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March 15, 2011 > History: Adobes

History: Adobes

G. W. Hendry and J. N. Bowman issued a report of "The Spanish and Mexican Adobe Buildings" in the Bay area in 1940. They noted that some 129 adobes had been built in Alameda County between the years of 1797 and 1870. About 57 were constructed in connection with Mission San Jose and 72 on the Mexican Ranchos.

The first buildings at Mission San Jose were built of wood and tule rushes, but the clay soil proved to be so good for making adobe bricks that wood was replaced by more lasting adobe structures. Building projects between 1809 and 1927 included an Indian village, dormitories, a guard house, a soap factory, a tannery, a flour mill, the Church and living quarters for the padres.

Several adobe buildings were erected after the mission was secularized. The Jose Vallejo home across the road from the church was probably the most impressive.

Americans who flocked to Mission San Jose, after the discovery of gold used the surviving adobes for their business houses and even erected some of their own. The Washington Hotel was probably the most famous.

Jose Higuera was mayordomo (general manager) of Mission San Jose in the 1820's. He built an adobe near the Warm Springs and occupied nearby land claimed by the mission. Jose had no title to the land but the mission padres paid him for his service as mayordomo in cattle, horses and sheep and use of the land by his grazing animals.

Jose's son, Fulgencio, built an adobe near his father's and continued to run his herds on land owned by Mission San Jose. He was finally given a grant of over 9,000 acres called "Del Agua Caliente" or "Ranch of the Warm Springs."

Hendry and Bowman documented several adobes built on the Warm Springs grant by members of the Higuera family. Fulgencios home was located just north of Agua Caliente Creek and about 250 feet east of the Mission San Jose highway on top a small knoll.

Salvio's house stood about one quarter of a mile southwest of Fulgencio's and was gone by 1876. The picture on page 128 of the History of Washington Township was said to fit the memories of Salvio's adobe in 1940.

The Fernando adobe stood on the property of Mrs. Catherin Powers in 1940, about 300 feet west of a large spring. The roof was already falling and the house in decay.

The home of Charles F. Breitweisar stood on the site of the Jabiel Higuera adobe destroyed in the 1868 earthquake.

The building we know today as the Galindo Higuera Adobe is the only surviving adobe on the Warm Springs Site. It was badly cracked by 1940 and only survives because of extensive repair and rebuilding projects.

Rancho Potrero de Los Cerritos, the area roughly between the present towns of Newark and Union City, was granted to Augustine Alviso and Thomas Pacheco. There were three main adobes on this grant. Alviso built his home near what became the Newark-Patterson Landing road. Pacheco built his home near what became the Decoto-Newark highway and the Bell Ranch Bridge over Alameda Creek.

Rancho Arroyo de la Alameda, which covered 17,000 acres north of Alameda Creek, was granted to Jose Vallejo. He is known for his water-driven flour mill and stone aqueduct at the mouth of Niles Canyon, but he also built several adobes nearby. The best known and sole survivor of the buildings erected at Jose's direction is the "Old Adobe" which (later in the California Nursery) was restored and made famous by the Roeding family. The Old Adobe in Niles Canyon gained notoriety in association Joaquin Murietta.

There were other adobes, several on or near the road from Niles to Mission San Jose including the Naile Adobe described by Charles Shinn. He wrote in 1890 that he had located 29 adobes in Washington Township. Now it appears that we are challenged to preserve the three survivors.

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