Posts Tagged With: Lopez Adobe

López Adobe Movie Night: A Different Experience

 

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Andrea Brooks Rynders, a great-great-granddaughter of the Lopez Adobe’s long-time owners, Gerónimo and Catalina Lopez, gives a tour to visitors at last evening’s movie night.

Last night was another movie night presentation at the López Adobe, this time with the screening of the 1941 classic Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  The program was part of a series sponsored by the City of San Fernando’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The inflatable screen and projector were set up on the north end of the property near the storage and restroom building, while tours of the Adobe were offered for about two hours prior.

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The location of the screening of the 1941 classic film, Casablanca, in an open area on the north end of the López Adobe property.  The city’s parks and recreation department put on this great series and council member Jaime Soto introduced and discussed the movie with guests.

Visitors to the house had the great experience of touring the early 1880s landmark with Andrea Brooks Rynders, great-great-granddaughter of Gerónimo and Catalina Lopez, the home’s owners for nearly four decades.

It’s one thing to hear the story of a family and house, but another matter entirely to get that from a descendant.  It’s something that people don’t get to do all that often and Andrea is carrying on the knowledge of her family and the house passed on through her father, the late John Brooks, who, sadly, passed away just before the López Adobe’s reopening in March 2015.

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The López Adobe takes on different visual qualities when photographed at dusk with the lighting and the colors in the sky adding to the scene.

It was also another type of experience to be in the López Adobe at night, especially when the evening is cooler after a warm day, the building is lit up, and downtown San Fernando activity quieter.

As some of the photos here show, the Adobe takes on a really luminous quality when photographed at night (even from obviously amateur images like these!)  That’s why the movie night is such a great idea.  Not only do visitors get to see interesting films with commentary by city council member Jaime Soto, but they can see and experience the house in a different way.

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With palm, orange and pomegranate trees in silhouette and exterior lighting on the house, the López Adobe looks pretty awesome at night.

The next opportunity for vistors to see the Adobe won’t be at night, but come out and take a tour and learn about the interesting history of the López family, their long-time home and the area on Sunday, 23 October from 1 to 4 p.m.

Categories: California History, Catalina Lopez, Downtown San Fernando, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, San Fernando buildings, San Fernando History, San Fernando photographs | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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.

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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

The Porter Land and Water Association

Porter Land and Water pamphlet

Cover of a circa 1889 promotional pamphlet for the Porter Land and Water Company, from the collection of the Lopez Adobe.

Another great recent find in the Lopez Adobe collection was an original circa 1889 pamphlet for the Porter Land and Water Company, which subdivided a 20,000-acre section of the former Rancho ex-Mission San Fernando that was formerly the ranch of George K. Porter.

In 1874, Robert Maclay created the townsite of San Fernando during the Los Angeles region’s first boom period, which began in the late 1860s and brought thousands of new residents to the area.  Other towns that sprung up during this period included Pasadena, Pomona, and Artesia, but, by 1876, the boom went bust and most of these communities stagnated for a decade.

But, with the arrival of a direct transcontinental railroad, the Santa Fe line, from the east in 1885, a new boom arose and this one was far larger than its predecessor.  As new arrivals poured in, more land was subdivided and placed on sale for steeply-rising prices.  George K. Porter jumped at the opportunity and launched the Porter Land and Water Company, capitalized at over $500,000.

 

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San Francisco Chronicle, 3 June 1887.

He took almost all of the stock, with a few partners investing $1,000 each for a single share.  These included Jesse Yarnell, a newpaper publisher; Dan McFarland, who invested heavily in the Boom of the 1880s; Lehman T. Garnsey, a new arrival in the area and an investor in what became Burbank; Edward A. Forrester,  a real estate developer and future county supervisor; and John B. Baskin, who became the sales agent for the new firm.

Baskin immediately began an aggressive marketing and promotional campaign for the subdivision of San Fernando-area land, doing so in a hyper-competitive environment in which almost every new project featured the finest soil, the balmiest climate, ample water and amenties galore.

One of the frequently-mentioned elements of the company’s holdings was the fact that the remains of Mission San Fernando were surrounded by the tract and the usual comparisons were made between the “days of old” represented by the crumbling walls of the mission and the progress represented in the Boom of the 1880s.

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Los Angeles Herald, 3 July 1887.

The first advertisements were published in local newspapers on 3 July and sales commenced two days later, including town lots as well as parcels ranging from 10 to 640 acres.  Baskin hired William Hammond Hall, California State Engineer and an expert on water, to develop a comprehensive irrigation plan for water derived from local creeks (such as Pacoima) and springs.  Hall also offered his opinion that Porter Land and Water controlled “really first-rate valley lands for cultivation, with soils not to be surpassed for fertility” as well as “in a neighborhood  whose climate is well-adapted to the best class of agricultural, horticultural and vineyard productions usual in this country.”

On 22 July, it was announced that the firm bought a lot in San Fernando from Martin Murnane for a hotel–this became the 70-room Porter Hotel, though it was originally the San Fernando Mission Hotel.  Two days later, Baskin published a “card” in the Los Angeles Herald with a statement from long-time local residents attesting to the fact that “the oranges produced on said ranch are as fine as any we have seen in the State, and we further swear that scale bugs do not, and never have existed on any trees on the ranch.”

The signatories included Porter’s ranching partner, Henry C. Hubbard; Benigno Pico, who was married to Edward Forrester’s sister in a rare inter-ethnic marriage of the time; Southern Pacific station agent, W.H. Griswold; John T. Wilson; and Wilson’s father-in-law, Gerónimo López.  Lopez’s 25 years of residency in the area (meaning his arrival was in 1861 or 1862) was by far the longest of the eight signatories, who swore their statement before San Fernando’s justice of the peace, T.S. Smith.

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Los Angeles Herald, 12 October 1887

In late August, the biggest sale registered by Porter Land and Water was 1,500 acres in the center of the tract to Theodore Wisendanger, a native of Switzerland, who came to Los Angeles in 1884, just before the boom erupted, for some $250,000.  Wisendanger, upon his arrival in the area, taught briefly at a little new and unknown Methodist college called U.S.C. and then dove headlong into real estate, developing some 3,000 acres and building hundreds of houses.  He also was a pioneer in building apartments, amassing a portfolio of some forty buildings, though he died poor and almost forgotten in 1919.

The Porter Land and Water Company even tried to sell stock on the new Los Angeles Stock Exchange, offering initially for the $1,000 per share price assigned in the company’s formation.  As the boom moved into 1888, the offered value rose to nearly $1,200, though it is unknown how many investors joined in.  The company did add two directors, enlarging its number to seven, that year.

As 1888 dawned, the company was offering its land for $50 an acre, with a 40-acre lot being the most commonly marketed and sold plot.  An upfront cash payment of 1/3 was expected, with the remainder due either in one or two years at 6% interest.  In February, it was announced that a little under 500 acres of the property was being planted to oranges to demonstrate the fertility of the soil, the absence of pests, and the abundance of water that would make cirtus raising a profitable endeavor on the firm’s lands.

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Los Angeles Herald, 23 March 1888.

Besides 58,000 orange trees, as claimed in a March advertisement, figs and olives were represented as flourishing on the Porter property.  In later years, the olive groves and production facilities at Sylmar would become widely-known.  In the ad, Baskin enlisted Eduard Germain, one of Los Angeles’ biggest fruit dealers, quoted as saying that the fruits of the company’s tract were “the prettiest and cleanest in the county” and that “this ranch is the coming fruit section of the county.”

On 6 April 1888, Porter Land and Water offered a “grand excursion” from Los Angeles to the tract with the subsidized train ride, tour and lunch only costing 75 cents.  The recently planted orange grove was touted as the largest in the world.  The Herald‘s coverage included the wording of a statement that many of the excursionists signed about the “excellent manner in which we were treated” as well as “the fine appearance of the country and the extensive improvements being made” which “prove that the land of the Company has not been praised near what it deserves.”

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The fold-out map of Porter Land and Water Company holdings from the 1889 pamphlet.

As the year wound towards a close, the boom began to fade and problems ensued within Porter Land and Water.  On the latter point, a bookkeeper, Thomas Gaskins, forged some company checks payable to himself and skipped town, leaving his teenaged wife and infant son behind.  He was captured in San Francisco and brought back to Los Angeles for criminal proceedings, though the outcome was not located.

Early in 1889, John B. Baskin was taken to court by the company.  Baskin, it was noted was paid $100 per month and given a 6% commission on all sales as part of his work as agent, but Porter Land and Water charged that Baskin engineered “pretended” sales and collected his commission on others that were never fully realized or perfected.  The company alleged that Baskin, who received some $15,000 in salary and fees in ten months (a very large sum), also had promissory notes against the firm for other work, charged the firm $2,000 to a personal account, and had property put in the name of his wife and then transferred to him.  The total of alleged false fees and other income was some $6,000.  The firm demanded that Baskin only receive the total of his salary and commission on actual, realized and perfected sales.  While the matter did proceed in court, no outcome was located, though it may be that there was an out-of-court settlement.

By 1889, the firm had a new agent, J.C. Byram, whose name appears on the pamphlet pictured here.  Byram, however, could do little to turn around sales, when the boom was bust, and the national and local economies were heading towards a depression, which broke out in 1893.  Additionally, much of the 1890s found the region in a severe drought.

1898 Herald article

Los Angeles Herald, 23 June 1898.

An 1898 Herald article on another company lawsuit, this one against Porter, his company, and officers and directors in Porter Land and Water, was headlined “Relic of Boom Days.”  It was just a decade removed, but the glory days of the boom were already worthy of “relics” by the late Nineties.

The suit was brought by 26 “small stockholders” in the firm and they alleged that as “the years rolled by and the land did not sell,” Porter and associated borrowed $100,000 from a bank on the company’s credit, with Porter being paid some $45,650 out of the borrowed money for 734 acres that he transferred to the company.  The plaintiffs argued that the 734 acres had to be sold before Porter was paid.  The 26 stockholders won their case at the local Superior Court, but the judgment was reversed on appeal by the state Supreme Court.  The affair shows the low state of the company as the 1890s ended.

Porter Land and Water map detail

Detail from the circa 1889 map from the Porter Land and Water Company pamphlet showing the townsite of San Fernando at right, the Mission San Fernando at the center, the location of the Andres Pico Adobe at lower center, and the Rinaldi orange grove towards the upper left.

Five years later, in 1903, Porter sold his firm and transferred remaining acreage in the San Fernando area to a new company, the San Fernando Mission Land Company, of which he was a minority owner, holding 10% of the stock.  Three years after that, in 1906, he died, without much of the property he owned and developed being sold, though it was not long afterward that a new rush of settlers came to the San Fernando Valley, which was the terminus, from 1913, of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Categories: California History, Citrus history, George K. Porter, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Mission San Fernando, Porter Hotel, Porter Land and Water Company, San Fernando founders, San Fernando History | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Francisco López Gold Discovery Lecture

Yesterday at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, a very thorough and very interesting presentation was made on the Francisco López gold discovery by Alan Pollack, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society.

Pollack obviously spent considerable time trying to sort out fact from fiction and history from myth as he discussed early gold discoveries in California, those documented and asserted; the López family history and the very limited information known about Francisco; and then carefully covered several major sources of information about the discovery.

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The tunnel under Placerita Canyon Road leading to the alleged site of the López gold discovery has some murals, including this well-worn depiction of a broad swath of history from native Indians to gold miners to oil prospecting.

With respect to the first point, Pollack noted that, while the López discovery was the first major documented find, there was a very interesting document found that showed an 1838 deposit at the Philadelphia national mint of gold dust that was labeled as being from California.  He noted that there were accounts that claimed earlier instances of the location of gold.  Of course, who knows how many discoveries were made by the native Indians residing in what became California for thousands and thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans by 1770.

Pollack also discussed a bit of the López family genealogy to identify the Francisco was a cousin of Gerónimo and Catalina Lopez, the owners for decades of the López Adobe.  Their son, José Jesús, in a 1916 interview stated that Francisco was college-educated and studies mineralogy, so that this training was obviously essential in his find.  Francisco was also a part-owner of the massive Rancho San Francisco, encompassing today’s Santa Clarita Valley, which was the property of his sister and her husband, the del Valles.  Although Francisco would up being part-owner of other ranches, including Tujunga and Cahuenga, he seems to have died in some obscurity, as no record of his death or burial site have been found and he is missing from even the most basic of public records.

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This detail of another mural shows Francisco López (of whom there are no known images) triumphantly waving his gold-flecked wild onions under the Oak of the Golden Dream.  Conveniently, a piece of paper under the tree identifies the date “Marzo 1842.”

As to the main sources of information, Pollack shared an image of a New York newspaper article from October 1842 that briefly discussed the discovery.   He then spent some time going through later, more detailed sources, the earliest of these being a letter in 1867 by longtime Los Angeles merchant and land baron Abel Stearns and the last from 1930 surrounded the landmark status bestowed on the Placerita Canyon site said to have been the very spot on which López discovered the gold.

Stearns identified the find as from April 1842 and wrote that López and some ranch hands stopped in the canyon while searching for lost horses and, during a rest break, he dug up some wild onions on which were flakes of gold.  This set off a rush, mainly composed of hundreds of experienced gold miners coming up from the northern mining state of Sonora in Mexico proper.

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There it is–the alleged 500-year old Oak of the Golden Dream, where Francisco López is said to have found gold on 9 March 1842.

While Stearns noted that he sold gold dust to the mint in Philadelphia, there were others, too, that Pollack did not have time to discuss.  One was merchant Pliny F. Temple, who sent dust to a brother in Massachusetts to buy goods to send back to Mexican California–these are documented by surviving letters dating from 1842 to 1844.

A rather interesting tale from John Murray discussed a Mexican mineralogist who showed pebbles having gold  in them when he was visiting Santa Barbara and it was claimed that Francisco López was present when this took place, inspring his own search.  Murray, however, claimed that the gold discovery was actually in 1841, though not specified as to date.

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The tale of the Oak of the Golden Dream must be true because it is literally carved in stone (or brass set in stone) in this 1991 plaque by, curiously enough, the Santa Clarita Valley Association of Realtors.

James M. Guinn, an educator and historian of early Los Angeles and southern California, wrote a lengthy 1895 article in the San Francisco Call, analyzing the known accounts and declaring that there was no way to know the absolute truth of what happened with the discovery, though he did say it was likely early 1842 and that López was the discoverer.  Guinn also went on to state that while James Marshall, who found the gold in 1848 that launched the Gold Rush, received a small pension and a statue, López had been forgotten.

Interestingly, Isaac Given write a letter to Guinn, saying that he came to California from New Mexico at the end of 1841 with a group commonly known by two of its presumed leaders, Workman (the father-in-law of the above-mentioned Pliny Temple) and Rowland, and that he was shown gold dust from the discovery by Stearns.  Other accounts, including one by a man alleged to have been 115 years old, assigned dates of 1838 and 1840 for the find.

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Notably, the California state historic landmark plaque makes no mention of any dream, but rather matter-of-factly states that López found gold while gathering wild onions.  It does, however, declare that the find was six years before the Marshall discovery ushering in the Gold Rush.  Note the original registration was 1935, five years after the local dedication.  The plaque, however, dated from 1992 with the involvement of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society and E Clampus Vitus.

Perhaps the most persistent of the chroniclers was Francisca López de Bilderrain, a relative of Francisco, who claimed that Catalina López, of the López Adobe, told her that she was present, as a young girl of 12 or 13, when the first anniversary of the find was observed in 1843.  Based on this, Bilderrain, Catalina’s daughter Ramona López de Shaug, and Charles Prudhomme, a local history enthusiast, ventured into Placerita Canyon, where the tree said to have been the site of the discovery was pointed out based on Catalina’s recollection.  Prudhomme wrote a 1922 article in the annual publication of the Historical Society of Southern California based on this version.  Five years later, Catholic priest and church historian Father Zephyrin Englehardt reproduced Catalina’s account in a book he wrote.

Finally, there was a dedication of the purported discovery site on 9 March 1930, said to have been the 88th anniversary of López’s find.  For that event, a couple of men prominent in the creation of the landmark status came up with a new wrinkle in the story, grandiosely called “The Oak of the Golden Dream,” in which Francisco was not only taking a break from hunting the roaming horses, but fell into a slumber, during which he had a dream of finding gold.  Lo and behold, the gold was found.

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. . . and, it’s got its own logo, too!

An affidavit was secured from Bilderrain, stating that the information she received from Catalina López was true and that this was relayed to her at a 1914 family reunion.  Meantime, local ranch owner Frank Walker donated the site of the tree for the dedication, which featured two plaques and speeches that went to great lengths to play up the importance of the discovery and to assure it a place in California history less overshadowed by the great Gold Rush of six years later.  Pollack’s reading of some of the speeches brought a bit of laughter for its overwrought language!

Bilderrain added to the earnest attempt to redress the wrong perpertrated on Francisco López by writing another version that was submitted to the California State Library in July 1930, including the alleged exclamation of Francisco when he discovered the gold:  something along the lines of “Gold!  I have found it!  Gold!!”  She also claimed there were numerous celebrations in Los Angeles when the word reached the little village of the find, that an emissary was dispatched to Mexico City to alert the federal government, and other embellishments.

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Whether it’s the actual tree or not, long may it stand to commemorate an important event in local and state history!

 

In 1959, Placerita Canyon Nature Center was dedicated and a reenactment of the discovery was presented.  In later years, the long-vanished original plaques were replaced by new ones, including a designation of the site as a California state historic landmark and another by a local organization.  The tree, purportedly 500 years old, still stands just a few feet north of Placerita Canyon Road.

As Pollack noted in his excellent telling, however, the “true history” of the discovery is really unknown, from the actual date, to the real location, and details associated with the event.  He summed up by noting that the only person who could have told the story accurately was Francisco López, but he, evidently, left no version behind.  Not surprisingly, as with many notable historical events, the story has become more embellished and expanded over time, but the “Oak of the Golden Dream” has moved into legend and will almost certainly remain there.

Categories: 1842 discovery of gold San Francisquito Canyon, California History, Catalina Lopez, Francisca López de Bilderrain, Francisco Lopez, Geronimo Lopez, Gold Rush, José Jesús López, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Oak of the Golden Dream, Placerita Canyon, Ramona Lopez de Shaug, Rancho San Francisco, San Fernando History, Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

López Adobe Reopening a Big Success!

A line of eager visitors awaits entry of the López Adobe on its grand reopening, 22 March 2015.

A line of eager visitors awaits entry of the López Adobe on its grand reopening, 22 March 2015.

This afternoon’s official reopening of the López Adobe, held in gorgeous conditions that day after the start of Spring, attracted hundreds of visitors enjoying music and dancing, native Indian demonstrations, food and, of course, the first significant public access to the historic 1880s adobe in eight years.

Guests learn native Tataviam dances as part of the day's festivities.

Guests learn native Tataviam dances as part of the day’s festivities.

Carefully coordinated by the City of San Fernando’s Parks and Recreation Department, the event began with a welcome by city officials, including three members of the city council, the city’s planning director, the parks department manager and its supervisor in charge of the adobe.

Another view of expectant visitors to the adobe.

Another view of expectant visitors to the adobe.

Demonstrations by the Tataviam tribe of native peoples and performances by mariachi groups and dancers, the latter sponsored by the John Anson Ford Theatre Foundation, continued throughout the afternoon.

López family descendants, including two docents and visitors from Santa Barbara, share stories in a second-floor room of the adobe.

López family descendants, including two docents and visitors from Santa Barbara, share stories in a second-floor room of the adobe.

López descendant and author, Catherine López Kurland, signed copies of her book on “Hotel Mariachi,” a historic 1880s structure built by her ancestors George Cummings and Sacramento López in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Members of the Tataviam Band of Mission Indians educate and entertain guests.

Members of the Tataviam Band of Mission Indians educate and entertain guests.

Self-guided tours of the adobe, featuring several dedicated volunteers from the San Fernando community, were available and the official count totaled 365 adults, but with children and others the estimated number of visitors was almost certainly pushing 500 people.

Docent and local historian Richard Arroyo shares history of the López family, adobe and the area with visitors.

Docent and local historian Richard Arroyo shares history of the López family, adobe and the area with visitors.

This is a remarkable turnout and a prime indicator of the success of event, as well as a testament to the hard work and planning of the city’s parks and recreation department as they invested a huge amount of time in making this event a reality and a shining success.

Another exciting component of the reopening was the presence of a number of López descendants from Santa Barbara, Bakersfield, Palmdale and Ms. Kurland, who came in from New Mexico, as well as locally.

Dancers in beautiful costumes display their amazing technique before an appreciative crowd.

Dancers in beautiful costumes display their amazing technique before an appreciative crowd.

With two of the docents in the house being direct descendants of its long-time owners, Gerónimo and Catalina López, having these relatives, many of which were meeting for the first time, excitedly share their connections and stories, was a major part of the day’s festivities.

For those who could not attend today’s reopening, the López Adobe will be open the fourth Sunday of each month from Noon to 4 p.m., staffed by a loyal cadre of docents.  So, come down and visit on the next open date, which is Sunday, 26 April!

One of the more notable features of the adobe is a computer station allowing visitors with limited mobility to see the second-floor rooms from a first-floor location.

One of the more notable features of the adobe is a computer station allowing visitors with limited mobility to see the second-floor rooms from a first-floor location.

Many thanks for all who planned, executed, participated, performed, demonstrated, visited and toured at today’s grand reopening of the López Adobe.  May the historic house continue to be an important fixture in the City of San Fernando and the region for many, many years to come!

Finally!  A big thanks to the City of San Fernando, the funders, architects, engineers, contractors, consultants, supporters, volunteers, López family members and others who made the reopening a reality!

Finally! A big thanks to the City of San Fernando, the funders, architects, engineers, contractors, consultants, supporters, volunteers, López family members and others who made the reopening a reality!

Categories: Architecture, Catarina Lopez, Geronimo Lopez | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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