGardenThe George Koomei Kato Memorial Garden was designed and created in 1982-1985. It was created twenty year after the property became a park. The garden was designed bythe well-known landscape architect, Mai Kitazawa Arbegast. The Kato Garden is within the footprint of the Shinn's circle garden, where plants that were imported from Japan were planted. Florence Shinn took care of the old Japanese maple at the center of the garden which was 120-years-old when the garden was dedicated in 1982. The maple died in 1994.


1856 James and Lucy Shinn moved to Vallejo's Mills which became Niles in 1869.
1871 Shinn's Nurseries established - one of the earliest nurseries in California
1876 East-lake style "Big House" built
1884 John Rock and R.D. Fox established California Nursery Company across Alameda Creek
1887 Shinn family abandoned nursery business for fruit and nut production.
1954 Sim Cottage (later Shinn Cottage) was moved from Alameda Creek to where it is now in the front of the park
1962 Property was donated to city by Florence Mayhew Shinn
1962 Mission Peak Heritage Foundation was established by Dr. Robert Fisher
1982 Koomei George Kato Memorial garden was planned in memory of George Kato and the Japanese of Southern Alameda County. Mai Kitazawa Arbegast drew up the plans
1983 Koomei George Kato Memorial Garden was dedicated May 1983
1985 Azumaya (garden viewing room) was dedicated to our sister city, Fukaya
1993 Friends of Heirloom Flowers was established