Monthly Archives: October 2012

Find of the Week: “I Gave to Save the Lopez Adobe”

"I Gave to Save the Lopez Adobe"What: Yellow Button
Found by: Daryl Maxwell
Where: Lopez Adobe archives

Found among piles of old photos, stacks and stacks of papers, and more stacks of books than your average library, our archivist, Daryl Maxwell, unearthed this little yellow piece of history. However, this button has nothing to do with the time the Lopez Adobe was a functioning home. Instead, it came out of a time when the house had long since been out of use, but when its future was still very much in the air.

Beginning in the 1950s and continuing for several decades thereafter, Southern California underwent a wave of renovation that was geared at promoting everything that was “new” and letting anything that fell under the umbrella of “old” getting left by the wayside, or worse, getting targeted for demolition.

Without proper care or renovation, many of the area’s historic homes and buildings lapsed into disrepair and were deemed by some to be past the point of saving. Whole neighborhoods that once flourished were eventually wiped out. The once exclusive and picturesque area of L.A. known as Bunker Hill is one such area. It used to be the site of some of the city’s most affluent residents, and boasted grand Victorian homes and hotels. However, by the 1960s, many of the homes were dilapidated and the city maintained that the neighborhood had become a haven for transients and “derelicts.”

*click below to see Bunker Hill in 1898 and again in 1960*

USC Digital ArchivePhoto via Richard SchavePhoto via Richard Schave

This is the environment that surrounded the Lopez Adobe after Kate Lopez Millen passed away. Although the city of San Fernando initially announced plans to purchase the Lopez Adobe in 1970, it would take over a year to raise the funds to do so. During that time, the home’s owners placed a deadline, maintaining that the property would be leveled for commercial development if the $70,000 price tag could not be paid. As mentioned in our previous post, it would take a great community effort and a grant from the National Register of Historic Places to come up with the funds to save the Lopez Adobe.

So…back to the pin. What makes this pin of any interest to us? The fact that it stands as a reminder of just how uncertain the future is for many historic properties, and how the commitment and dedication of the community can make a difference in determining whether a piece of history remains preserved or gets left by the wayside.

Although we haven’t yet been able to determine whether the pin came from the initial fundraising efforts in 1970-71 or one of the subsequent community outreach initiatives, it is nevertheless a piece of the adobe’s history and one we felt should be shared.

Categories: California History, Find of the Week, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, San Fernando History | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Introducing the Lopez Adobe

This late 1800s photo shows the two-story portion of the Lopez Adobe, with family members on the second-floor balcony and a detached one-story section occupied while the large area was under construction. Among the later renovations of the house was the joining of these two sections.


A City of San Fernando historic landmark, the Lopez Adobe was built in 1882-83 for Geronimo and Catarina Lopez, members of an early Californio family that had important roles in the management of the missions of San Fernando and San Gabriel, the settlement of what became the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, and the first discovery of gold in California in 1842 (six years before the great Gold Rush in northern California.)

The couple, married in 1851, had settled in an adobe house that was known commonly as Lopez Station along the main road north from Los Angeles.  Several years after Charles Maclay and partners established the townsite of San Fernando in 1874, during an economic boom (which went bust two years later), the Lopez family decided to make the move to the new town.

Through the economic depression of the late 1870s and early 1880s, to a much large Boom of the Eighties in 1886-88, through more financial hard times and extended drought in the 1890s, and the further ups and downs of life, Geronimo and Catarina Lopez remained in their adobe until her death in 1918 and his three years later.

They were succeeded by some of their children, with one daughter Luisa Lopez de McAlohan overseeing major renovations to the house in the 1920s and another, Catarina (Kate) Lopez de Millen, residing in the house from 1935 to 1961, during which time the building had more additions, changes and subdivisions into commercial and multi-dwelling uses.

After Mrs. Millen left the house in 1961 shortly before her passing, her children retained ownership, though there were plans to raze the house in favor of commercial development.  Community activity and a commitment by the City of San Fernando to save the structure led to the city’s purchase of the property in 1971.  Though the major Sylmar earthquake of that year did major damage, the house underwent restoration and stabilization work and, in 1975, opened to the public as a historic site.

With city ownership and administration by the Friends of the Lopez Adobe organization, the house was open for visitation for several decades, though later earthquakes compromised the building’s integrity.  Consequently, the structure closed in 2007 while the city sought grant funding from federal and state sources and began more renovations.  Now, a refurnishing and reinterpretation project is underway with the rebirth and reopening of the Lopez Adobe soon to come!

Keep an eye on this blog for more news of this exciting project and to learn more of the history of the adobe, the Lopez family, and San Fernando.  We hope to see you back again soon!

Categories: Catarina Lopez, Catarina Lopez de Millen, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Louisa Lopez de McAlohan, San Fernando History | 1 Comment


Hello, and welcome to the new Casa de Lopez Adobe preservation blog! In July, Art Preservation Associates was awarded the project to turn the City of San Fernando’s beautiful Lopez Adobe into a functioning house museum opening to the public in 2013.

This blog will give you a glimpse behind the scenes, keep you up to date on how the project unfolds, and give you some insight into some of the interesting and fun things we uncover along the way.

But first, let us introduce ourselves: Art Preservation Associates is a small art conservation company based in Los Angeles. Art conservators are like art doctors, and we are responsible for the health and well being of artworks and artifacts in museums and private collections. See for more information. Like doctors, art conservators have specialties. Art Preservation Associates has three practitioners, specializing in objects, paintings, and textiles; Irena Calinescu, Linnaea Saunders, and Cara Varnell. Because this project mostly involves objects and textiles, Irena and Cara are leading the team.

Re-opening the Lopez Adobe as a museum, however, requires more than the expertise of conservators. It requires a historian or curator to interpret the building and its contents—in other words, to develop the storyline. We are fortunate to have Paul Spitzzeri, the Deputy Director of the Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, as the project historian/curator. Paul is recognized as one of the leading authorities in the area on the history of early California.

Additionally, the Lopez Adobe has amassed a significant collection of historic documents, records of the history of the City of San Fernando and the families that lived here. These materials–written documents, letters, photographs, newspapers, etc.—are now part of the Lopez Adobe archives. Organizing and managing an archive like this takes the special skill of an archivist. Daryl Maxwell, an archivist and librarian with decades of experience, is charged with the task of bringing order to the Lopez archives.

Assisted by the Friends of the Lopez Adobe, the goal is to create a more accessible record of the past and one that will be available to interested researchers.

For instance, did you know the Lopez Adobe has its very own resident ghost? We’ve smelled his or her cigarette smoke in the upstairs hallway.

Categories: California History, Lopez History | 1 Comment

Blog at