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HISTORIC ADOBE RISES FROM RUIN.

Byline: DANA BARTHOLOMEW

Staff Writer

ENCINO -- It took less than half a minute for the 1994 Northridge Earthquake to shake apart one of the San Fernando Valley's most cherished historic adobes.

And it has taken 13 years for state officials to painstakingly restore the de la Ossa adobe home, which officially reopens Sunday at Los Encinos State Historic Park.

"I am pleased as punch," said Walter Nelson, secretary of the Los Encinos Docents Association, which nearly disappeared during the interim. "It's been a long time."

The de la Ossa adobe, built in 1849 at the demise of the Californio period and dawn of the California Gold Rush, is one of the Valley's premier historic sites.

Its eight rooms, placed end to end and flanked by two airy verandas, was once the heart of the 4,460-acre El Encino Rancho.

But the mud-brick survivor of nearly a century of development barely survived the Northridge temblor, which collapsed its north wall, wrecked its roof and opened cracks large enough for daylight to shine through.

"It's like someone took it in the air, shook it, then left it on the ground like a kid's snow globe," said Karma Graham, Angeles District interpreter for the state Department of Parks and Recreation.

After a $2 million restoration that includes never-before-seen photographs and exhibits, the 142-foot-long adobe is once again ready for visitors.

"It'll be a real park again," said Nelson, admiring the bleached-white building with russet trim.

Parks officials attribute the 13-year hiatus to financing and contracting delays and a time-consuming restoration that shed light on historic adobe's construction.

To buttress the building, a concrete beam up to 2 feet thick was placed atop its walls. For seismic strength, fiberglass rods were driven through some of its bricks.

In one room, preservationists worked five months to uncover an original parlor mural, daubed with up to four layers of paint, fashioned to look like a French salon.

"Q-tips, dental tools, you name it" were used, said Molly Lambert of the Berkeley-based Architectural Conservation, which restored the marble-like wall surrounding a western window. "We're very happy to find as much original paint as possible."

This week, docents and state historians walked through cozy rooms of period furniture, clothing and exhibits of the Indian, Mexican, French and Basque families who had pioneered the southwest Valley ranch.

Of Vincente de la Ossa, a Spanish-Mexican tavern-keeper from Los Angeles who built the adobe, home to 13 children.

Of the Thompsons, Garniers, Oxararts, Glesses and Amestoys who would inherit the ranch's warm spring, shady oaks and unfettered views of the Valley.

Of the hospitality to travelers along El Camino Real, (now Ventura Boulevard). Of the booms and busts in cattle, sheep and wheat.

And of a postwar building boom that cut up the rancho -- and almost destroyed the historic adobe and bunkhouse.

In 1945, mothers driving home after a PTA meeting were aghast to see a sign hanging near the dilapidated adobe that read: "This historical landmark will be subdivided."

Maria Helena Stewart, a Chicago native, raised money to help save the adobe, bought by the state in 1949.

In 2002, a freshly landscaped Los Encinos Historic State Park reopened after an 18-month closure. And today the adobe, open five years later, might be even better as a result of the earthquake.

"I think it's a gem," said James Newland, state parks supervisor for cultural resources for Southern California. "If it wasn't for the quake, we wouldn't have had the funding to ... do primary research on the building."

dana.bartholomew(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3730

If you go

A grand reopening of the de la Ossa adobe will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Los Encinos State Historic Park, 16756 Moorpark St., Encino. The free celebration will feature music, crafts and children's games. Participants are invited to wear Western garb. For more information, go to www.los-encinos.org

CAPTION(S):

5 photos, box, map

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) A current photo, above, taken from almost the same location as the historic photo, top, shows the restored and shored-up de la Ossa adobe in Encino, ready to welcome visitors again beginning Sunday.

(3) The adobe's blacksmith shop will be open to offer hands-on lessons in smithy techniques for the public beginning Sunday.

(4) James Newland, a state parks supervisor, left, talks with Walter Nelson of the Los Encinos Docents Association as he looks over a replica of a Spanish newspaper from the mid-1850s, when the de la Ossa family owned the adobe.

John Lazar/Staff Photographer

(5) This photo was taken of the extended de la Ossa family during their ownership of the historic adobe, built in 1849.

Box:

If you go (see text)

Map:

De la Ossa Adobe

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 21, 2007
Words:795
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