Our understanding of California's history is often clouded by a powerful desire for re-invention, the region a place where existing meaning and topography are often replaced by imagined notions about what our home is or should be. Our often contentious relationship to history has a long, well, history, as exemplified by the story of the Casa de Adobe.
Conceived in 1916 by the Hispanic Society of California, the Casa de Adobe, situated beneath the Southwest Museum in Highland Park, was billed "a faithful replica of a California home in the romantic days of the dons," as the L.A. Times noted at the time. The adobe bricks were made using the soil from the site, the rooms were decorated with period furniture and the courtyard was planted with jasmine, oleander, fig trees, and grapevines. The house served as the social center of the Hispanic Society, and an annual Fiesta was held there that celebrated the lifestyles of the early Californios, complete with music and dances from the era.
Although Mexico and Spain were still very much alive in the daily life of Angelinos long after the war, institutions like Casa de Adobe turned the existence of earlier pobladores - their ranchos and missions - into relics of the past. Rather than being understood as a vital part of Los Angeles' present, this history and the people they represented became picturesque attractions.
Casa de Adobe is now California Historical Monument #493 and is operated by the Autry National Center. It is closed to the general public.
Above, history professor and director of the Huntington-USC Institute, William Deverell, talks about the history of adobe and its relationship with Anglo-Americans in the 20th Century. Below: A slideshow of historical images depict the building of Casa de Adobe.
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