Vallejo residents complete Mare Island walking tour map
Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo and Francisca Benicia Carillo de Vallejo were married to each other.
Now, fittingly enough, the recently completed walking tour map of downtown Vallejo now has its own partner: A walking tour map of Mare Island.
“History Speaks: A tour of some of the many architectural gems on Mare Island,” documents more than 20 different historic areas and buildings on the former naval base and was completed by local citizens Debbie Lamb, Pearl Tranter and Brendan Riley.
“That’s what cool about it,” said Riley, who did the research and writing for the map. “It was a group effort.”
Riley said that the hardest part was pinning down facts and getting accurate information, especially when there are differing accounts about a historic event.
He noted the example of how Mare Island received its name, with some believing that a mare already lived on the island, while the generally accepted story is that the mare belonged to Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo.
One day, a raft moving from Martinez to Benicia was caught in a storm and the frightened mare kicked down a fence on the raft and fell into the water. The mare swam to the island — thus the name.
The idea for the Mare Island map came out of a discussion during a meeting of the Architectural Heritage and Landmarks Commission, Riley said.
Riley currently serves on the commission, while Tranter is a former member.
Doing the map design and layout, Lamb said that she learned a lot about Mare Island while working on the map — especially the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve.
“I never knew about the great view above the preserve,” Lamb said.
While she learned about the island, Lamb said that the hardest part for her during the project was dealing with Riley’s writing.
“The hardest part was cutting down the words,” Lamb said laughing, while Riley faked shock.
“Are you saying I’m wordy?,” he retorted with a laugh.
While those two worked out their differences, Tranter, who took the photos for both maps, expressed her pleasure with the end results.
“(The maps) promote discussion of Vallejo’s history,” Tranter said. “And the best part is that everything on the map is accessible and doable.”
“I hope the map causes people working on Mare Island to walk around and learn the history of the island,” he added.
Both Tranter and Riley, who live in the Heritage District, said that after the first map was released, they saw locals and non-locals walking around the neighborhood with the map.
They hope that will extend to Mare Island with the new map.
“It’s about connecting people to the history of the city,” Riley said, noting that history was lost when people moved away from the city after the naval base was scaled back in operations during the 1980s and ultimately closed in 1996.
The group hopes the maps help bring historical tourism to the city, increasing a positive image of the city and bringing in tax dollars.
Riley said that sometime in the future, the goal will be to add an audio component, which would allow those on the tour to receive verbal information about each site on their phones.
Tom Arie Donch, with the Vallejo Community Arts Foundation, recently confirmed that the goal is to include both maps, with an audio component, in an Art and Architecture Walk in downtown Vallejo.
The foundation is working to beautify several utility boxes in the downtown area.
Coming in seventh during last year’s Participatory Budgeting vote, the Arts, Beautification, Community Development proposal received $96,000 to “create tangible symbols of community pride and instill leadership skills and sense of ownership,” according to the cycle two PB ballot.
Tranter, Riley and Lamb all agreed that the process of making another map was fun, since they were able to save time and use the same template from the first map.
“It was enjoyable hours, I was able to read “A Long Line of Ships” again, which I hadn’t read in 25 years,” Riley said with a smile. “It was fun to do.”
Originally published in 1954, Arnold S. Lott’s “A Long Line of Ships: Mare Island’s Century of Naval Activity in California” commemorates the first 100 years of the Navy base.
Lamb said she was excited about the map and hopes tour walkers will enjoy the fact that the print and other information is not small and can be used by everyone.
Copies of the Mare Island map can be found at the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation Artifacts Museum, the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum and the Vallejo Ferry Building, among other places throughout the city.
Contact John Glidden at 707-553-6832.