Elam and Margaret Brown Plaza is located at the busy intersection of Moraga Road and Mount Diablo Blvd. On 19 November 1864, Elam Brown, owner of Rancho Acalanes, builder of Lafayette and second Anglo-American settler in Contra Costa County, dedicated Park Plaza to the people of Lafayette. This small public park has a millstone at permanent display from Elam Brown's gristmill. In 1970, Park was declared a California Point of Historical Interest, CCo-3 and in 1976, by a City Council Resolution (36-76), named Lafayette Landmark. Let’s take a look at the history of this park.
Elam Brown, a widower with four children, and Nathaniel Jones, a married man who later became the first Sheriff of Contra Costa County, crossed the plains in the same wagon train. They rolled their wagons through the Livermore Valley to Mission Santa Clara, after a short stay at Sutter's Fort in Sacramento. Brown along the way married Margaret Allen, a member of their wagon train whose husband died on the west trek. She had 11 children.
In the spring after their arrival, Brown and Jones hired out in the redwood logging district of Contra Costa County. This area consists of three clusters of very large trees, Moraga Redwoods, Peralta Redwoods, and San Antonio Redwoods, in the valleys southwest of Moraga today. The two pioneers wiped timber at San Antonio Redwood, hauled it to the Oakland Estuary by ox team and carried it to San Francisco.
Brown learned of 3,300 acres being offered for sale when transporting timber within the simple riding distance from where he was employed. While Brown had no money of his own, his new wife had $900 which she had concealed among the items brought to the west in a crock. The Seller, San Francisco merchant William Leidesdorff, accepted Brown's $900 bid, and the property became his. Brown traversed hilly terrain from Oakland to its acreage. The trails, which were unidentified in 1846, became known as Summit Route, Telegraph Route, and Tunnel Road in 1903. He walked through nearly impenetrable groves of a range of oaks, and eventually crossed the path of oxen pulling tons of lumber from Martinez's lumber camps on his own farm.
Elam Brown sold 372 acres for $100 to his friend Nathaniel Jones, grateful to have a decent friend as his only neighbor. During those days of fertile soil, grain grew profusely in Contra Costa County. Brown and Jones harvested heavy wheat crops and hauled it in wagons pulled by oxen to the nearby flour mill in San Jose, but the journeys back and forth were wasting precious time. Brown purchased a second-hand horse driven grist mill in Benicia in the spring of 1853, and built it on what is now Plaza Way near First Street. With its green lawn and elegant seating and landscaping on the bench, shoppers and business people love hanging out on the plaza for lunch or just enjoying the busy stream of people walking around. It is also the perfect location for activities organized by the Chamber of Commerce and City such as "Lafayette Experience," "Rock the Plaza" and "Movies Under the Stars." The position is on a first-come, first-served basis.
The plaza is perfect for a picnic lunch with friends on the alfresco. Take a bucket of fried chicken to share, or some tasty treats from Sideboard or Joe and the Juice, and let the kids run around while you watch the world pass from your grass blanket.
This amazing landmark is located near the following amazing site in Lafayette, California:
- East Bay Regional Park District Briones Regional Park
- East Bay Municipal Utility District Lafayette Reservoir
- Lafayette Community Center
- Lafayette Community Park
- Buckeye Fields
- Leigh Creekside Park
- Brook Street Park
- Dinosaur Hill Park
All of these wonderful parks are located just a short distance from our location, conveniently located just down the freeway at 1261 Locust St, Walnut Creek! Stop by for a visit anytime!