Rancho back in saddle

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe joys and headaches of holiday travel: John Phillips160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! PIRU Come spring, a visitors center highlighting local attractions and offering a bit of history will open along Highway 126 thanks to a federal transportation grant. The center will feature partial renovation of a 16-room adobe at Rancho Camulos, the historic 19th-century ranch south of Piru that sits just off the highway linking Ventura and Santa Clarita. The adobe was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and subsequent aftershocks. Ventura County officials will spend the $680,000 grant to make the building presentable and safe for travelers needing a rest stop. “The entire site is in need of financial help,” said Mary Schwabauer, chairman of the board of directors of Rancho Camulos Museum. “This retrofit will give us a chance to provide visitors a chance to look at life in a 19th-century ranch. It is not a complete restoration, but it’s a good start.” The rancho, once a 48,000-acre land grant given to Antonio del Valle in 1839, currently operates at 1,800 acres. Forty acres of the original grant, which includes all the ranch buildings and some agricultural land, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2000. After the 1994 earthquake, [BODY]a building constructed between 1853 and 1880,[/BODY] what docents call “The Big Adobe,” was retrofitted with a $275,000 federal earthquake grant. But the small adobe closest to the highway sat patiently waiting for some attention. Now, the circa-1920 structure, built as a residence for Nachito del Valle (a grandson of Antonio), is getting its due. Walls that crumbled and fell away from the building will be rebuilt, windows removed and reset, tile floors restored to their former glory. “The first thing we do is access the damage and try to figure out how to do the repairs while salvaging as much of the historic fabric as we can,” said project manager Jeff Seidner, the owner of Eagle Restoration. “There’s nothing typical about adobe buildings; every one is a little bit different. This is a bit of a challenge. The walls are only one (block) thick and 10 inches wide. Most adobes are much thicker; the fact that it’s so thin and there were a lot of windows is probably why the damage is so severe.” Seidner is no newcomer to the adobe restoration process, with 22 years of experience that includes several state and national landmarks, such as Los Angeles’ Pio Pico Adobe and Leonis Adobe in Calabasas under his belt. His firm did the retrofit of what docents callThe Big Adobe, originally built in 1860 and now open for limited tours. Along with the fragile nature of adobe, his firm has to deal with dwindling resources raw materials and craftsmen trained in the lost art of creating the bricks and plastering the outside of the buildings. In fact, one of the primary sources of adobe blocks, the Hans Sumpf company, has closed its doors for good. Seidner had the foresight to purchase several lots of adobe blocks before they went out of business just in case. With 500 adobe houses in California alone, he knew they would come to good use. During a tour of the building, he showed visitors three layers of the walls the original dirt-colored adobe, created using soil, straw and other organic materials found on site, then a white layer of mudding, or plaster, and a sprayed-on modern texture coating that will have to be removed completely. Drivers zooming past on Highway 126 may remember the blue tarps that covered the small adobe in 1994 to keep the curious out and what adobe remained protected. Tarps will again cover the building, this time in anticipation of El Ni?o rains and winds expected before the project’s completion in March 2007. According to museum officials, the grant has been in the works for several years, which may work against the restoration. “There is a lot more damage to this building than there was when this plan was done,” Seidner said. One of Camulos’ quirks is the parapet roof, where the roof sits below the roofline, unlike most other adobes that have pitched hip roofs. Another challenge is getting government officials to agree on a single year or version of the retrofit. Seidner hopes that they will agree to allow him to remove a wall built in the 1960s that would allow him to restore the 1920s-era courtyard in the center of the building. “It is a reflection of both the era and the Spanish style to have this great open area in the center of the home,” Seidner said, pointing out wooden columns that demarked the original outside wall. The demolition stage will take four weeks to complete; Eagle crews have been carefully removing materials that collapsed, sorting and salvaging original pieces that will be incorporated into the restoration. Walls will be rebuilt, with center reinforcement cores connected to a diaphragm built into the new roof for strength. The red terra cotta roof tiles, now carefully sorted and stacked behind the building, will be put back into place and the building opened to travelers. Docents who give tours of the ranch will have an office in the new building, along with a research library. “We’ve waited so long for this little gem that no one knows about,” said Hillary Weireter, site manager of the museum. In the meantime, visitors are welcome at Rancho Camulos on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, visit their Web site at www.ranchocamulos.org. [email protected] (661) 257-5252last_img read more

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