WALNUT CREEK -- Longtime friends Jo Ann Hanna and Sally Bronson Ingraham have spent decades fighting side-by-side for local historic and preservation causes.
But last summer, they put their civic duties aside to do something fun, as well as educational. While some tourists spend their summers driving around Hollywood, touring mansions of celebrities, Hanna and Ingraham spent last summer revisiting the past while driving around Walnut Creek.
Their mission: To scout around for historic homes for Hanna to paint pictures of in time for Walnut Creek's centennial year of celebration.
After choosing the 22 homes, Hanna took turns setting up her easel and canvas in the front back, and side of the buildings, to get every angle.
"We fought our big political fights when Walnut Creek was developing in the mid- to late 60s. We got together because both of us were involved in our political groups but through the years our friendship has evolved deeper than that," said Ingraham, who once served on the city's original Open Space Planning Committee and is now part of the centennial committee.
As Hanna painted, Ingraham researched and wrote stories for all the homes. The public can view Hanna's oil paintings in the "Legacy Homes" exhibit at the council chamber entrance at City Hall through January.
The longtime friends also collaborated for the book "Legacy Homes and their Stories," which features Hanna's paintings and Ingraham's stories.
"I had an idea we could feature homes built before World War II, and Jo Ann could paint them because they're still here," said Ingraham, a Walnut Creek native who knew a lot of the families who owned the homes. "We wanted to save the stories and share them with the families."
The exhibit is one of a series of centennial events throughout the year. The
Legacy Homes book is available for purchase at the Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum.
"Ruth Bancroft liked the book," said Hanna, who is known as "Mother of Open Space, and painted a portrait of the Bancroft home.
Hanna, who served on the Walnut Creek Planning Commission for eight years, said Ingraham's support goes back several decades beginning with some of Hanna's civic causes. But it doesn't stop there.
"I think Sally did an incredible job with the stories," she said. "She was one of my early supporters, buying my paintings."
Despite the searching for homes and painting in the summer heat, the women said it was an interesting way for them to learn about local history. Notable homes include the James T. Walker home on Northgate Road; the Silver-Champion home on Shuey
Avenue, built in the English Tudor-style in 1924; the Shipp estate in Saranap; and the
Spanish-style John Marchbank home built in 1920.
"The Walker home is interesting because it's such a paradox--it looks as if it
should be in Washington, D.C.," said Hanna, who studied with notable plein air painter
Pam Glover. "It's so formal and elegant."
Ingraham and Hanna hope "Legacy Homes" has the chance to show in another
location this year.
Hanna said it's been an honor preserving local history. Through her artwork she's
contributing to a movement across the county comprised of people who collect paintings
of "vanishing America."
"There's a Hanna Grove, a Hanna Lane, a Hanna Trail," Hanna said. "The city
has been very good to me, naming all those after me while I'm still alive."
Painter Jo Ann Hanna