Lopez Adobe

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Lopez Adobe
Casa de Lopez (Lopez Adobe), San Fernando, CA.JPG
Lopez Adobe, 2008
Lopez Adobe is located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area
Lopez Adobe
Lopez Adobe is located in California
Lopez Adobe
Lopez Adobe is located in the United States
Lopez Adobe
Location1100 Pico St., San Fernando, California
Coordinates34°16′55″N 118°26′33″W / 34.28194°N 118.44250°W / 34.28194; -118.44250Coordinates: 34°16′55″N 118°26′33″W / 34.28194°N 118.44250°W / 34.28194; -118.44250
ArchitectLopez, Valentino
Architectural styleMonterey
NRHP reference #71000157[1]
Added to NRHPMay 6, 1971

Lopez Adobe, located at 1100 Pico Street in San Fernando, California, is one of the two oldest private residences in the San Fernando Valley.[2] Built by early settlers of the San Fernando Valley a short distance from the San Fernando Mission, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

The Grand-Reopening of the property occurred on March 22, 2015 and is now open for public tours once every 4th Sunday of the month from 12-4 P.M.

Geronimo and Catalina Lopez[edit]

Geronimo Lopez had served as an army messenger in 1847 for Andrés Pico during the Mexican–American War, delivering the Articles of Capitulation to General John C. Fremont, that ended the war in southern Alta California. Catalina Lopez had grown up at the Mission San Fernando Rey de España, where her father once served as major-domo.[3][4][5]

Lopez Station[edit]

Geronimo and Catalina Lopez purchased 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land near the Mission San Fernando in 1861 and built an adobe home along the Butterfield Overland Mail 1st Division, on the Stockton - Los Angeles Road wagon route that connected Los Angeles and San Francisco.[3] The original adobe became known as Lopez Station.[3][6]

The couple also operated the San Fernando Valley's first general store, its first English language school, and the first post office (in 1869) at the site.[3][6][7][8]

One account of the early days of the San Fernando Valley noted the significance of the Lopez family:

In the late 1860s and early 1870s a traveler riding through the high wild mustard fields of the San Fernando Valley would find little evidence of people except for the mission, a few other adobes, cattle grazing in the fields and a stage house built by Geronimo Lopez and his wife, Catalina. ... The Lopez family played an important role in the valley's development and were responsible for establishing the first post office and the first English-speaking school.[9]

The original Lopez Station adobe was destroyed in the 1910s for the construction of the San Fernando Reservoir (later renamed Van Norman Reservoir), part of the then new Los Angeles Aqueduct system.[5] After the 1971 San Fernando earthquake the foundation was again exposed in the reservoir basin. It was later covered by the vehicle track when the Los Angeles Police Department built the Davis Training Center in the late 1990s.

Lopez Adobe[edit]

19th century[edit]

Between 1882 and 1883, the Lopez family built a larger adobe using 24-by-6-inch, sun-baked blocks.[3] The surviving adobe home was built by Valentin Lopez, Geronimo's cousin and brother-in-law.[8] It was the first two-story adobe built as a residence in the San Fernando Valley.[7][10] It is considered the City of San Fernando's oldest standing building.

It has been recognized for its blend of Mission Revival and Victorian architectural styles.[10] Catalina Lopez designed the residence's Victorian features.[7] The first local newspaper, the San Fernando Times, was printed in April 1889 from the Lopez Adobe.[6][8][10]

20th century[edit]

Catalina Lopez died in 1918, and Geronimo Lopez died in 1921, at age 90.[11] In 1928, several modifications were made to the house by one of the Lopez daughters, Louisa Lopez McAlonan. The balcony staircase was changed, and some rooms were divided to form apartments. Modern plumbing and electrical fixtures were also added at the time.[11] The original shake shingle roof was also replaced by clay-tile roof.[11]

Members of the Lopez family continued living in the adobe until 1961.[11] The last Lopez to live in the adobe was another daughter, Kate Lopez Millen, who lived in an upper apartment from 1931 until shortly before her death in 1961.[11] The property remained in the Lopez family until 1971.[11]

Purchase by the City of San Fernando[edit]

The City of San Fernando announced plans to purchase the property from the Lopez family in 1970,[4] but took more than a year to come up with the $70,000 purchase price. Plans to obtain a HUD grant fell through, and in early 1971, the owners imposed a deadline on the purchase, and indicated the building would be razed and the land cleared.[2] When the adobe was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in May 1971, HUD finally agreed to provide a $40,000 historical preservation grant,[12] and the purchase was completed in late 1971.[13]

Funding and operation as a museum[edit]

The building was restored between 1974 and 1975 and opened as a historical site in 1975.[5] The adobe is operated by the San Fernando Historical Site and Preservation Commission. Funding difficulties hampered the city's plans to fully renovate the property and to operate it as a full-time museum and tourist attraction. The adobe was operated by volunteers, and was initially open only three days a week. That was later reduced to one Sunday per month. In 1983, the adobe's volunteer curator, Carolyn Riggs, noted: "Unfortunately, the city is so small that it can barely support its school, fire and police systems. There's just no money to support it except for what we have scraped together."[11]

In 1982, more than 100 descendants of the Lopez family gathered at the adobe to celebrate its 100th anniversary.[5] Geronimo and Catalina Lopez had thirteen children, nine of whom survived to adulthood.

Historic significance and designation as historic site[edit]

Though the City of San Fernando is the oldest town in the San Fernando Valley, the Lopez Adobe is all that remains of its early years. The authors of An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles observed: "The one remaining shred of the Victorian period is the Geronimo Lopez Adobe (1878) at the northwest corner of Pico Street and Maclay Avenue. It is two-story Monterey style with some pretty Queen Anne sawed gingerbread across the gallery. Otherwise, all signs of the old town have disappeared, except for the railroad."[14] In the book, Historic Adobes of Los Angeles County, the author also makes note of the woodwork along the balconies: "One of the striking features of the house is that the upper and lower stories have verandas with hand cut wooden railings and a jigsaw pattern balustrade, which is painted in a turquoise blue. This beautiful house is furnished to reflect the period between 1883 and 1910."[6]

The J. Paul Getty Trust gave a "Preserve L.A." grant to the adobe in 2002, and described the structure's importance as follows: "Built in 1882 for Mexican army officer Don Geronimo Lopez, the Lopez Adobe is an important example of California architecture during the transitional period following the decline of the missions and the extensive development of the Gold Rush era. Over the years, the Lopez Adobe has become a cultural icon for the city, and is one of the few historic structures to survive the earthquakes of 1971 (Sylmar) and 1994 (Northridge)."[15]

The Lopez Adobe has been recognized as a significant historical site at both the state and national level.

  • In 1945, the adobe was dedicated as a State Historic Landmark. At the time, the Los Angeles Times reported: "Its architecture is Spanish California adobe, a two-story structure with overhanging balcony and outside stairway. It is the only remaining building of Old San Fernando."[16]
  • In 1968, the building was registered with the State of California Office of Historic Preservation.[17]
  • In 1971, the adobe was listed on the National Register of Historical Places.[1]

Closure following Northridge earthquake[edit]

The adobe was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake and was closed for three years while repairs were made. Repairs were delayed when officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disputed the city's $230,000 estimate of repair costs and seismic upgrades. In April 1996, FEMA and city officials finally agreed on quake-repair funding of approximately $100,000, considerably less than the nearly $200,000 eventually spent on the work. City funds covered the rest of the cost.[3]

Recent years[edit]

The adobe reopened in December 1997 with a ceremony that included seasonal songs, Mexican dances, and the lighting of the town Christmas tree.[8]

In 2003, Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) obtained $150,000 in federal funding for the historic preservation of the Lopez Adobe. Berman said at the time: "I pursued this funding, because the Lopez Adobe is a national treasure and deserves federal money to help with its preservation. This historic building is a source of pride for the City of San Fernando and the entire San Fernando Valley. I am pleased to play a role in helping to save it."[10]

As of 2004, funding constraints prevented the city from opening the adobe more than one day per month. At that time, the adobe was open on the fourth Sunday of the month from 1 to 4 p.m. Despite years of fund-raising efforts, the city and preservation groups had managed at that time to collect only half of the $750,000 needed to restore the Lopez Adobe. This lack of funding prevented the property from being open for tours to the public from 2007-2015.[18]

The Grand-Reopening of the property occurred on March 22, 2015 and is now open for public (docent-led) tours once every 4th Sunday of the month from 12-4 P.M.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ a b Kenneth Fanucchi (1971-01-18). "Feb. 19 Deadline Set up for Plans to Save Lopez Adobe". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Darrell Satzman (1997-12-01). "4 Years After Quake, Repaired Landmarks to Reopen; Preservation: Historic Lopez Adobe will celebrate its return Thursday. Financing dispute with FEMA slowed things down". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ a b Tim May (1995-03-23). "Shaken Loose Quake Restoration Separates Adobe, Octogenarian Caretaker". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ a b c d "Lopez Adobe to Mark 100th Anniversary Today". Los Angeles Times. 1982-06-06.
  6. ^ a b c d Kielbasa, John R. (1998). "Lopez Adobe". Historic Adobes of Los Angeles County. Pittsburg: Dorrance Publishing Co. ISBN 0-8059-4172-X..
  8. ^ a b c d Darrell Satzman (1997-12-06). "San Fernando; Historic Lopez Adobe Reopened". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ Satzman, Darrell (1980-11-09). "Lopez family has role in valley history". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ a b c d "Berman Secures $150,000 for Historic Preservation of San Fernando's Lopez Adobe". Office of Howard Berman. 2003-10-30.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Jeanne Wright (1983-03-13). "The Lopez Adobe reflects lively past of the Valley". Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ Kenneth Fanucchi (1971-06-16). "$40,000 Grant to Spur Lopez Adobe Campaign". Los Angeles Times.
  13. ^ "San Fernando Will Purchase and Restore Historic Lopez Adobe". Los Angeles Times. 1971-10-06.
  14. ^ David Gebhard, Robert Winter (2003). An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles, p. 367. Gibbs Smith. ISBN 1-58685-308-2.
  15. ^ "Getty's Preserve L.A. Initiative Awards Nearly $1.3 Million in Grants to 18 Local Projects". J. Paul Getty Trust. 2002-04-11.
  16. ^ "Lopez Adobe Dedicated as Historic Landmark". Los Angeles Times. 1945-11-03.
  17. ^ "Lopez Adobe, La Casa de Geronimo Lopez". California Office of Historic Preservation. Archived from the original on 2008-02-22. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
  18. ^ "Officials Debate One Museum, Consider Others". Daily News. 2004-09-20.

External links[edit]