Port Hueneme: The Friends of the Bard Mansion Host Port Officials and Guests

By Sheryl Hamlin

Members, guests and dignitaries enjoyed an evening in the historic Bard Mansion inside Port Hueneme during the Friends of the Bard Mansion quarterly meeting.

The Tour of the House




Not visible from the street and not accessible without a pre-arranged security clearance, Berylwood is no ordinary historic site. With antecedents in the 19th century dating to Lincoln’s era, Berylwood began with the assignment of Thomas R. Bard to visit huge tracts of land purchased by a syndicate run by Thomas A Scott, the assistant Secretary of War during President Lincoln’s administration.

According to Carol Marsh, chief docent for the Friends, young Bard was sent to commercialize the oil which geologists had indicated existed on Scott’s lands. This was the first attempt to develop California’s oil resources. However, at that time, oil was not used for petroleum but as kerosene, and as Bard discovered, the type of oil in California was heavy, viscous and hard to refine, so it was cheaper to ship the oil from Pennsylvania for use as kerosene.

Since the development of California’s oil market was premature, it was decided to subdivide the syndicate’s land and sell to individuals. Bard was charged with these sales from which he earned large commissions and bought himself lands in the Oxnard Plain and Simi Valley. By the 1880’s he had become very wealthy. In addition to oil, he was involved in sheep ranching and banking. He envisioned a wharf to load agricultural products. He was the first President of the Union Oil, working with Hardison in Santa Paula. Note that development on Hardison’s home was the subject of a previous article.

In 1900 Bard was elected to the Senate of the United States by the California Legislature. This was before the days of direct election of Senators. Bard was a Progressive Republican, like Teddy Roosevelt, who wanted to reduce the influence of big companies in business and politics. As a Senator, his interests were local Indians, conservation, fresh water and the Panama Canal.

Bard’s wife Molly was 18 when he married her at age 34. She was from San Francisco and wore a French wedding gown. The couple honeymooned in Paris. Together they had 8 children, one of whom died and another required assisted living, but one lived to be 105 years on her estate in Moorpark. Attending the meeting on March 11, 2016, was Joanna, a granddaughter of Bard, who serves on the Friends board and is 98 years old. Bard family members held notable positions in California and across the United States.

Bard built Berylwood in 1912. It was the third house on the site and named for his second child. The original, remodeled house was demolished for the current mansion. Bard hired Myron Hunt, architect, for the project. Hunt, who was notable for his work in Pasadena, designed an Italian Renaissance Revival home of 17,000 square feet, an elevator and 7 bathrooms. The grand staircase leads to the family’s quarters, which included bedrooms and sleeping porches. All public rooms were on the main floor.


Grand Staircase

The house was surrounded by glorious gardens and an entry way lined with Eucalyptus trees. Most of the gardens are gone, but from the dining room, as guests socialized, one is always aware of the beautiful grounds through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Carol Marsh suggests this book for those who want to understand Bard and the era: Hutchinson, William Henry. Oil, Land, and Politics: The California Career of Thomas R. Bard. 2 vols. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.


Guests Socializing

The Quarterly Meeting Program

The meeting included the installation of new board members and talks by Jess Herrera, Harbor Commissioner, Representative Julia Brownley and Captain Chris Janke.

The new board president is architect David Kesterson. David and his family bought and renovated a historic property for a family residence, The Women’s Improvement Club of Port Hueneme .

David Kesterson

David Kesterson

Two city council members of Port Hueneme were present for the meeting: Jim Hensley and John Sharkey.


Council Member Jim Hensley


Council Member John Sharkey

Council Member John Sharkey

Jess Herrera, Harbor Commissioner, spoke of his travels to South America, Chile, Peru, where promising business opportunities exist for the Port of Hueneme. He has also visited existing customers in Germany who plan increased deliveries of automobiles.

He spoke of the deepening project where the wharf will be expanded from 35’ to 40’ deep. Dredged material will be used to replenish the Port Hueneme beach. This $12.3 million project was partially funded by the Corps of Engineers who provided $8 million. Stabilizing the wharf after dredging will cost $17 to $21 million. They were awarded a TIGER grant of $12.3 million. Representative Brownley helped obtain this grant.

Congressman Julia Brownley

Congresswoman Julia Brownley

Representative Brownley noted that Bard served on the Senate Ports Committee and she is proud to walk in his shoes. She serves on the Ports Caucus in Congress and the Transportation Committee. She indicated that TIGER grants have replaced “earmarks’ and are very competitive, citing 625 applicants with only 10% winning. The new Panama Canal will bring more customers to the Port of Hueneme. She introduced Captain Chris Janke, the Base Commander for one year.

Captain Chris Janke

Captain Chris Janke

With more than 24 years in the Navy, Captain Janke acknowledged the work by Representative Brownley in obtaining grants for the Port of Hueneme. He described the 19,000 employees and said his job is analogous to that of a city mayor. He reports to a three star General in Washington, D.C. He inspects 1600 buildings on base annually. The base has an economic impact of $1.9 billion to Ventura County.

Captain Janke said that the Coast Guard is coming to Port Hueneme, as well as the Triton. He showed a picture of a Fire Scout (small) and discussed Reserve Seabee battalions. There are three warfare centers, including NAVFAC and NAVSEA. The Navy is participating in a joint Land Use Study with the county.

In 2016, the port plans a surf contest, mud run and triathlon, which met with applause from the audience. The Navy has researched the San Nicolas Island curation items. A question about encroachment, led him to discuss the port’s dedicated community officer. He said that agriculture is an excellent neighbor for the base. The base has its own Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant producing fresh water for itself and is testing windmills. A question about the recent Nancy Reagan funeral led him to describe First Lady Michelle Obama’s early morning departure from D.C. to Point Magu returning the same day after the funeral.

With his enthusiasm and youthful outlook coupled with his many years practical experience in the United States Navy, look for Captain Janke’s name as he moves beyond his Port Hueneme assignment.

Bard Friends Membership

Hearing speakers like Captain Janke is one of the benefits in the Bard Friends Membership. Click here to fill out a membership application.

Other Port Hueneme News

Rose Castro-Bran, author and curator of the Port Hueneme Lighthouse since 2002 will be speaking at the Port Hueneme Historical Society Museum, 220 N. Market, on Saturday, April 2, 2016 at 11:00 am. Free admission.

Photo Credits: Sheryl Hamlin


For more information about the author, visit sheryhamlin.com

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