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March 13, 2007 > Rancho Higuera Adobe

Rancho Higuera Adobe

By Vidya Pradhan

If you take the time to drive down winding Curtner Road in the Mission area of southern Fremont, you will come across a piece of history that dates back to the Spanish-Mexican era. Tucked away on a small hill, surrounded by peacefully grazing horses and wild turkeys is the Rancho Higuera Adobe, built in the early 1800s.

After the secularization of mission holdings in California by the Mexican government, Mission San Jose's vast lands were carved into huge ranchos which were then granted to "Californianos" who were allies of the Spanish and Mexican governments. In 1839, one such grantee was Fulgencio Francisco Higuera. Fulgencio received more than 9,000 acres in a parcel of land called "Rancho del Agua Caliente," meaning "Hot Springs Ranch." The name came from the natural hot springs bubbling from deep inside the hills. The springs were popular with the Ohlones, the padres, and everyone else in the area. Eventually, the town of Warm Springs was established nearby.

The western portions of the ranch were divided among Fulgencios many children. Of the seven adobe homes known to have been built on Rancho del Agua Caliente, there remains today only the structure known as the "Galindo Higuera Adobe." This adobe has witnessed years of California history from its panoramic site above the south Bay and it now survives as a reminder of the rich history of the city.

In 1960, the Historic Resources Commission of Fremont designated the structure as a primary historical resource, which had begun deteriorating under the influence of age and weather. Under their direction for several years, temporary roofs constructed of plastic and canvas were suspended above the adobe for weather protection. Early attempts by the Recreation Commission to arrange for a purchase of the structure and the surrounding land as a historical park failed due to lack of funds.

Finally the Ponderosa Home Development organization bought the property, and through a dedication process, contributed acreage, the adobe and funds for restoration, to the city. A full restoration and replication was proposed and accepted by the recreation commission and the city council. The Rancho Higuera Historical Park and restored Galindo Higuera Adobe were made available for the enjoyment and education of present and future Californianos on Pathfinder Day, 1979.

In the period between 1995 and 1997, the City requested public input on park projects that were important to the community and one of the requests was to develop a neighborhood park in the Rancho Higuera site. The original proposal dealt with the four acres closest to the residences surrounding the park.

In 1998 a capital plan was drawn for this purpose, earmarking around $100,000 to be used in 2001 - 2002. In the next planning cycle, $350,000 more was appropriated to this project with a further $3.5 million to be used the following year.

The scope of the project was expanded to include maintenance and preservation of the remaining six acres as a historical park. With the dot-com crash and decreasing revenues, however, the city began to feel budget constraints and doubts were expressed about the viability of the project and the maintenance costs potentially associated with it. So the project was put on the backburner. When the proposal for the Family Water Park next to Lake Elizabeth gained momentum, city officials de-funded the Rancho Higuera project, diverting the money to the water park.

While the basic maintenance of the park and the adobe structure continues under the auspices of the city, the recreation commission is once again considering a proposal to preserve and maintain this historic site. The plan for the neighborhood park, which never really met with the approval of the residents of the local community, has been scrapped. A broad estimate of roughly five million dollars is being considered merely to develop six acres around the adobe with a caveat that significant maintenance costs would be incurred. Given the many other more pressing proposals that the recreation commission is considering, the Rancho Higuera project appears to have very low priority.

TCV readers who would like to see the Rancho Higuera project move forward, should attend the next recreation commission meeting to express their views. The commission meets the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers at 3300 Capitol Ave. The public is welcome.

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