Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leidesdorff Park

The name sounds great and it honors a real pioneer in the area whose historical contributions to California and our region have been somewhat overlooked.

Oak Park artist wants Leidesdorff to replace Goethe as park name
By Blair Anthony Robertson -
Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, February 28, 2008

Michael Harris has never been a farmer. In fact, he grew up in Sacramento and spent part of his youth living in public housing.

At 44, he is an artist with a studio in Oak Park. Yet, somewhere along the way, he became fascinated with the history he was not learning in school.

As an African American, he eventually wondered why he had never heard of the 19th century California pioneer William Alexander Leidesdorff Jr.

Leidesdorff (pronounced LEED-as-dorf) is suddenly a hot name in Sacramento – there is talk that Sacramento County's former Goethe Park could be renamed after the wealthy landowner and farmer who played a key role in preparing California to join the Union.

Leidesdorff, who was of Danish and Afro-Cuban heritage, owned thousands of acres of farmland near the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers. Part of the farm included the 444-acre parcel that is now Goethe Park, the popular recreation area named for Charles M. Goethe, a local philanthropist who also embraced eugenics and white supremacy.

While Goethe's name soon will be wiped from county maps and brochures, thanks to a recent Board of Supervisors vote, Leidesdorff's is a leading candidate to take its place. Some advocates of the American River Parkway have pushed for something more contemporary, such as naming the park for former Supervisor Illa Collin.