The present 1,800 acre Camulos Ranch, established by Ygnacio del Valle in 1853, was carved out of the 48,612 acre Rancho San Francisco, granted in 1839 to Ygnacio's father Antonio del Valle, majordomo and administrator of Mission San Fernando. Camulos was located at the western boundary of the rancho and was originally a Tataviam Indian village known as Kamulus. The San Fernando Mission used the area as early as 1804 for raising small animals and crops grown by the Indians, who numbered 416 when visited by William Petty Hartnell, Inspector General of the Missions, in 1839.
Antonio del Valle and his family lived at the eastern edge of the ranch near Castaic in the former San Fernando Mission granary adobe building. After Antonio's death in 1841, the land was divided among his wife and seven children. Ygnacio received the western portion of the ranch known as Camulos and built a corral and stocked it with cattle in 1842, the same year he married Maria de los Angeles in Santa Barbara. Maria died in childbirth in 1847, and Ygnacio married Ysabel Varela in 1852. The following year he had a house built at Camulos.
The four room (thirty by eighty foot) adobe was at first occupied by Ygnacio's majordomo (foreman). Ygnacio and his new wife lived in Los Angeles in an adobe on the Plaza, and Ygnacio continued to work in his new position as Los Angeles County Recorder. In 1852 he was elected a member of the Los Angeles City Council and the California Assembly. Ygnacio resigned from the council in 1857 in order to devote his time to the development of Camulos. The adobe was expanded that year with the addition of three rooms within the attic. Orange tree seedlings, the first to be planted on a large scale in Ventura County, were obtained from the nursery of William Wolfskill in Los Angeles.
Between 1853 and 1861, five children were born to the del Valles. By 1861, after the birth of their fifth child Josefa, the family moved permanently to Camulos. In 1861-62, three new rooms and a basement were added to the original adobe. Many of the Kamulus Indians continued to live and work at the ranch and helped make the adobe blocks and assist in the construction. Some of these Indians are buried in the family cemetery. Between 1862 and 1870, seven more children were born at Camulos, for a total of twelve del Valle children. Only half of the children lived to adulthood. During the 1870s, the west wing was extended to the north.
The drought of the 1860s took its toll on del Valle cattle and crops, forcing the sale of the Rancho San Francisco in 1865 to Thomas Bard, agent for capitalist Thomas Scott. Bard purchased 42,216 acres of the Rancho San Francisco from the del Valle heirs and split off the 1,500 acre Rancho Camulos selling it back to Ygnacio del Valle. In 1868 the acreage was reduced to 1,340 acres and then to 1,290 acres when Ygnacio gave his first born son Juventino fifty acres. Juventino had assumed many of the ranch management duties from Ygnacio in the 1870s.
By the time of Ygnacio's death in 1880, the ranch had grown from a few hundred head of cattle in the 1840s to a thriving, virtually self-contained ranch of approximately 1,290 acres of citrus, vineyards, almonds, grain, and vegetables supporting close to 200 residents. In addition to the del Valles, a large numbers of Mexicans and Indians were employed on the ranch. The single four room adobe built in 1853 grew into a twenty room adobe surrounded by numerous other buildings a brick winery, chapel, barn and worker's housing. The isolation of the Santa Clara Valley was broken with the arrival of the stagecoach in 1874 and the railroad in 1887.
In 1886 Ulpiano, the seventh child born to Ygnacio and Ysabel, became ranch manager and introduced horse raising to the ranch. By 1900, mules replaced the horses and Ulpiano began to introduce new crops. Camulos wines and brandies became well known throughout Southern California. After Ygnacio's death in 1880, Ysabel del Valle remained as head of the ranch until her failing health forced her move to Los Angeles in 1900 to live with her daughter.
In 1908 the ranch was incorporated as the del Valle Company by Ulpiano and his remaining brothers and sisters for the purpose of engaging in the raising of crops and livestock, the acquisition of water rights and the development of oil. Eventually, friction within the family and the death of several family members forced the sale of the ranch in 1924 to the August Rubel Family. At the time of the sale, writer Charles Lummis, a close family friend of the Del Valles, appealed to the State of California to purchase Camulos as a historic park. Lummis had long been an active preservationist and is credited, along with the Landmarks Club which he founded, as contributing substantially to preserving the missions. His magazine Out West, more than any other, promoted the heritage of Southern California. When the sale to the Rubels was inevitable, Lummis wrote:
It has been forty years since I first visited Camulos. Since that time, it has been like my own home, and its people like my own. The old folks were like parents to me. The romance, the traditions, the customs of Camulos are all familiar and all dear to me not merely because they are Camulos but because that was the Last Stand of the patriarchal life of Spanish California, which has been so beautiful to the world for more than a century (Smith, 1977: 242).
The Los Angeles Times echoed Lummis' sentiment when they wrote:
An era in the history of California closed yesterday. The Del Valles of Camulos bade farewell to the homestead where they have lived in successive generations since Antonio del Valle. It was the passing of the old regime. They are said to be the last of the old Spanish families who held in unbroken succession to the ancestral acres (Los Angeles Times, August 11, 1924).
The August Rubel Family moved to Camulos in 1925, having purchased the ranch the previous year. August Rubel, a native of Zurich, Switzerland, came to Ventura County in 1922, after graduation from Harvard at the age of twenty-three. He and his wife Mary Colgate McIsaac first lived in Aliso Canyon near Santa Paula, having established the Billiwhack Dairy there in 1924. The Rubels raised five children at Camulos Ranch. August Rubel served in the American Field Service in France between 1917 and 1919. He returned to this service during World War II, and was killed in Tunisia in 1943 when an ambulance he was driving hit a German mine. Mrs. Rubel married Edwin Burger in 1946, who continued to live and manage the ranch after Mrs. Rubel's death in 1968.
During the Rubel's tenure, several changes occurred at Camulos. The apricot trees and walnut trees were replaced with orange trees. A school was built in 1930 for the Rubel children and those of their bookkeeper. August Rubel managed the ranch with a foreman and bookkeeper to assist him as well as a number of farm laborers who lived in the bunkhouse and labor housing on the north side of the highway. The family grazed cattle along the Santa Clara River and kept a small number of farm animals horses, milk cows, chickens and turkeys. An aviary was built in the 1930s to house Mrs. Rubel's tropical birds. Concrete and brick paths were added connecting the main house, the chapel, and the schoolhouse. A play area was established south of the schoolhouse and a small pond was built nearby. Several trees were planted by the Rubel family including the large Dutch elm tree and all the fruit trees in the family orchard at the south end of the lawn. No significant changes were made to any of the existing buildings except the main adobe residence. These changes are addressed under the description section.
Significance of the del Valle Family
Three generations of del Valles served their country through either military service or in responsible governmental positions under the Mexican government and the new government of California. Their lives were closely associated with the most prominent and influential citizens of Mexico and California during the tumultuous years of California's entrance into the United States and its rise from a rural state to one of power and influence.
Antonio del Valle, a native of Compostela, Mexico, played a prominent role in both the Spanish and Mexican colonization of California. He arrived in California in 1819 as a Lieutenant in the San Blas Infantry, responsible for delivering forty men to the Presidio of San Francisco. New troops were called to reinforce the garrisons that had been attacked the previous year by the privateer Bouchard. The Company moved to Monterey and del Valle became commander in 1822. In 1834 he was placed in charge of secularizing the San Fernando Mission and served as majordomo there until 1837. In recognition of his years of military service, he received the 48,612 acre Rancho San Francisco grant in 1839.
Ygnacio del Valle, son of Antonio, began his military service in 1825 as a cadet at the Santa Barbara Presidio. Following his training, he accompanied Comandante General Don Jose Echeandia to San Diego and served as staff adjutant and harbormaster in San Diego until 1832. By 1832 he had attained the rank of second lieutenant and was put in charge of the San Gabriel Mission. The following year he joined the Monterey presidial company and, under Governor Figueroa, was put in charge of the secularization of the Santa Cruz and San Francisco missions. As a trusted officer, del Valle was charged with the Military Command at Monterey during Figueroa's absence. He left the military in 1839. As reward for his services to the government, he was granted Rancho Tejon in 1843.
Continuing in public service, Ygnacio del Valle accepted numerous positions of importance in both the Mexican and American government. During the 1840s he served as a member and secretary of the junta (council), and treasurer of civil government under Governor Pio Pico. In 1850 he was elected alcalde (mayor) of Los Angeles and recorder of Los Angeles County. Finally, in 1852, he was elected to the California Legislature. His residence, located on the Plaza (square) in Los Angeles was the center for political meetings. Harris Newmark writes in his book Sixty Years in Southern California,
Among the distinguished citizens of Los Angeles whose residences added to the social prestige of the neighborhood was Don Ygnacio del Valle. Until 1861, he resided on the east side of the square, receiving there his intimate friends as well as those who wished to pay him their respects when he was Alcalde, Councilman and member of the State Legislature. In 1861, del Valle moved to his ranch, Camulos (Newmark, 1926: 98).
Ygnacio's son Reginaldo was born in the family home on the Plaza in 1854, the second child born to Ygnacio and Ysabel Varela after their marriage in 1852. Perhaps it was his father's influence and the numerous political meetings held at the house that led Reginaldo into public life. By 1873, he had graduated with honors from the Santa Clara College in San Jose and by 1877 he was admitted to the bar, and elected to the Assembly in 1880; by 1882, at the age of 28, he was the youngest member ever elected as president pro tempore of the State Senate.
Although he lost the 1884 congressional campaign, he continued to work for the Democratic Party as a delegate to numerous state conventions and as elector in almost all presidential elections. Following his campaigning for Grover Cleveland in 1893, he was offered ministries to Chile and Japan. He declined the offers hoping to receive the ministry to Mexico, which never materialized.
In addition to Democratic politics, Reginaldo del Valle had a great interest in California history and promoted it through preservation efforts, due in large part to the influence of his close friend, Charles Lummis. Together with Lummis, Reginaldo was a founding member of the Landmarks Club of Southern California, formed in 1887 to advocate for the restoration of the missions. He was one of the forty founding members of the Southern California Historical Society and spearheaded the committee to restore the San Fernando Mission and to mark the El Camino Real with bells. He was also a strong promoter of John Steven McGroarty's Mission Play. His daughter Lucretia del Valle Grady performed the role of Ysabel Yorba in the Mission Play.
In 1913 Reginaldo was appointed by Woodrow Wilson as his personal representative to Mexico, and in 1914 he was appointed president of the Los Angeles Public Service Board, later known as the Water and Power Board, and was a close friend of William Mulholland.
Throughout its long history, Rancho Camulos has been owned by only two families, both of whom have successfully adapted to the changing role of agriculture. Through each period the ranch managed to sustain itself and to adapt to new crops and methods as they were introduced. During the first phase of agricultural development, from 1842 until 1856, the land was used primarily for livestock grazing. Ygnacio del Valle built a corral in 1842 for the cattle he brought to the ranch, but his cattle brand was not registered until 1851. No doubt the Indians who lived there at the time in brush huts were enlisted to care for the cattle. By 1853, a small four room adobe was built to house Ygnacio's majordomo, Jose Antonio Salazar, overseer at the ranch.
By 1857, land title issues involving Rancho San Francisco and Camulos were finally settled, and Ygnacio del Valle purchased the 13,339 acre Rancho Temescal adjacent to Rancho Camulos on the north. He moved his livestock operation onto the new land and was now able to open Camulos to the second phase of agricultural development. This phase involved the planting of citrus, wine grapes and almonds.
Ygnacio Del Valle planted the first citrus seedlings in 1857. He acquired them from his friend William Wolfskill. Wolfskill was the first person to grow and market citrus trees in Los Angeles, obtaining his stock from the San Gabriel Mission in 1841. Rancho Camulos became the first ranch in what is now Ventura County to plant citrus for commercial development, although on a small scale, as the lack of railroads required the fruit to be hauled by wagon to Los Angeles. At this time only one road wended through the Santa Clara Valley, and this route, the original El Camino Real, passed through the del Valle land and connected the San Buenaventura Mission with the San Fernando Mission. The first oranges grown and shipped commercially from Ventura County were from the Camulos Ranch in 1876. By 1876, the Southern Pacific railroad passed through Saugus 17 miles to the east, thus providing a relatively nearby shipping point for Camulos agricultural products.
It was the wine grape that brought the first real commercial success for the del Valle family. Camulos wines and brandies enjoyed a good reputation throughout Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. During the 1860s, ninety acres of wine grapes were planted, a brick winery built and a license obtained for brandy distilling. The federal industrial census for 1870 records Camulos Ranch winery as the largest of the four vintners in the San Buenaventura Township of Santa Barbara County, with 45 tons of Mission grapes resulting in 6,000 gallons of wine and 800 gallons of brandy. In addition to the citrus, almond trees and grape vines, a vast amount of wheat, corn and barley were grown annually.
Ygnacio's son, Juventino, served as ranch manager from 1862 to 1886, when Ulpiano took over the management of the ranch at the age of 21, just two years after his graduation from Santa Clara College. Ulpiano brought "blooded" horses to the ranch and began to raise them for racing purposes.
By 1889, Ventura County's orange shipments totaled 10,886 boxes, primarily from Camulos and Santa Paula. In 1891, when Yda Storke visited the ranch to collect material for her book, she wrote,
The rancho is divided about equally into farming and grazing land. The pastures raise horses, horned cattle, sheep and hogs. ... Here are grown excellent crops of wheat, in quality very superior, also bountiful crops of barley, rye, oats, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, melons and all kinds of vegetables...
The vineyard here is of 50,000 vines, which for many years have yielded 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of wine per year. From an orange grove of 2,000 trees, 1,200 boxes of fruit were shipped last season. The returns are handsome from 500 walnut trees, as also from the oil and pickled olives from a fine grove of 1,000 olive trees. Almost every kind of fruit grown in the United States is raised here (Storke, 1891: 225).
By 1900, Camulos was entering into its third phase of agricultural development. At this time, Ulpiano began to increase the size of the citrus orchards and add new crops and livestock. The oranges were marketed under the Home of Ramona Brand trademark, and handled by the Piru Citrus Association at their packing house in Piru. Between 1908 and 1917, on land that had formally been used for grazing livestock, Ulpiano added 175 acres of apricots and walnuts plus 44 acres of Valencia oranges. Between 1920 and 1923, an additional 31 acres were planted of oranges. With the addition of the large apricot acreage, an apricot shed was built and a track installed.
Water for irrigation came from the Santa Clara River. Ditches were used to bring the water by gravity flow from the river southeast of the ranch headquarters. Later, wells were drilled on the property. At the time the property was sold in 1924, an open canal continued to bring water from the dam to the property by gravity flow. Two electric pump houses pumped the water from the Santa Clara River below the property. Today, four wells are used in addition to river water.
By the time the ranch was sold to the August Rubel family in 1924, apricots, oranges and walnuts had replaced the wine grapes and almonds planted during the early 1900s. The Rubels eventually replaced the walnuts and apricots with more oranges. The present-day acreage includes a total of 600 acres under cultivation, including 500 acres of Valencia oranges, forty acres of lemons, thirty acres of grapefruit, twenty acres of navel oranges, and ten acres of avocados.
Ramona and the Cult of Southern California Romanticism
Although Rancho Camulos became well known among Californians for the accomplishments of three generations of del Valles in both the political and agricultural history of the state, it perhaps is best recognized at the national level as the "home of Ramona." When Helen Hunt Jackson published her best-selling novel Ramona in 1884, it was her intention to supply the general reader with an appreciation of the California Indian's plight as illustrated by the trials and tribulations of the fictional Indian girl, Ramona. Disappointed in having A Century of Dishonor, her earlier book reciting the past injustices of the Indians receive so little notice, she wrote Ramona hoping to elicit popular support for the Indians, much as her acquaintance Harriet Beecher Stowe had done with Uncle Tom's Cabin.
The setting and characters in Jackson's book Ramona are apparently composites drawn from places Jackson visited and people she met in her travels throughout Southern California during the early 1880s. Various portions of the novel were drawn from her visits to California Indian reservations, missions and ranchos. It is appears likely that Jackson chose Camulos as the setting for a portion of her novel upon the advice of her close friends, Antonio and Mariana Coronel. In the opinion of the Coronels, Camulos was one of the few remaining ranches still reflecting its colonial origins. Antonio Coronel assisted Jackson in the preparation of an itinerary of ranches and missions (Banning, 1973: 165-166). Jackson heeded their advice, briefly visiting Camulos on the morning of January 23, 1882 (Smith, 1977: 180). In her novel published two years later, Ramona's fictional home on the "Moreno Ranch" was located "... midway in the valley [between lands] to the east and west, which had once belonged to the Missions of San Fernando and San Bonaventura [sic]." This geographical location, and the description of the setting recounted in the novel, accurately matched Camulos:
The house was of adobe, low, with a wide veranda on the three sides of the inner court, and a still broader one across the entire front, which looked to the south. ... The two westernmost rooms had been added on, and made four steps higher than the others... Between the veranda and the river meadows, out on which it looked, all was garden, orange grove, and almond orchard..." (Jackson, 1912: 16-17)
Additional features of Camulos accurately referenced in Jackson's novel were all unmistakably part of the ranch setting: the wooden cross on the hill, the chapel, the bells and the fountain and courtyard. Among the earliest articles recognizing Camulos as the setting for the fictitious Moreno Ranch was a San Francisco Chronicle article by Edwards Roberts, published after his visit to Camulos on April 27,1886, just prior to the completion of the railroad line through the Santa Clara Valley.
Jackson's novel was serialized in the Christian Union and quickly became a best seller, and eventually an American classic, with over 135 printings, three motion pictures, and a pageant performed annually since 1923. Railroad promoters, writers and photographers all became drawn into the burgeoning Ramona craze, publishing hundreds of articles in books, magazines and newspapers touting the Ramona connection.
The book was ultimately to have an entirely unanticipated, but profound cultural effect. Its publication in 1884 and remarkable popularity almost perfectly coincided with the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Ventura County in 1887. The romantic story of Spanish California coupled with the vivid descriptions of the setting brought literally thousands of curiosity seekers to view the "home of Ramona" on the "Moreno Ranch," happily overlooking its fictitious origins.
Ramona became so phenomenally popular that schools, streets and even towns were named in honor of the novel's fictional heroine. With the huge influx of tourists and homeseekers flooding into California during the 1880s and 1890s on the newly established railroads, many communities claimed Ramona for their own in order to profit from the vast tourism bandwagon. Writers such as George Wharton James and others visited Rancho Guajome and the Estudillo house in San Diego to photograph and research the conflicting claims for the setting of the novel, a controversy made possible by the death of Helen Hunt Jackson in 1885. James, in his 1909 book Through Ramona's Country expressed the opinion that Camulos was still the "avowed and accepted home of the heroine." According to James, Camulos had changed little from the time of Edwards Roberts' first article in 1886. Charles Lummis, editor of Out West Magazine and founder of the Landmarks Club, became a close friend of the del Valle Family upon his arrival in Los Angeles in 1884. In 1888 Lummis published a promotional booklet filled with photographs he had taken at the ranch, proclaiming Camulos as the home of Ramona.
The immense popularity of the novel, and the commercially lucrative derivatives it generated, spawned an abundance of Ramona-related claims. As Carey McWilliams describes in his popular history Southern California Country,
Picture postcards, by the tens of thousands, were published showing "the schools attended by Ramona," "the original of Ramona," "the place where Ramona was married," and various shots of the "Ramona Country." Since the local chambers of commerce could not, or would not, agree upon the locale of the novel one school of thought insisted that the Camulos rancho was the scene of the more poignant passages while still another school insisted that the Hacienda Guajome was the authentic locale it was not long before the scenic postcards depicting the Ramona Country had come to embrace all of Southern California. (McWilliams, 1946: 73)
Camulos was widely photographed and painted by many of the professional photographers and artists of the day. C.C. Pierce, well known Los Angeles photographer, developed a portfolio of Camulos photographs in 1887 in conjunction with writer George Wharton James. Pasadena photographer Adam Clark Vroman illustrated Camulos in the Little, Brown and Company's 1912 edition of Ramona. Famed artists Henry Chapman Ford and Alexander Harmer painted Camulos, and the well-known eastern illustrator Henry Sandham, who accompanied Jackson on her tour of the missions and Indian reservations, made many sketches and paintings of Camulos.
In 1887 Ventura photographer John Calvin Brewster photographed Camulos, recreating scenes from Ramona which eventually were published in the San Francisco Chronicle. Del Valle family members and friends posed for these scenes and others that depicted the romance between Alessandro and Ramona. Occasionally the family complained about the excursion trains that stopped at the ranch and the avalanche of tourists that descended upon the ranch demanding to see Ramona, and invading the orchards and house. Reginaldo del Valle even considered at one time building a hotel to accommodate tourists, when he thought his mother's gracious hospitality was becoming a burden in her later years and the cost of accommodating so many guests was getting out of hand. The del Valle family also capitalized on Ramona by establishing the Home of Ramona Brand trademark for their oranges.
Camulos continued to receive tourists at the ranch even after the Southern Pacific Railroad relocated its main line to the south through the Santa Susanna Pass in 1903. Two daily trains continued to make trips down the Santa Clara Valley in the 1920s until passenger service was discontinued in the 1940s. Throughout this period, Camulos continued as a scheduled stop.
Mary Pickford (Image not part of report)
D.W. Griffith's silent motion-picture version of Ramona,
starring Mary Pickford, was filmed at Camulos and Piru during a two-day shoot on April 1 and 2, 1910. At the time this one-reeler was made, it was billed as the Biograph Company's "most elaborate and artistic movie yet filmed." The chapel, the adobe and patio and the nearby mountains were all used as backdrops.
An article in Sunset Magazine for December, 1925 indicated that Camulos was still welcoming visitors. By this time the Rubel Family owned the property. August Rubel eventually established a small museum in the winery for the del Valle ranch artifacts. Occasional visitors, whom the Rubels referred to as "Ramona-seekers," visited the ranch and small school groups from Piru arrived on occasional field trips. Nevertheless, the Rubel Family let it be known that the ranch was private and did not encourage visitors.
Carey McWilliams characterized Helen Hunt Jackson and her influence on Southern California:
"H. H." as she was known to every resident of Southern California, was almost solely responsible for the evocation of its Mission past, and it was she who catapulted the lowly Digger Indian of Southern California into the empyrean. ... She had originally been sent to Southern California by Century magazine to write some stories about the Missions. ... In Southern California she became ..enamored of the Missions, then in a state of general disrepair and neglect ... In the sunny, delicious, winterless California air, these crumbling ruins, with their walled gardens and broken bells ... exerted a potent romantic influence on Mrs. Jackson's ... nature. Out of these brief visits to Southern California came Ramona, the first novel written about the region, which became one of the most widely read American novels of the time. It was this novel which firmly established the Mission legend in Southern California (McWilliams, 1946: 72-73).
The Ramona myth played a central role in fashioning a regional identity for Southern California at a time when the West was struggling to establish an historical and cultural legitimacy separate but comparable with the East. Colonial history and architecture received a tremendous boost in the public consciousness during and after the United States Centennial of 1876, and for a time, the southwestern United States freely borrowed the colonial architectural imagery of the East Coast.
As early as the 1870s, however, artists and photographers began to recognize and document the romantic ruins of the California missions. By the 1880s, the colonial architecture of the Southwest had been introduced into the national imagination, first sparking a local preservation movement directed towards the restoration of the mission churches, and later a revival of the mission architectural style itself. Helen Hunt Jackson's novel Ramona served to integrate the imagery of a physical place, as captured by artists and photographers, and a people into a cohesive, if highly romanticized, whole. This rediscovery of California's picturesque colonial history coincided with the great railroad-inspired boom of 1886-87, providing convenient promotional fodder for real estate developers, railroad companies and regional boosters. The remarkable effectiveness of this campaign is evidenced by the mass migration of tourists and land buyers into Southern California during this era.
As one of the most widely recognized settings for Jackson's novel, Rancho Camulos became not only a tourist Mecca in and of itself, but also emblematic of California's colonial past in both reality and in fiction. It is a tribute to the power and influence of Jackson's novel that her popular fiction achieved a capacity to fire the collective imagination of the American public to an extent that the more prosaic reality of colonial California might never have equalled. It was in large part this brand of fictionalization and romantic invention that induced Americans to move in vast numbers from east to west, with expectations of discovering the fabled land of Ramona.
The 10,000 square foot u-shaped del Valle adobe, with its two-foot thick walls and long corredores is an outstanding and rare example of the rural domestic vernacular style of Spanish-Mexican Colonial architecture. Set in the Santa Clara Valley between two mountain ranges, with the Santa Clara River on the south, the 1,800 acre site is surrounded by citrus orchards and bisected by the two-lane state highway. The ranch complex is defined by the windrows of Eucalypus trees on the east and west, delineating the cluster of buildings.
As a working, self-sustaining ranch, the Camulos headquarters complex is unique for the large number of original buildings that remain in their historic settings. These include the Ygnacio del Valle adobe, chapel, winery, barn, schoolhouse, bunkhouse, oil and gas house, and fountain. Across the highway from the ranch headquarters, are the Southern Pacific Railroad section house and bunkhouse and three farmworker's residences. The entire 1,800 acre ranch located at the far eastern edge of Ventura County reflects the rural late nineteenth century historic setting with uninterrupted views of orchards and mountains.
The Ygnacio del Valle Adobe, begun in 1853, represents a mature expression of the Mexican-Spanish Colonial Rural Vernacular style, exhibiting only a few and relatively minor concessions to the Yankee-influenced style of adobe architecture then taking hold in California. The adobe evolved in a typically organic fashion, responding equally to the needs of a growing family, financial constraints and traditional hispanic building customs. The original l-shaped four room section, connected by an exterior corredor, expanded over the subsequent fifty years, evolving into a one-story, u-shaped plan organized around a central courtyard or patio. In typical Mexican and Spanish Colonial fashion, the rooms communicated primarily with the patio, providing only minimal internal circulation. Comparable properties in California include the adobes at Rancho Las Flores in San Diego County (1868), Rancho Los Alamos in Santa Barbara County (circa 1840), and Rancho Guajome, near Oceanside (1852). All three of these properties have been designated as National Historic Landmarks on the basis of their historical and architectural significance.
Considering the lateness of the construction of the adobe relative to the Mexican Colonial period (1822-1850), and the highly urbane station of the family, the Ygnacio del Valle Adobe is remarkably traditional in its design and construction. During the immediate post-statehood period, the characteristically two-story Monterey style of adobe architecture was in its ascendency. Although the sources of the Monterey architectural style remain a matter of some controversy, it was clearly favored by American immigrants to California, and was at least partially a response to the imposition of Yankee tastes and preferences onto the earlier Spanish-Mexican Colonial style. The two-story Monterey style adobes, constructed primarily after 1840, particularly in Santa Barbara, Monterey and in scattered rural coastal locations, often incorporated neoclassical and other architectural elements borrowed from the coincident period revival styles. Circulation was increasingly directed internally, with inside hallways replacing external corredores.
By contrast, the del Valle adobe was planned and constructed almost entirely as a pre-Monterey style dwelling. The corredor and patio serve as the central organizing elements, and circulation between rooms is minimized in the traditionally hispanic fashion. The gable roof system is characteristic of adobes constructed in Southern California after 1850, when milled lumber became sufficiently available to replace the flat-roofed construction techniques characteristic of many Southern California pueblos, including Los Angeles. Contemporary millwork is also evident in the use of six-over-six sash windows, a detail probably more reflective of the availability of suitable modern building materials than of any pretensions towards the Federal style. While construction innovations were pragmatically borrowed from non-hispanic sources, the overall architectural intent is firmly embedded in the Spanish-Mexican Colonial vernacular tradition.
The architectural style typified by the del Valle Adobe ultimately influenced, or became a direct precedent for, several phases of architectural design emanating from the Western United States, particularly the Mission Revival and post-war Ranch styles. Both drew form and inspiration from the Spanish-Mexican colonial rural vernacular style, and each are important for the ways in which they responded to both the image and environment of California and contemporary needs and tastes. These styles also, in their own ways, provided a focus for the promotion of a lifestyle which was nurtured within, and unique to California. Further, each style was popularized during a Southern California building boom, amplifying and extending their appeal enabling them to be widely broadcast throughout the West and the United States as a whole.
The Mission Revival style (circa 1890-1915) represents the first attempt to capitalize on Southwestern imagery and to adapt the native regional architecture to contemporary design issues. Although derived primarily from ecclesiastical architectural sources, and amalgamated freely with Mediterranean elements, the Mission Revival proved adaptable to a wide variety of domestic, commercial and institutional applications. By the mid-1890s, the Mission Revival style began to be widely accepted as a "legitimate" and distinct regional architectural image.
The California Ranch House, particularly as it was championed by the Los Angeles architect Cliff May, was profoundly influenced by the Spanish-Mexican Colonial style of the rural vernacular architecture. May, in his connection with Sunset Magazine through the 1940s and 50s advocated not only for an architectural style which he argued was indigenous to California, but for an entirely distinct way of life. He posited that life is inherently different in California, and that, "families ... [come] west with the idea that their homes should make the most of the climate they had come to enjoy... [and] that the house should provide a closer relationship between outdoors and in, a more intimate association with the garden..." (May, 1958: 7)
In order to accomplish this, he drew upon his understanding of rancho life in Alta California, suggesting through his designs that the rambling informality and plan of early California houses expanded useful space and brought the outdoors inside in ways that could be applied to modern living. May's was a free, rather than historical, interpretation of the hispanic tradition. He was more interested in the organizational advantages of planning living space around an internal corredor than any particular vocabulary of architectural details.
There were notable benefits to this solution. The use of a u- or l-shaped plan, with its back to the street, while rooted in Spanish-Mexican tradition, lent itself to modern requirements. The resultant rear or internal orientation addressed itself directly to a desire to create an "urban retreat," psychologically distant from the distractions of modern city life. To the rear of the house, indoor living could be extended to the outdoors, isolated from disruptive outside influences. The externalization of circulation via a corredor furthered this end. May also viewed the winged, "modular" design of the California Ranch House as being similar in principal to the expandable hispanic dwelling, while at the same time expressing the Western conception of limitless space.
May can be viewed as more than an architect, but as a promoter of a uniquely Californian life style. He was greatly abetted in this end by virtue of his long association with Sunset Magazine, an important taste-maker of the forties and fifties and exporter of California style to the rest of the country. It is no accident that Sunset referred to itself as "The Magazine of Western Living," and its books of May's house plans were subtitled "Western solutions to Western Problems." May, in his 1958 house plan book Western Ranch Houses, specifically cites the del Valle Adobe as one example of the quintessential Californio ranch house. According to May, the typical Spanish arrangement of the Camulos adobe "provided wonderfully free circulation because of the corredor and the patio. Any room in the house was freely accessible to every other room." (May, 1958: 20)
Among the other Spanish-Mexican colonial period residences referenced in the building plan books published by Sunset include Rancho Las Flores, Rancho Los Cerritos and Rancho Guajome. All of these properties, amongst others, provided the inspiration for the modern ranch style, and all are currently designated as National Historic Landmarks.
May's conception of the California Ranch House can be seen as the flip-side of those of the pure "rational" modernists, who decried all historical references in architecture. May's designs were, however, fully modern, addressing themselves to contemporary needs, and in the final analysis, it seems that May's approach to modernism enjoyed a level of popular acceptance that avant garde did not. According to Esther McCoy,
May's Los Angeles houses were enormously successful, due mainly to his ability to work unselfconsciously from memory rather than any effort to revive a past style. ... he did not hesitate to introduce purely pictorial features, but his selection was governed by the appropriateness to the ranch houses of the 1840s. ... May had caught some of the innocence and sincerity of the original, which carried the ranch house tradition into the present (McCoy, 1983: 89).
Comparison with other National Historic Landmarks
Significance Based on the Themes of Rancho Culture and Economics
Rancho Camulos shares significant historical themes prevalent during the rancho era with the four ranchos already designated as National Historic Landmarks: Rancho Guajome (1852) and Rancho Las Flores in San Diego County (1868), Ranchos Los Cerritos in Long Beach (1844) and Los Alamos Adobe in Los Alamos (1829-44?). The following discussion will detail the similarities and differences between these four National Historic Landmarks and Rancho Camulos (1853).
In a recent rewrite of the original Las Flores Adobe nomination, a lengthy historic context section discussed the important rancho-era themes of economics, culture and society that defined rancho life. This nomination states, "...the rancho economy and the ranchero culture were mainstays in Mexican California during the 1830s and 1840s and remained dominant forces in American Southern California until the early 1880s. The ranchero culture is an aspect of California history which achieves national significance because it is a unique aspect of American social history, simply because it is not replicated elsewhere in the nation." (Mikesell and Wee, 1991: Sec. 8, 29)
The shared characteristics between these adobes (Guajome, Las Flores, Los Alamos, Los Cerritos) and Camulos include the following:
- They were all part of large ranchos that included thousands of acres granted to their owners by the Mexican government between 1839 and 1850.
- Their economy was originally based on cattle, but with the droughts of the 1860s and 1870s, diversified to include viniculture, tree crops and row crops.
- The rancheros, rewarded for their service to the Mexican Government, were members of the elite class; they were the influential and prominent citizens of the day. In the case of Las Flores, Guajome and Los Cerritos, the owners were Americans who had married into the elite Californio families and been accepted in their own right, whereas Camulos and Los Alamos were established by prominent Californio families &emdash; the del Valles (Camulos) and the de la Guerras (Los Alamos).
Las Flores, built for John Forster's son Marcus, is distantly associated with Pio Pico, former governor of California, and John Forster, Pico's son-in-law and prominent merchant and large landowner. Guajome was built by Cave Couts, a Tennessee native and graduate of West Point who attained the rank of colonel. He married Ysadora Bandini, daughter of Juan Bandini, distinguished political and social leader of San Diego. Los Cerritos Rancho was established by Jonathan Temple, a native of Massachusetts, who married Rafaela Cota. Temple was a trader and Los Angeles pioneer. Temple Street in Los Angeles was named to commemorate him.
Of the five adobes, only Camulos and Los Alamos were fully associated with Californio families. The 48,803 acre Los Alamos Rancho was granted to Jose Antonio de la Guerra in 1839. Jose was the son of Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega, commandant of the Presidio of Santa Barbara from 1815 to 1843. Concepcion Ortega, who married Jose and came to live at the adobe, was the granddaughter of Captain Jose Francisco Ortega, one of the founders of the Presidio of Santa Barbara.
Rancho Camulos was built at the western edge of the original 48,612 acre Rancho San Francisco, granted in 1839 to Antonio del Valle, majordomo and administrator of Mission San Fernando. Ygnacio del Valle, Antonio's son, inherited 1,800 acres of the grant in 1842 and stocked it with cattle. Both Ygnacio and Antonio served in prominent positions in the Mexican military. Ygnacio went on to serve in the American government as the first alcalde (mayor) of Los Angeles and recorder of Los Angeles County, and in 1852 he was elected to the California legislature.
Significance Based on the Ramona Myth Theme
The argument for the significance of Rancho Camulos based upon the Ramona Myth, as described in detail in Section 8, pages 10-13, parallels the argument for the significance of ranchero culture, that "it is an aspect of California history which achieves national significance because it is a unique aspect of American social history, simply because it is not replicated elsewhere in the nation." The writing, and subsequent popularity, of Jackson's novel proved to be a defining event in the history of Southern California, in that it fixed a specific and well defined romantic image of the region into the nation's consciousness.
Helen Hunt Jackson's novel Ramona sold more copies than perhaps any other book of its time. It was republished in dozens of editions, and several films were made of the novel. A play based on Jackson's tale continues to run to this day. Its impact on the culture and history of Southern California has been phenomenal, and can be recognized as one of the principle defining events in the state's history. In her recently completed thesis, Ramona Memories: Constructing the Landscape of Southern California Through a Fictional Text, Dydia Yvonne DeLyser states:
In her novel, Jackson altered southern California's history: she portrayed the missions as places of song and pious devotion (rather than as sites of death and severe oppression), the Americans as the only villains (rather than as the last in a lineage of oppressors which included the Franciscan Padres themselves, the Spanish government, its representatives, Spanish citizens in California in general, the Mexican government and its representatives, and the Mexican population of California as well), and Indians at best as picturesque noble savages. (DeLyser, 1996: 2-3)
John Ogden Pohlman, another scholar commenting on Jackson's influence, wrote in his doctoral dissertation California's Mission Myth (1974),
The desire for "history" and tradition has been one of the more notable aspects of American civilization, especially in those regions not blessed by either... More than anyone else, Helen Hunt Jackson initiated a major shift toward an idealized romantic conception of the Franciscan missions. Historians generally credit her novel Ramona (1884) with reversing the prevailing interpretation in California which had heretofore dismissed the six-and-a-half decades of Franciscan missionary activity as an ignominious failure, an irrelevant and worthless cultural heritage&emdash; Sentimental readers accepted Ramona as a picture of idyllic "Spanish" culture (Pohlman, 1974: 8, 335; as cited in Dylser, 1996: 9).
The main body of DeLyser's thesis is devoted to examining the Ramona-identified places that became meaningful destinations on tourist itineraries, and were frequently cited in travel guidebooks. "Even as places represented in a work of fiction became factual in the landscape of southern California, so a host of other places and businesses chose to associate themselves with the novel. Towns, subdivisions, and roadways of various sizes were all named for the novel's heroine (Ramona) and her martyred spouse (Alessandro). Likewise, businesses of all kinds took the names of these characters as their own... The novel was even used in that ever-so-Californian of attractions, the theme park, of which "Ramona Village" [near Hollywood, 1928] may have been the first." (DeLyser, 1996: 3-4) DeLyser examines the national spread of Ramona-inspired mythology through photographs, postcards, magazines, newspapers, films plays, songs, advertising and commercial products. The breadth and abundance of Ramona-related materials assembled in an extensive (35-page) bibliography compiled by DeLyser attests to the widespread popularity of Jackson's novel, and its remarkably widespread and complex national influence.
All of these forms of commercial promotion, many of which were considered innovative at the time, coincided with the great Southern California land rush of the late 1880s. When the flood of immigrants to the region abruptly subsided, and a deep recession set in during the early 1890s, Ramona mythology fed directly into efforts of regional boosters to counteract the economic doldrums.
One of the most important and influential boosters of this era was Harrison Gray Otis, publisher of the Los Angeles Times. As founder of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Otis and the other powerful board members tirelessly promoted Southern California, particularly targeting Midwesterners, and often enlisting Ramona mythology in the effort. The Times ran numerous Ramona stories, featuring the locations and characters from the novel. One story appeared in the January 13, 1887 issue of the Times under the headline "Camulos: The Real Home of Helen Hunt Jackson's Ramona." (DeLyser, 1996: 68-70)
Only a very limited number of properties can be seen to be closely associated with the Ramona phenomenon. These are the places that Jackson visited in preparation for writing the novel, the places she clearly used in fragments for the setting of the story, the places that the contemporary public perceived as being Ramona-associated, and those they consequently sought out in large numbers, transforming sleepy backwaters into major tourist destinations. Only three properties in the nation potentially meet all of these criteria: Rancho Guajome, the Estudillo House, and Rancho Camulos.
Rancho Guajome's own claim to the "Home of Ramona" title was established in 1894, when an article entitled, "Rancho Guajome: the Real Home of Ramona" appeared in the November issue of Rural Californian. The unnamed author of this article declared that, "now that there is no doubt as to the true place, tens of thousands of tourists will throng there yearly to visit the scenes that so inspired Helen Hunt Jackson." DeLyser comments, "while the statement that tourists would come by the 'tens of thousands' was surely an exaggeration, like Camulos, Rancho Guajome became a destination for Ramona-seekers." (DeLyser, 1996: 104)
Rancho Guajome meets all of the stated criteria for association with the Ramona phenomenon. Though accounts vary in the details, Jackson is thought to have been a houseguest of the Couts family in 1882, the same year she visited Camulos. Geographical references to the relationship of the fictional Moreno Rancho relative to San Diego and Mission San Luis Rey, and some key site details, particularly the south veranda of the adobe and the chapel described in Jackson's book, match Guajome and therefore serve as important evidence supporting a Ramona claim.
Rancho Guajome also became a major tourist destination, though this aspect of its Ramona association appears to have occurred only subsequent to the publication of the 1894 Rural Californian article, and some years after the Camulos connection to the novel had been popularly identified. The cause of this time lag is uncertain, but speculation centers around the relationship between Jackson and Señora Couts, which was reported by her son many year later to have become strained during her visit to the ranch. The Couts family apparently also did not show the interest in capitalizing on the Ramona connection so clearly expressed by the del Valles of Camulos. Guajome was also located some four miles distant from the Santa Fe Railroad station at Oceanside, limiting tourist access to the site, and by the 1890s the adobe had fallen into a deteriorated state. (DeLyser, 1996: 96-108)
The Estudillo House in San Diego is the third property frequently cited for its Ramona associations. The logic of the Estudillo adobe's Ramona connection is unclear, as no evidence presently exists to indicate that Jackson visited the adobe during her travels in Southern California, nor is the building or site clearly identified as a setting for the novel; only a ambiguous mention of a "...long, low adobe building which had served no mean purpose in the old Presidio days, but was now fallen in decay; and all its rooms, except those occupied by the Father [Gaspara], had been long uninhabited," and Jackson's various references to old town San Diego as the location of Ramona's marriage (Jackson, 1912: 270-71).
Though considerably less specific in its geographical and architectural particulars then Jackson's references to either Camulos or Guajome, this evidence provided a sufficient basis of a Ramona connection for the San Diego Union, in an 1887 front-page article, to declare the Estudillo House to be "Ramona's Marriage Place." Regarding this claim, DeLyser explains, "[m]ore accurately, however, it was the site where Ramona and Alessandro's names were entered into Father Gaspara's marriage records. The actual ceremony, though it is not described in the novel, was performed in the chapel. Such details aside, it was the Estudillo adobe which earned the title 'Ramona's Marriage Place' and which, in turn, led to several decades of tourist promotion of the building in this role." (DeLyser, 1996: 110)
The Estudillo adobe was unique amongst the early Ramona places, in that it was perhaps the first site to become entirely devoted to exploiting the commercial possibilities offered by Ramona-inspired tourism. The caretaker for the adobe hired by Salvador R. Estudillo in 1887 before his move to Los Angeles, soon began selling off portions of the house to tourists seeking Ramona reliquary. The adobe was in a seriously dilapidated state, due at least in part to tourist vandalism, when it was purchased in 1906 by Nat Titus, who sold it the following year to the San Diego Electric Railway Company, owned by real estate tycoon John D. Spreckels. Under Spreckels' ownership, the Estudillo adobe began its new life as a deliberately fashioned tourist destination.
Spreckels hired architect Hazel Wood Waterman to plan the restoration of the house. Waterman's rather loose interpretation of the site appears to have been inspired in no small part by the novel itself, with architectural and site features added and deleted from the adobe, and the floor plan altered, at least in part based upon suggestions from Jackson's book. Upon the completion of this transformation in 1910, the Estudillo adobe was reopened to the public as a full-fledged Ramona tourist attraction. It proved enormously successful in this role, drawing as many as 1,632 visitors on one day in 1940 (DeLyser, 1996: 114-122).
Of these three properties, Rancho Guajome and Rancho Camulos make perhaps the strongest claims for direct associations with the Ramona phenomenon. Both properties were visited by Jackson during the preparations for her book in 1882, and both quite clearly and significantly inspired the fictionalized setting of her tale, and can be identified by both architectural and geographic references in the novel. In turn, both places were actively promoted by regional boosters, and transformed into magnets for tourists from across the country. Of the two, Camulos was arguably the more popular, as a consequence of its location on the Southern Pacific main line, and the proactive efforts of the del Valles to capitalize on the association.
Although Camulos appears to have been granted a "head start" on Guajome, both of these sites ultimately came to fully embody the romantic, though largely invented, image of Southern California's colonial past then being impressed into the consciousness of the nation. The Estudillo adobe is distinct from these two, in that it appears to have become the most fully realized as a tourist attraction, particularly after 1910 when it was redesigned and utilized solely for this purpose.
In time, other Ramona inspired or associated landmarks emerged as well, although they were clearly of secondary importance, were not visited by Jackson, or derived from settings described in the novel.
These secondary landmarks include "Ramona's Birthplace," a small adobe in San Gabriel near the Mission San Gabriel, which also housed a gift shop and was at one time enveloped by a large and photogenic grapevine. This is one of the least known of the Ramona landmarks, but is located near the more popular Mission Playhouse established by booster John Stephen McGroarty, who authored the Mission Play recounting the life of Father Serra. Another secondary Ramona landmark is the gravesite of the Cahuilla Indian, Ramona Lubo. Of the several women who portrayed themselves as the "genuine" Ramona of Jackson's novel, only Lubo could claim events in her own life which closely paralleled that of the fictitious character. Lubo died in 1922, but it was not until 1938 that a special monument was erected to her on the Cahuilla Indian reservation. The Ramona Pageant site in the Ramona bowl amphitheater in Hemet continues to be a popular tourist destination, with a stage re-enactment of Jackson's novel occurring there annually since 1923. Surrounding the small town of Hemet are other towns that have borrowed their names of the characters from the novel: Moreno, Alessandro and Ramona Hot Springs.
It should be noted that both the Estudillo House and Rancho Guajome have been listed as National Historic Landmarks, although not necessarily for their connections to the Ramona myth. Of these, DeLyser states the following of Camulos,
Camulos, more than any other place, had come to symbolize Ramona in the minds of the public. While few now make the pilgrimage on account of the novel, during the period of the myth's greatest popularity (from the late 1880s to the early 1950s) Camulos was the Home of Ramona, and as such, it was the key landmark for Ramona-seekers. In 1893 Olive Percival compiled a booklet which she titled The Home of Ramona. In later years she described her work as a "souvenir booklet made by me (young pilgrim not yet 25)." In it can be found a photograph of Camulos, quotes from the novel written in Percival's hand and pressed flowers and plants, presumably obtained from the grounds of the Rancho (Oliver Percival papers, UCLA Department of Special Collections). ... Beyond the plights of profits of the del Valles and the Rubels, Camulos had symbolic meaning to the public. Created in fiction, the Home of Ramona was reflected back in popular culture pursuits such as the sending of postcards, the purchase of photographs, the compilation of souvenir albums, the customizing of one's own edition of the novel, or the ever-popular pilgrimage to those hallowed halls. Rancho Camulos became the Home of Ramona (DeLyser, 1996: 95).
Architectural Comparison between Rancho Camulos and Other Ranchos that have Been Designated National Historic Landmarks
Rancho Camulos shares architectural characteristics with four other ranchos in Southern California that have been declared National Historic Landmarks: Las Flores Adobe, Rancho Los Cerritos, Rancho Guajome and Rancho Los Alamos. Of the six designated National Historic Landmark adobes in Southern California, only these four adobes were the principal dwellings on Spanish or Mexican land grants, or portions of the land grants handed down to the descendants of the original grantees, and therefore can be seen to have participated directly in the rancho economy.
The Rancho Guajome adobe in San Diego County and the Los Alamos adobe in Santa Barbara County are both Mexican-Spanish Colonial Rural Vernacular style (or Hacienda style, as it is sometimes called), one-story adobes. Of these two, Guajome and Camulos are the most closely related, both in architectural design and setting. Both were begun in 1852-53, with significant later additions occurring as late as the 1880s. Both had chapel buildings constructed during the 1860s. The most notable difference between the two adobes architecturally is in their site plans. Camulos eventually attained the u-shaped plan typically associated with the Mexican-Spanish Rural Vernacular style, organized around a central courtyard, with the rooms opening directly onto a corredor. Guajome is organized around a double courtyard, with both enclosed on all sides. Rooms open out onto the corredors running along the inside of the courtyard. The easterly courtyard is defined by buildings that reflect the working functions of the rancho. Surrounding this courtyard are a carriage shed, harness room, box stalls, blacksmith shop, a jail and rooms for employees.
The Los Alamos adobe, believed to have been constructed between 1829 and 1844, is stylistically similar to the Ygancio del Valle adobe. Los Alamos was a one-story, three-room Mexican vernacular style adobe when first constructed, and was gradually expanded at both ends to form a sprawling, irregular plan. The rooms open out onto corredors extending the length of the house on both the northern and southern elevations. The Los Alamos adobe is a somewhat atypical example of the style, in that it never attained the well-defined, enclosed u-plan usually associated with the Mexican-Spanish Colonial Rural Vernacular.
Both the Rancho Las Flores (1868) and Rancho Los Cerritos (1844) adobes are closely related in architectural style, as they combine elements of the Monterey style with the Mexican-Spanish Colonial Rural Vernacular (Hacienda) style. Monterey style adobes are two stories in height, and covered with a hipped or gable roof and typically feature a cantilevered second-floor balconies or porches supported by wood posts. While the one-story elements of both the Rancho Las Flores and Los Cerritos adobes, with their corredors, u-shaped plans, externalized circulation and courtyards, are very similar in appearance to the Ygnacio del Valle adobe at Camulos, the del Valley adobe is distinct from these adobes in that it exhibits few Monterey style influences. A more detailed discussion of the Monterey style, and the long-standing controversy surrounding its relationship to the Mexican-Spanish Rural Vernacular style, is contained in Section 8, Pages 13-15 of this nomination.
Construction of the Ygnacio del Valley adobe at Camulos began in 1853, with the original four-room adobe expanded to eventually produce a u-shaped plan. The original l-shaped four room section, connected by an exterior corredor, expanded over the subsequent fifty years, evolving into a one-story, u-shaped plan organized around a central courtyard or patio. The rooms communicated primarily with the patio, providing only minimal internal circulation. The del Valle adobe was planned and constructed almost entirely as a pre-Monterey style dwelling; the corredor and patio serve as the central organizing elements, and circulation between rooms is minimized. The gable roof system is characteristic of adobes constructed in Southern California after 1850, when milled lumber became sufficiently available to replace the flat-roofed construction techniques characteristic of many Southern California pueblos, including Los Angeles. Period millwork is also evident in the use of six-over-six sash windows.
The number of extant, Mexican-Spanish Colonial Rural Vernacular style dwellings in California is extremely small, and it is therefore inappropriate to attempt to attribute greater architectural significance to one over another member of this class of buildings. Rather, the scarcity of the type argues for considering each example as singularly important in its own right. All of the properties in the small class of buildings which are comparable to the Ygnacio del Valle adobe at Camulos (Los Cerritos, Las Flores, Los Alamos and Guajome) are already listed as National Historic Landmarks.
Design Integrity Comparison
The design integrity for the buildings and sites representing the remaining examples of the Mexican-Spanish Rural Vernacular style varies considerably. The original outer court of the Los Cerritos adobe once housed the barns, sheds, granary and hen houses. These uses were all removed during the 1930s when the adobe was remodeled by the Bixby Family, who had purchased the ranch from John Temple in 1866. Llewellyn Bixby III purchased 4.7 acres from the Jotham Bixby Company, and hired Long Beach architect Kenneth Wing to refurbish the adobe in 1930-31. Although retaining the original footprint of the adobe, the building was completely remodeled in the Spanish Colonial Revival style popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Many additions were made, walls moved or added, doors made into windows, and new casement windows added. Much of the original fabric was retained, but the house was, on a whole, completely modernized. (Historic Structures Report, Rancho Los Cerritos)
The Los Alamos adobe is considerably altered. An attached, board and batten garage was added to the western elevation of the adobe during in the 1950s, and a stucco over woodframe kitchen and dining room addition was made within the last twenty years. If historic-era outbuildings were located on the property, they no longer remain today. A second residence was built in 1969 adjacent to the main adobe. The new building was designed to complement the adobe using a similar roofline and building materials.
Alterations to the Las Flores adobe and site include the removal of a second-story veranda, and the partial enclosure of another. All of the outbuildings associated with the agricultural heritage of the site are no longer extant. In their stead are new buildings, including a trading post, pump house and a restroom, designed to blend with the adobe. The original carriage house forming the northern end of the courtyard was extensively remodeled in 1974, including structural alterations, re-roofing, the replacement of doors and windows, and the removal of portions of the corredor.
The most significant alterations to the Guajome adobe include a small, second story woodframe Victorian-style addition added at the western end of the adobe during the 1880s. During the 1920s, a Mission Revival style arcade was added to the southern elevation of the adobe.
The most significant alteration to the del Valle adobe is the addition of two large picture windows during the 1950s, including a multi-paned steel mullioned window added on the west side of the west wing. The original kitchen in the north wing was remodeled into a garage and servants quarters between 1925 and 1934. A portion of an outside wall, and at least one interior wall, were removed for this alteration. The interior of the kitchen in the southeast corner of the adobe was also remodeled during the 1950s. Minor changes, such as the removal of louvered shutters, have occurred at various times. The roofing materials, apparently originally wood shingles or shakes, have been replaced with asphalt composition shingles.
All of these adobes were once the central element of ranchos that covered thousands of acres, and were economically self-sufficient units that either raised or produced much of what was needed to sustain large families, their relatives and Indian workers. The ranch headquarters generally included the family adobe and numerous outbuildings related to agricultural production and the maintenance of equipment. Typically, these buildings included barns, sheds, blacksmith shops, carriage houses, worker's dwellings and offices. In addition, some ranchos maintained a school and a chapel, though in some cases portions of the family adobe were used for these functions; in others, separate buildings were constructed.
In many cases, family gardens (some more formal than others) and orchards, fountains and walkways were established in the area immediately surrounding the family adobe. The remaining acreage was, during the early stages of agriculture, devoted to stock raising, cultivated fields and vineyards. By the 1850s, citrus was introduced and fruit orchards established. These tree crops were followed by walnuts, apricots and finally large scale citrus raising, depending on the location and climate found at each rancho. Some ranchos retained their livestock, raising grain and other row crops.
Of all the adobes being examined, only Guajome and Camulos have retained outbuildings reflecting the nature of the agricultural economy which created and sustained rancho life. At Guajome, an historic adobe chapel remains, as do the work-related buildings within the courtyard. The remaining outbuildings that reflect the agricultural heritage of Rancho Camulos include: a winery, barn, worker's housing and office and chapel. None of the Black Walnut trees originally planted at Rancho Guajome remain, but a huge specimen remains at Rancho Camulos, perhaps the largest tree of its kind in the region. In addition, the Southern Pacific Railroad section house and railroad right-of-way remains on the Camulos site, across the highway from the adobe. These transportation-related buildings assist in interpreting the second and third phases of agricultural development at Camulos.
This discussion of design integrity for these five properties suggests that the Los Alamos and Los Cerritos adobes are the most severely altered examples of the style and period. The design integrity exhibited by the Las Flores adobe is somewhat more intact than either the Los Alamos or Los Cerritos adobes, but less than either the Guajome or del Valle adobes, particularly due to the loss of significant architectural fabric and all of its related agricultural outbuildings. In comparing the Guajome and del Valle adobes, it appears that the former is a relatively somewhat more altered example of the style and period, particularly as a result of its two, visually prominent and stylistically dissimilar additions.
Setting Integrity Comparison
Rancho Los Cerritos has very nearly lost its entire setting, as the adobe is now surrounded by the heavily urbanized city of Long Beach. Though the rancho itself is reduced from its original 49,000 acres to its present 100 acres, the Los Alamos adobe has retained its rural setting to a considerable degree. The hillsides in the immediate vicinity remain in agricultural use, principally cattle grazing and horse raising. The village of Los Alamos, located nearby to the south, has not expanded substantially beyond its historic townsite.
The setting for the Las Flores adobe is largely intact. The adobe, located on a 11.5 acre site, is surrounded by chaparral-covered, rolling hillsides, and is now incorporated into the Marine Headquarters at Camp Pendleton. During its productive years, the rancho raised cattle and lima beans, but these agricultural activities are no longer in evidence.
The development of Rancho Guajome followed an agricultural succession pattern similar to Rancho Camulos, with cattle and dry farming followed by vineyards, fruit trees and citrus crops. No evidence of the agricultural activity that once existed at Guajome remains today&emdash; the adobe is now incorporated into a 565 acre county park and is currently surrounded by open grasslands and a few scattered trees. Recent suburban tract development is much in evidence, impinging on the site from the surrounding ridgelines. A nearby site is now used as a farm implement museum, and contain recently constructed buildings and sheds.
The 1400 acres of Rancho Camulos are presently planted in citrus, including some of the original fruit tree stock set out by the del Valles in 1857. Undeveloped foothills and mountains enclose the setting on both the north and south, with citrus crops cultivated on the lower elevations, and cattle ranching taking place on the steeper hillsides. The nearest urban development to the adobe is located in the village of Piru, roughly two miles to the west of the site. The City of Santa Clarita is located roughly eight miles to the east, across the Los Angeles County line. With the exception of the village of Piru, and the cities of Fillmore and Santa Paula to the west, the Santa Clara Valley setting for Rancho Camulos is an uninterrupted citriculture landscape extending from the Los Angeles County line to the City of Ventura, an area roughly thirty-five miles in length and three to five miles in width.
All of these five sites, with the exception of the Los Cerritos adobe, retain some aspects of their historic settings intact. The Las Flores and Guajome adobes are somewhat compromised by the loss of evidence of agricultural activities, and particularly in the case of the latter, nearby urban development. Both the Los Alamos and Camulos (del Valle) adobes retain their historic settings essentially uncompromised.
Integrity of Association
Of these five sites, only the Los Alamos and del Valle adobes are currently used for activities which are related to the historic agricultural use of the properties, and therefore provide visual evidence of this historic use. Both the Los Cerritos and Guajome adobes are presently managed as house museums. The Las Flores adobe is vacant, though the immediate vicinity is used by the Boys Scouts of America as a recreational area. The presence of historically-related activities at the Los Alamos and Camulos adobes assists in providing a direct link (association) between the historic activities and the significance of these historic properties.
- With respect to social and economic history, the Ygnacio del Valle adobe is equally significant relative to the other sites for its strong identification with the early settlement and development of California by the Californios. In addition, the number of buildings reflecting this economic history are far greater at Camulos than at any other equivalent rancho that has been previously designated as a National Historic Landmark.
- Rancho Camulos is one of only three properties in the nation to become widely recognized for its association with Helen Hunt Jackson's 1884 novel, Ramona, having not only played a role in inspiring the writing of this highly influential book, but also by becoming an important tourist attraction on that account. Rancho Camulos can therefore be regarded as a key player in the invention and broadcasting of the romanticized image of California that was to become ingrained in the national consciousness for several generations.
- Rancho Camulos (Ygnacio del Valle) adobe exhibits the outstanding and unique features of the indigenous Mexican-Spanish Rural Vernacular (Hacienda) style of architecture to an extent at least equivalent to all of the previously designated National Historic Landmark adobes.
- The Ygnacio del Valle adobe exhibits stronger integrity of design in comparison to the Los Alamos and the Rancho Los Cerritos adobes, and at least equivalent design integrity compared to the Guajome and Las Flores adobes. The integrity of setting for Rancho Camulos is greater than all but two of the comparable adobes (Los Alamos and Las Flores, with which it is at least equal), and its integrity of association is stronger than all but one other property (Los Alamos, with which it is at least equal).