Moraga is known for pear trees once harvested year after year, back before the orchards gave way to houses. Residents with good memories also will recall the days when Moraga harvested tons upon tons of locally grown walnuts.
Hulling was done at a facility which, if one stands directly across the street from it, looks much as it did decades ago (black-and-white photograph). Today it stands vacant, overshadowed by the Moraga Way fire station built in 1969.
According to sources at the Moraga Historical Society (MHS), by the time the town had incorporated in 1974, the husking operation had ceased and the shed was permanently shuttered.
But when it was humming, it was really humming. A local newspaper article from 1952, on file in the MHS archives, states that "every year, 5.5 tons of walnuts gathered from 350 acres of trees are hulled, washed, dried, boxed and trucked to Walnut Creek for further processing before being shipped to market."
The article goes on to say that although walnut trees were first planted in the 1930s, elsewhere in Contra Costa County their roots (pardon the intentional pun) date to the 19th century.
When we visited to take our Now photographs, we observed several things:
- It is next to impossible to see inside the building; it is buttoned up tight as a walnut shell.
- A small mountain of assorted detritus, at least some of which may be discarded production paraphernalia, sits in front, near the street.
- Vehicles and equipment used by a local construction company can be found in back.
- To the immediate left of the shed, viewed from the street, is a modern-day twist on the victory gardens of WWII. It is a community garden, we are told, tended lovingly by green-thumbed citizens. We leaned over the fence to take the photograph shown here.