History

The Mount Diablo Fruit Farm

The Ruth Bancroft Garden occupies land that was once part of a 400-acre fruit farm that produced walnuts and Bartlett pears in the Ygnacio Valley. The farm was started in the 1880s by Hubert Howe Bancroft, a famous historian and publisher who amassed a huge personal library of books related to the American West. Bancroft sold his important collection to the University of California, which became the nucleus of The Bancroft Library.

In the 1930s, the farm was awarded first place in the state for pears 8 out of 9 years. At the height of production, the farm had 200 seasonal employees. Pears were shipped to the East and as far away as England. The farm was passed down to Philip Bancroft, Sr. and then to his son, Philip Bancroft, Jr.

The farm remained in operation until the late 1960s, when the property was rezoned for city residential use. The land was sold to developers for expanding Walnut Creek. The last walnut orchard on the property was cut down in 1971, and Philip Bancroft, Jr. gave this land to his wife, Ruth, to plant a new garden using succulents from her large collection.

Banner photo by John Ricca