Posts Tagged With: History

Movie Night at Lopez Adobe on 22 July!

The City of San Fernando is hosting a movie night at the Lopez Adobe a week from tomorrow, on Friday, 22 July.

The event includes free guided tours of the early 1880s adobe landmark at 6 p.m. with the film presentation of 1939’s Juarez, starring Oscar winners Paul Muni and Bette Davis in this tale based on the French occupation of México during the 1860s.

Muni played Benito Juarez, the Mexican president who was ousted by the French and established his exiled government on the American border at Ciudad Juarez.  Claude Rains, another great actor, played French emperor Napoleon III, Brian Aherne, a fine character actor, performed as the puppet Emperor Maximilian and Davis playing the Belgian-born Empress Carlota.

Lopez Adobe Movie Flyer.7.2016

The cast also includes the great John Garfield as Porfirio Diaz and such veteran performers as Donald Crisp, Gale Sondergaard, and the only Mexican among the main cast, Luis Antonio Dámaso de Alonso, a native of, ironically, Ciudad Juarez, who went by the stage name of Gilbert Roland and who was a silent star before he emerged later as an excellent character actor.

San Fernando City Council member Jaime Soto will discuss the film as part of the event, which is free, so plan on coming out to enjoy the Lopez Adobe and the movie.

For more information, call 818.898.1290.

Categories: California History, Downtown San Fernando, Lopez Adobe, San Fernando History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Find of the Week: Cribben and Sexton Universal Stove, ca. 1910s

The Cribben & Sexton cook stove in the ca. 1920s kitchen at the Lopez Adobe. Comparing it to the ones in the ads (below), it is clearly a different model, but does have common elements, suggesting it is fairly close in age to the others

The Cribben & Sexton cook stove in the ca. 1920s kitchen at the Lopez Adobe. Comparing it to the ones in the ads (below), it is clearly a different model, but does have common elements, suggesting it is fairly close in age to the others

Another interesting artifact that will be featured pretty prominently in the Lopez Adobe once it reopens is the Cribben & Sexton Universal stove that is currently on display in the 1920s-styled kitchen.

The kitchen itself is in the former breezeway linking the two-room adobe built first by Valentine López to the two-story main structure erected by him shortly afterward and later by his sister, Catarina, and her husband and second cousin, Gerónimo.  The breezeway was enclosed about 1925 by Luisa López McAlonan, daughter of Gerónimo and Catarina, when she made a number of major renovations to the structure.

In any case, the firm of Cribben & Sexton was originally founded in 1873 and are perhaps best known for the stoves, heaters and other items at its Chicago factory throughout much of the early 20th century.  While it may be very difficult to get an exact date on the stove in the Adobe, it certainly does bear a resemblance to those seen in the ads that are reproduced here and which date to the early 1920s, although it may be a bit earlier given some differences in styling and construction.

If this dating is reasonable, then the stove actually fits in very well with the period of the room in which it resides and can be considered a very modern update to whatever had been used in the previous forty years of occupancy of the house by the family.

This ad comes from a 1921 issue of the “Saturday Evening Post” and features a Cribben & Sexton cook stove similar to the other styles featured here

This ad comes from a 1921 issue of the “Saturday Evening Post” and features a Cribben & Sexton cook stove similar to the other styles featured here

As with any major appliance, the stove can be an illustration of how rapidly-changing technologies were being used to make housework faster for women, whether it was cooking on a stove like this, using the new electric vacuum cleaners, washing machines, sewing machines, refrigerators and other household devices that greatly reduced the time to do work around the house and opened up more leisure time.

This is a copy of a magazine advertisement from about 1920 showing a model of the Universal stove, manufactured by Chicago’s Cribben & Sexton, that is close in appearance to the appliance (see below) in the Lopez Adobe main kitchen.

This is a copy of a magazine advertisement from about 1920 showing a model of the Universal stove, manufactured by Chicago’s Cribben & Sexton, that is close in appearance to the appliance (see below) in the Lopez Adobe main kitchen.

Commodities deemed to be “modern” were highly coveted during this time period, as the country sought to build on the momentum of the Industrial Revolution. The concept of having a machine or other sort of apparatus doing tasks people once thought could only be done manually was all part of the draw toward modernity, and many consumers clamored to have these products in their homes. This is provided, of course, that the household could afford these items, which in the 1920s, were becoming more affordable and, therefore, accessible to greater numbers of American families.

While it is not known what the López family used to cook their food in the Adobe at any time during its long occupancy of the house from the early 1880s to the early 1960s, it seems reasonable to assume that, in the 1910s or 1920s, they could have used something quite close to the stove now in the kitchen.

If you’d like to learn more about Cribben & Sexton, click here to read about the company’s founders. 

Categories: Cribben & Sexton, Cribben and Sexton, Domestic life, Find of the Week, Home Life, Lopez Adobe, Universal Stove | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mission San Fernando and the López Family

This detail of the first published view of the Mission San Fernando is from an 1853 drawing that appeared in a report for planning of a transcontinental railroad (which was finally completed in 1869.)

This detail of the first published view of the Mission San Fernando is from an 1853 drawing that appeared in a report for planning of a transcontinental railroad (which was finally completed in 1869.)

Founded in 1797, the Mission San Fernando was the first major European settlement in the San Fernando Valley, though the emphasis should be on “European,” because the indigenous native peoples, now known as the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and based in the City of San Fernando, had, of course, lived in the Valley for many thousands of years prior. A direct connection between the López family and the mission came at the end of its existence, when, about 1834 (some sources say 1837 after succeeding Antonio del Valle in the position,) Pedro López, father of Catarina of the López Adobe, was appointed civil administrator of the mission. This came just as the process of secularization of the mission was underway.  This controversial process, initiated by the Mexican government led to either the complete closure of the mission church or its conversion to a parish church and the shuttering of the mission’s activities.  Its far-flung lands, covering virtually the entire valley, which were theoretically supposed to revert to Christianized and “civilized” natives, who were to be “retrained” as farmers and livestock raisers, was instead, made available for private ownership as ranchos.

It is not clear how long Pedro (1805-1859) remained the administrator at San Fernando and there is not too much information about his tenure there.  In the 1950s, however, W. W. Robinson, who wrote many articles and books on regional history, penned a piece in the Southern California Quarterly titled “The Rancho Story of San Fernando.”  In it, he noted that there were “several first-hand descriptions of life in the San Fernando Valley in the years that followed the Mission’s secularization in 1834.”  One of these is a reminiscence provided by Catarina López, as told to her grandson Theodore R. Wilson (Gerónimo and Catarina’s daughter Grace married John T. Wilson, a Southern Pacific Railroad employee who later managed the George K. Porter landholdings that included the San Fernando area.)

While Robinson promoted her statement as one that was “indicating that secularization was not as harsh at San Fernando as at some of the other missions and that it did not end the ancient glories,” he followed this by cautiously adding, “perhaps her story is a mixture of her own memories and of what had been told her as a child for she seems to be describing the life of an earlier period.”  Catarina was born in 1831 and so would have either been three or six years old when her father assumed his adminstrative duties and it seems highly unlikely that her recollections could have been as pronounced and knowledgeable as the details of her short statement indicate.  More likely, the version related hews closer to Robinson’s second (and contradictory to the first) statement and may have been far less of direct memory and much more of a second-hand retelling of what others told her.

Robinson then prefaced her statement with the offhand remark of “At any rate . . .” and provided her commentary, reproduced here:

She (Catalina) first saw the San Fernando Mission in all its glory, with beautiful orchards and gardens surrounding it, and the wide plains in front of it covered with cattle and sheep.  San Fernando was far famed for its immense riches, being accredited the most prosperous of all the missions.  At this time there were over a thousand Indians living at the Mission, besides several tribes living in the hills and mountains.  San Fernando was widely famous for its fiestas, which were many, but the greatest of the year was on May 30th, San Fernando or Saint Fernandino Day.  People from all Southern California gathered at San Fernando on this day to taste the first fruits of the year.  The day was begun by attending mass.  All attended, from the majordomo to the lowliest Indian.  Following the mass was a great feast or banquet.  The table was spread between two long rows of pomegranate trees in the orchard at the rear of the old church.  In the afternoon such sports as horse racing were enjoyed, but the main event was a bull fight held in the plaza in front of the old church.  In the evening, sons and dancing ended the gay fiesta.

While other missions were accounted as “the most prosperous of all,” with nearby San Gabriel, for example, acclaimed as “The Queen of the Missions,” this statement also stands out for its mention of attendance at the main San Fernando fiesta from the mission foreman to “the lowliest Indian,” though if persons from throughout the region came, couldn’t some of them have been “the lowliest Californio” or “the lowliest Mexican”?

Little information has survived, evidently,  that comes directly from Catarina López, so this “recollection,” whether an accurate remembrance of the Mission San Fernando, pre- or post-secularization, or not, is a rare example of something connected to her.  A footnote in the Robinson article attributed her comment from The Valley of San Fernando, a work published in 1924 by the valley chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Categories: California History, Catarina Lopez, Lopez History, Mission San Fernando, San Fernando History | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Find of the Week: A Chickering Square Grand Piano

A late 1870s Chickering square grand piano representing leisure time and decoration in the Lopez Adobe.

A late 1870s Chickering square grand piano representing leisure time and decoration in the Lopez Adobe.

Though placed in a corner of the living room of the López Adobe, the size and decorative attractiveness of a Chickering square grand piano commands and demands attention.  Though not an object that was original to the López family, being donated when the Adobe was being refashioned into a historic house museum within the last few decades, the instrument has an important role to play in any future tours of the house.

This is because the piano not only represents a way that a family used their leisure time to enjoy live music, especially at a time when more people tended to be able to perform on an instrument before recorded music became available, but it also serves as a beautiful piece of furniture.  In its glory years, this piano would represent the aspirations and achievement of a well-to-do family and its elegantly carved mahogany case would be the centerpiece of whatever room (a parlor, probably) it inhabited.

The instrument has seen better days, both in terms of the case’s exterior and with respect to the strings, sound board and other interior parts.  It would take thousands of dollars to refinish the former and restore the piano to playable condition, although square grand pianos can be notoriously difficult to keep in tune.  Even with its “shabby chic” condition, though, the Chickering is a beauty.  It is also worth noting that, in its time, this piano was a top-of-the-line instrument comparable to a Steinway in its quality of sound as well as appearance.

As to the age of the piano, this can be found by looking up its serial number, which, in this case, is located in the center front, nearest the keyboard, of the sound board.  While some investigating needs to be done to get the exact age, the serial number of 48889 places the instrument somewhere in the last half of the 1870s.  Another interesting tidbit is that sometimes on older instruments, a piano tuner might leave a record of when he did the work, often with initials and a date.  These inscriptions could be on the soundboard near the hammers or on the inside of one of the keys.  In the case of this piano, there are pencil inscriptions to be found on the right side (naturally the only of the two sides that is visible) of the first of the keys in the bass clef.  Unfortunately, the writing is so faint that it is unreadable.  An initial examination did not reveal any further inscriptions (which is not to say there aren’t any.)

As a dominant presence in the living room of the López Adobe, the late 1870s Chickering square grand piano will be an integral part of interpreting the leisure hours of the family, as well as its place as a prominent decorative element to the room.  The instrument also has the distinction of being one of the oldest artifacts in the house and the public should be able to enjoy it in the soon-to-be-reopened home soon.

Categories: Chickering piano, Find of the Week, Leisure, Lopez Adobe | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing Gerónimo and Catarina López


Gerónimo and Catarina Lopez in their later years.

As noted in a previous post, Gerónimo López was born in Los Angeles in 1828.  HIs father, Esteban, received land in what later became the Boyle Heights neighborhood east of the Los Angeles River and Gerónimo may have lived in this area briefly.  While there is not a great deal known about his youth, Gerónimo was sent to the Mission San Fernando to live in 1837, when his uncle Pedro was the majordomo (foreman) there.   Included in Pedro’s family was his six-year old daughter Catarina.  He also attended a private school established by Tomás Feliz, owner of the Casa de Cahuenga across from today’s Universal City.

Gerónimo was involved in a pivotal event in the transition from Mexican to American control of California.  The invasion of American troops in late Summer 1846 led to the conquest of the pueblo of Los Angeles, but the native Californios revolted and recaptured the town and reasserted authority.  Several months later, a second American force marched north from San Diego and engaged Californio forces at the San Gabriel River in modern-day Montebello before fighting a last battle against their adversaries at Los Angeles on 9 January 1847.  While the battle ended with the Californios yielding, but, in the meantime, another force of Americans led by Lt. Col. John C. Frémont was marching towards Los Angeles from the north and, on 10 January, was camped at Castaic.  Pico, looking to end hostilities with Frémont instead of Commodore Robert Stockton, who had taken Los Angeles, sent the 18-year old Gerónimo, who was his scout, to Frémont with the offer of surrender and the signing of a treaty.  This document was signed by the two parties at Feliz’ Casa de Cahuenga on the 13th and Gerónimo was present at the event that marked the official conclusion of the war in California.

That same year, Catarina, then aged sixteen, left the San Fernando area and went to Los Angeles to attend school.  She seems to have remained at the pueblo for a few years.  In the meantime, her father, Pedro, acquired a tract of land from Andrés Pico a couple of miles north of the mission and constructed an adobe house there. He planted vineyards and fruit trees on the property and enjoyed the use of a spring for his domestic and agricultural needs.  While Gerónimo had received some property on the future Boyle Heights tract from his father and built an adobe house on it, his marriage to his second cousin on 9 September 1851 (the first anniversary of California statehood) led to the newlyweds moving in with her father at his ranch.

The couple remained with Pedro for ten years until his death in 1861, at which time the ranch was left to them.  Gerónimo, however, had acquired a forty-acre parcel in present Sylmar which had been part of a 200-acre ranch granted to a San Fernando Mission Indian named Samuel in 1845.  The 20% section Gerónimo acquired had been held by Maria de los Angeles Burrows and was purchased for $4.00 an acre during a time of economic depression.  Water, however, from San Fernando Creek was sufficient for the property’s needs, even if the few years following the López purchase were marked first by a flood in the winter of 1861-62 and then two years of horrendous drought that virtually destroyed the cattle industry, the region’s economic backbone.

The adobe house built by Gerónimo López on his 40-acre parcel was situated on a road that became part of the transcontinental Butterfield Stage line in the late 1850s and, even though that line was soon terminated, the road remained a busy stagecoach route through the area.  Adding a stage stop and store to his compound, Gerónimo called his domain López Station and there was a post office and school eventually included by him there, as well.  By the late 1860s, 40-mule teams hauling silver ore from eastern California mines stopped off there as they made their way to Los Angeles.

A population and land boom that broke out in the late 1860s and was carried through to the mid-1870s brought three real estate speculators to the eastern San Fernando Valley, Charles Maclay, George Porter and Benjamin Porter purchased some land and established the town of San Fernando in September 1874 on 1000 acres.  By then, the Southern Pacific Railroad was engaged in constructing a line that would link northern California with Los Angeles and which would pass through the new town.  Gerónimo López quickly realized the importance of the new endeavor and constructed the first building in town, an adobe at the corner of Celis and Maclay streets that was used as an office for Maclay and George Porter.  Today, the city’s post office is located on the property, just a short distance from the López Adobe.

028In fact, it wasn’t long until Gerónimo and Catarina decided to pull up stakes from López Station, which lost business to the railroad, and move to San Fernando.  The adobe was razed and the property later, in 1913, became the site of what is now the Van Norman Reservoir, west of Interstate 5 in today’s Granada Hills.  As to the move to San Fernando, that will be featured in a later post!

Categories: Catarina Lopez, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Lopez Station, Pedro Lopez, San Fernando History | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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