11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Juana Briones House

Year Listed: 2010
Location: Palo Alto, California
Threat: Demolition

Significance

In the heart of Silicon Valley, what is traditionally known as the Juana Briones House is a rare reminder of California’s early Spanish and Mexican heritage.  In 1844, Juana Briones, a pioneering rancher, traditional healer and entrepreneur, purchased a 4,400-acre rancho from Native Americans and built a homestead 30 miles south of San Francisco.  There, she single-handedly raised seven children and an adopted Native American daughter and developed a reputation as a successful businesswoman. 

Long before the Gold Rush, Juana Briones' remarkable life made her a well-known figure in early California history. Her story of an independent, resourceful business woman and healer resonates with people of all cultures, classes, races and ages.  Hers is a unique and largely unknown story, one that can't be forgotten.

The house, which has been modified through the years, is believed to contain the remains of the 1844 adobe home built by Juana Briones, one of only 34 women in early California history documented as a landowner.  One of the first residents of what is now San Francisco, Juana Briones was born in 1802 to early Californios at Villa de Branciforte, now Santa Cruz, and spent her early years at the Presidio of San Francisco, then a Spanish military base.