Built in 1868, the Carrion Adobe is surrounded by acres of open land. Owners Kirsten and Steve Garibay fear that the proximity of the joint sports field project between the city and University will take away from the house’s authenticity. / photo by Gloria Diaz

Built in 1868, the Carrion Adobe is surrounded by acres of open land. Owners Kirsten and Steve Garibay fear that the proximity of the joint sports field project between the city and University will take away from the house’s authenticity. / photo by Gloria Diaz

by Adrian Medrano
photography by Gloria Diaz

The Garibay family is your prototypical American family. Mother Kirsten is an effervescent fourth grade teacher in San Dimas. Husband Steve is a chemical engineer who works many hours but always manages to spend time with his family, and then there are the young boys who love to learn, play and explore. But they do not have a white picket fence that surrounds a two-story suburban house. Instead, the Garibays live in a nationally registered historical landmark, the Carrion Adobe, built in 1868.

Located just north of Brackett Airport’s center point, the adobe home is surrounded by more than 30 acres of untouched land. The view from their historic home is like being transported back in time. It is an 1800s California setting in the 21st century.

That view may change. The Adobe is in danger of losing its historical feel, according to Kirsten Garibay.

Plans to put new recreation and sports fields on vacant land adjacent to her historic 1868 home took a major stride forward June 9 when escrow closed on about 34 acres of land near Wheeler Avenue south of Arrow highway. The city of La Verne and University of La Verne will jointly hold a 30 acre portion of the land. splitting its $2.8 million price tag. The city will own a separate 4-acre portion of the land, which cost about $1.5 million. On the land they share, the two agencies envision athletic facilities that will enhance opportunities for youth sports teams in the community as well as the University’s intercollegiate and intramurals programs. The University and city will begin a master-planning process summer 2005 to consider potential uses of the land as well as an adjacent 20 acres owned by the University. No firm timetable for development or construction has been set.

These changes will affect the surroundings of the Carrion Adobe. The new athletic facilities could make a very tight space for the Garibay family and their treasured place of history. Kirsten worries that the fields will affect the authenticity of the Carrion Adobe. “This house is so great because it still has a rancho feel to it,” says Kirsten, a teacher and homemaker. “We realize that the University needs to expand, but we wish to have a design compromise as it affects this historic structure.”

Phil Hawkey, executive vice president of ULV, says that he met with the owners of the Carrion Adobe and discussed the master plan with them; he has not heard anything from them since.

“I haven’t received a phone call or email from them,” Hawkey says. “They have not expressed their concerns to me since we first met. They have not attempted to contact me in any way.”

According to Kirsten, the University plans on having the main entrance to the facilities run right alongside the Carrion Adobe property. In addition, Puddingstone Drive, which is a dangerous street already due to constant speeding, will be the access road to the facilities.

La Verne Mayor Jon Blickenstaff says the intersection of Wheeler Avenue and Arrow Highway is a likely spot for the main entrance to the future facilities. “These recreational facilities will be great for both the city and the University,” says Blickenstaff. “The Carrion Adobe is one of a kind, and we value it as a piece of our history.”

The Carrion Adobe is one of three historic adobe houses in the Pomona Valley, but the only house that is not surrounded by some form of urbanization.

“The University of La Verne definitely needs to save and preserve the authentic ranch feel to this house,” says Kirsten.

Since the time they have owned the house, the Garibay family has had the important responsibility of keeping the nationally registered house in top condition. “I feel like this is a mission that I am working on,” Kirsten says. “I do need to be an advocate and protect this property.”

Says Hawkey, “It sounds to me like if they want to keep that area nothing but open space. I doubt that would happen no matter who owned the property.”

According to Kirsten, one of the main points of contention is the planned access road. On paper, it comes disturbingly close to her house. She says the University wanted the family to simply surrender valuable property; in return, the Garibays would receive a portion of land that does not have access to roads.

The Garibay family is on a long list of past owners who have restored and preserved the historical landmark.

The Carrion Adobe was one of the first adobe houses built in the Pomona Valley by the Californios during the 1800s rancho era. Ignacio Palomares, the original property owner, deeded the house to his 11-year old nephew Saturino Carrion.

The new owner later hired an Italian architect to construct his rancho. The adobe bricks were made on the property, but other materials such as windows and doors were purchased in Los Angeles. Saturino fought the city when Puddingstone dam was proposed because the reservoir was to take a large part of his property. In fighting this case, Saturino ultimately went bankrupt, and he lost many acres of the original ranch. Saturino once owned the land that the University of La Verne sits on as well. “This land has been cheated out of everything,” expresses Kirsten. “Saturino Carrion lost his land to local authorities. The city needed a dam, but they didn’t give him fair market value.”

The house was abandoned for a long period of time during the 1930s. During its years of abandonment, Bertha and Edwin Fuller, a couple with a great appreciation for history, spent endless hours restoring the house that was then not in the best condition. Bob Patch, a man who later took on the job of restoring the house, did the majority of the work for two years.

The house maintains its original shape. The Garibays have tried to keep the house as authentic as possible but were recently forced to put in a heating system due to the lack of ventilation within the house. “It’s like a cave,” Kirsten says. “Whatever temperature it is outside, that’s the temperature that it is inside.”

Steve Garibay, who is an engineer by profession, has done extensive work on this house, which can be very dangerous without proper care. Steve has earthquake retrofitted the structure and has done a tremendous amount of interior and exterior work in order to ensure that the adobe brick home does not disintegrate from age. “Since the house does not have a foundation, we have taken all of the necessary precautions to make sure that it is not a victim of a landslide or earthquake,” says Steve.

Kirsten opens her historic adobe home to her fourth grade students for field trips. The children enjoy seeing the house where their teacher lives. “We love opening our house to the public and sharing it with others,” Kirsten exclaims.

The Garibays have an unparalleled passion for history. It is their hope that, as caretakers, their historic house will not be surrounded and smothered. They advocate thoughtful aesthetic consideration for their registered historic home as plans march forward for the joint University/City plans for athletic fields.