Diana Penkiunas: We’re going to start out with Paul Engel who will be speaking about Drakes Bay National Historic Landmark, Historic District. Paul Engel is the archaeologist at Point Reyes National Seashore and has served in the capacity since 2010. In addition to managing the archaeology program, Paul is the park’s National Historic Preservation Act coordinator and is responsible for managing compliance as well as coordinating consultation with Native American tribes, the State Historic Preservation Officer, and the public. Paul holds a BA in history and an MA in Cultural Resource Management from Sonoma State University. Welcome Paul.

Paul: Great. Thank you for that introduction. Coming from Point Reyes National Seashore, as you might guess, we have a lot of historic properties that can be looked at through this lens of Maritime Cultural Landscapes. Today, I’m going to focus on the Drakes Bay Historic and Archaeological District, and Maritime Cultural Landscapes, and how these properties are documented within the framework of The National Register of Historic Places. To give you a quick roadmap of this presentation, I will first introduce the basic information about the district, followed by a discussion of aspects of the district with reference to the maritime cultural landscape concept. Lastly, I will evaluate how these attributes were addressed in the documentation for the district and some of the implications for management.

Just to orient you, here. The Drakes Bay Historic and Archaeological District is situated along the shores of Drake Bay and Drakes Estero which is roughly 40 miles north of San Francisco which you can see at the bottom, kind of right corner of the map. The district is a nationally significant, 16th century landscape, that provides material evidence of one of the earliest instances of contact and interaction between European explorers and native peoples on the west coast of what is now the United States. The district is centered around two such historical encounters, Sir Francis Drake’s 1579 California landfall and the 1595 shipwreck of the Manila Galleon, San Agustín, within Drakes Bay.

The district was determined eligible under NHL criterion one for its association with these events. Also, criterion two for its association with the Nationally Significant Figure, Sir Francis Drake. It’s also eligible under criterion six for its ability to yield information about these early contacts and their short-term and long-term consequences. If you aren’t familiar with those NHL criterion, I’ve also listed the analogous NHRP criteria A, B, and D.

This slide gives you a more detailed map of the district and its 17 contributing sites. These include the Port of Nova Albion which is the most likely site of Drake’s California landfall, the 1595 shipwreck of Manila Galleon San Agustin which is there in Drakes Bay, and 15 California Indian sites. These are associated with the Coastal Miwok peoples that contain European artifacts from these 16th century encounters. As an archaeological district, the district is relatively straight forward. The 17 contributing sites contain archaeological materials with potential to address research questions about these early interactions, their consequences, and the degree of variability, compared to other contact period sites. As a historic district, however, these contributing sites which are either subsurface or submerged in Drakes Bay don’t, in themselves, convey these historical events of the 16th century. Rather, this part of the district’s significance is really conveyed through the site locations and the combination of landscape features that were imbued with meaning by both European explorers and the Coast Miwok.

In the case of Sir Francis Drake’s 1579 California landfall, Drakes Bay was a well needed stopover that allowed Drake and his crew to reprovision and careen their ship, the Golden Hind, in order to prepare a leak in its hull. The sheltered harbor of Drakes Bay, the navigable inlet of Drakes Estero, and its surrounding sandbars, are tangible features that, at the time, made Drakes Bay a suitable harbor to Drake and his crew. The white cliffs of Drakes Bay were a prominent landmark that make the bay easily visible and reminded the Englishmen of the southern coast of their homeland, leading them to name the land, Nova Albion, and claiming the land for England. All of these features are prominent in the accounts of the voyage, and they were essential in the identification of Nova Albion as the landing place of Sir Francis Drake. These remain evocative of the scene today.

Once again, in this case of the 1595 shipwreck of the San Agustin, the sheltered shoreline of Drakes Bay enticed Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno to make anchor in 1595 in order to reprovision and assemble a small launch for coastal exploration. While enroute from the Philippines to New Spain. This route was part of regular trade between Manila and Acapulco where Mexican and South American silver were shipped out of Acapulco and exchanged for Chinese luxury goods that were shipped back to Acapulco. This return trip brought the Manila Galleons along the coast of Northern California leading, in this case, Cermeno to land in Drakes Bay. However, shortly after their arrival at Drakes Bay, a southerly storm drove the San Agustin ashore causing it to wreck in the surf and forcing the Spaniards to modify their launch and allow the whole crew to return to Mexico leaving the San Agustin behind in Drakes Bay which at the time they referred to as la Bahia de San Francisco.

Now, for the Coast Miwok, the wreck of the San Agustin added to the landscape of coastal gathering areas along the bay in the area that they called Tamal-huye, or Bay Point. This is the area where subsistence and material resources were routinely gathered. As suggested by the distribution of Coast Miwok archaeological sites, as shown on the left, the Coast Miwok relied heavily on marine and estuarine resources. During this period of contact, the European explorers would have entered a developed landscape of coastal villages and camps, processing sites, and collecting areas. The Coast Miwok likely harvested materials from the wrecked San Agustin routinely, not unlike the clam beds and intertidal reefs along the Point Reyes coast.

As you could see in the image on the bottom right of the screen, here, these materials from the cargo, especially the Chinese export porcelain, were modified and utilized similar to how the Coast Miwok would of modified traditional material types such as shell and lithic materials. You could see, here, some of the Ming Dynasty porcelain being modified in similar fashion as abalone pendants and also clam shell disk beads.

In this way, the Drakes Bay National Historic Landmark … Excuse me. Sorry. I jumped my notes. Okay, so change slides. As the variety of names associated with Drakes Bay indicate, the bay and surrounding landscape have held meaning for many cultural groups over the centuries. As a Maritime Cultural Landscape, the Drakes Bay national historic landmark demonstrates how both human’s constructed features and natural landscape features are imbued with cultural meaning to those interacting on those landscapes. It’s also an example of how Maritime Cultural Landscapes often have a greater radius of human activity and are more open to outside influence compared to their terrestrial counterparts. In this way, the Drakes Bay national historic landmark represents this burgeoning global economy of the 16th century, and provides a view of its short-term and long-term impact on traditional cultures.

Although all of these aspects of the district that I’ve just talked about are addressed throughout the documentation for the National Historic Landmark, they are not so well represented in the nitty-gritty discussion of the district’s significance. This really reflects the constraints of the National Register framework. Many of the features that I’ve just mentioned to you, the cliffs at Drakes Bay, the navigable inlet to Drakes Estero, do not really fit the property categories of the National Register, that is building structures, objects, sites, or districts. As a result, those types of features cannot be listed as contributing resources. Instead, the way the author’s managed to incorporate these cultural landscape elements was by including these features by explicitly calling them out in the discussion of integrity, especially as part of the setting and feeling of the district.

Although this is a common approach that I think people are using, all over, to be able to document cultural landscapes within the framework of the National Register of Historic Places, I think there are some potential negative implications in the later management of these resources using those types of approaches. One thing is resource managers, I think, put a lot of emphasis on the list of contributing resources. They use this as almost a sort of short list of what is important in the preservation of a historic property. This could result in a significant landscape features being neglected, both in terms of preservation, and also in terms of interpretation to the public, and just the overall story of what’s going on. This will become more of an issue when we’re thinking about these places, these properties, maritime cultural landscapes, in the context of climate change, and its associated effects of sea level rise and increase rates of coastal erosion. These maritime cultural landscapes will become increasingly vulnerable over time.

With that said, I have a few suggestions to sort of move things forward. The first is, I think it’s important that resource managers consider the Maritime Cultural Landscape perspective in both identification, and long-term preservation, and management decision making. It’s one thing to document it in this way, including elements of the cultural landscape, in discussions of integrity and those types of things. The folks that are being the decision makers also need to come with that view. Also, in the same vein, I think it would be very useful if case studies that successfully integrate and seal concepts within the framework of the National Register be shared beyond this symposium.

Lastly, as maybe more of a long-term solution, I think it would be interesting to consider adding to the list of property categories that the NRHP has now with features such as cultural landscape which can be a modified version of a historic district, where elements of the natural environment really feed into it quite heavily, or just adding a category for landscape features. I think those are some suggestions on how we could better wedge these types of properties within the framework of the National Register.

Thank you. This is the Golden Hind recreation in England. I was just there two weeks ago. Thank you very much.


Please follow and like us:

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]nps.gov
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119