Early Concord settler Don Salvio Pacheco dedicated Todos Santos Plaza in 1868 as the town square of the 20-block town of Todos Santos, which was later renamed Concord. Bordered by Salvio Street, Willow Pass Road, Grant Street and Mount Diablo Street, this 2 1/2-acre plot is filled with flowers, trees, benches and picnic tables. Today, Todos Santos Plaza is still the town’s center and home to concerts, a fall festival, a Fourth of July parade and many other community events. Neither pets nor smoking is allowed.
The farmers’ market
Make sure to visit on a Tuesday, so you can enjoy the plaza’s most popular event: the farmers’ market open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. On market days, you will find the plaza alive with music, shoppers and children on the colorful play structures. (From April to October, the market is also open 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays.)
Farmers from communities as far away as Fresno and Watsonville bring their organic produce here in season. You can also find fresh flowers, baked goods, eggs, cheeses and honey. The day I went, there was also knife sharpening and HIV testing.
If you’re ready for lunch, items range from barbecue to vegan delights. Whether you yearn for tamales, crepes, pizza, falafel or veggie burgers, you will find it at the plaza. Local musicians entertain the crowd.
If you’re still not satisfied, the streets lining the plaza are also filled with cafes and restaurants. Across from the plaza, on Salvio Street, is Salvio Pacheco Square, with its large central fountain surrounded by still more restaurants and shops.
Historical walking tour
Clustered around the plaza are many of Concord’s historic homes. These are not mansions, but rather the original dwellings of early shopkeepers, postmasters, farmers, blacksmiths and teachers. Many of the homes were originally built in other areas of Concord but were moved to their present sites to avoid demolition. Take a self-guided tour by downloading a guide with map at bit.ly/XjdVlj. The tour was created by the city with the aid of the Concord Historical Society.
Along the quiet streets you will see dwellings from the 1800s and early 1900s. Following the map, you will pass the original county firehouse (2210 Willow Pass Road), the site of the first Concord Grammar School (corner of Grant and Bonifacio streets) and the diminutive Queen Anne house (2334 Almond Ave.) that was home to the saloon-owning Nunez family. You will also pass a number of heavily laden date palms as you walk.
Visit the first permanent home in the area, the eight-room, two-story adobe house (1870 Adobe St.) and the first commercial shop (2001 Salvio St.). Notice the large mural on the east exterior wall. This was executed by artist Dan Fontes in 1992.
The 1927 Masonic Hall (1765 Galindo St.) provided a ceremonial meeting room and social hall. Today, this building is owned by the city of Concord and is used as an art gallery. At the city’s first firehouse (1982 Concord Ave.), you can still see the cast-iron bell that summoned firefighters and announced curfew.
No need to drive. Take BART to the Concord Station. Then follow the arrows to Todos Santos Plaza. (Walk up Grant Street to Willow Pass Road, and you will be at the plaza.)
By car from San Francisco, cross the Bay Bridge and take Interstate 580 east toward Highway 24. Exit onto Highway 24 and continue onto Interstate 680 north. Exit at Willow Pass Road (exit 51) toward Taylor Boulevard. Turn right onto Willow Pass Road and continue to Todos Santos Plaza at Willow Pass Road and Grant Street. You will find on-street parking. Parking is also available in two municipal garages: The Grant Street Garage entrance is on Salvio Street between Grant and Colfax streets. The Todos Santos Parking Center entrance is on Salvio Street between Galindo and Mount Diablo streets.
Urban Outings are presented by Greenbelt Alliance, the Bay Area’s advocate for protecting open spaces and creating vibrant places. To suggest an Urban Outing, contact Gail Todd, tour leader for S.F. City Guides and author of “Lunchtime Walks in Downtown San Francisco.” To find out more about Greenbelt Alliance’s work, go to www.greenbelt.org.