Life on the Rancho

Los Encinos State Historical Park Today

People think of Southern California as being bran new. In actuality, the history goes far back—even earlier than the days when the land was occupied by the Gabrielino and Chumash Indians. I was born in Cleveland, which was founded in 1796 by Moses Cleaveland of Connecticut. Los Angeles is a full fifteen years older, having been founded in 1781 as a Spanish pueblo. So many of our place names come from the Spanish and Mexican land grants. One such community is Encino (“Oak” in Spanish), which was part of the 4,251 acre Rancho El Encino.

On Sunday, Martine and I drove to the Los Encinos State Historical Park in (where else?) Encino to visit the reconstructed ranch buildings. I say reconstructed because adobe did not do particularly well in the earthquakes of 1880 and 1994.

We have visited several of these adobe ranch houses from the 19th century and earlier. There was the Centinela Ranch House in Westchester and the Dominguez Rancho in Rancho Dominguez. And there are perhaps as many as a dozen more which I eventually hope to see, just as I would like some day to visit all the California missions built by Father Junipero Serra, recently sanctified by the Vatican.

Bedroom in the Ranch House

The Los Encinos State Historical Park does a nice job of bringing together furniture of the period as well as informative displays explaining what life was like on the rancho 150 years ago and more. They even have several stone outbuildings dedicated to food storage and blacksmithing.

Los Angeles has not always been careful of preserving its historical sites. There used to be an old abandoned adobe at the corner of Colorado and 26th Street in Santa Monica, near where I had first real job at System Development Corporation. It was a kind of spooky place, but it is no far. Now it’s a high-rise office building dedicated to entertainment media. No effort was made to move the adobe where it could be restored.