The Adobe de Palomares was built between 1849 and 1854 in Rancho San Jose, a 15,000-acre land grant now known as Pomona, Claremont, La Verne, San Dimas and Glendora. It was a family home to Ygnacio and Concepcion Palomares. It consisted of 13 rooms with a 20-foot by 30-foot living room and 12-foot-high ceilings, spacious gardens and a courtyard.

The Adobe de Palomares was built between 1849 and 1854 in Rancho San Jose, a 15,000-acre land grant now known as Pomona, Claremont, La Verne, San Dimas and Glendora. It was a family home to Ygnacio and Concepcion Palomares. It consisted of 13 rooms with a 20-foot by 30-foot living room and 12-foot-high ceilings, spacious gardens and a courtyard.

by Samira Felix
photography by Kim Toth

The Adobe de Palomares was never meant to be a family home for Ygnacio and Concepcion Palomares, but a gift to his daughter and son-in-law. Located in what is now Pomona, Ygnacio began building the residence in 1849 as a wedding present for his daughter, Teresa, who was engaged to Ramon, Ricardo Vejar’s son. Ricardo viewed this as competition, so he built Teresa and Ramon a bigger house on his side of the ranch, which they chose to make their home. Because of this decision, Ygnacio boycotted the wedding and instead went camping in the mountains.

The Adobe de Palomares is available for guided tours on specific Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It is also available for event rental. For more information, visit pomonahistorical.org.

The Adobe de Palomares is available for guided tours on specific Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It is also available for event rental. For more information, visit pomonahistorical.org.

“In order to save face, he decided he would turn this into his house and make it the biggest house on the ranch, and that’s what he did,” says Mike Schowalter, director and Adobe de Palomares resident host.

The Adobe was finished in 1854 and consisted of 13 rooms with a 20-foot by 30-foot living room and 12-foot-high ceilings, spacious gardens and a courtyard. By the 1920s the house was abandoned and in ruins, the ceiling was caving in due to wisteria vines, and the north and south wings were completely washed away.

The city of Pomona bought the land in 1937 for water reclamation and storage, but the Historical Society of Pomona Valley quickly realized that what the city had purchased was ruins of the Adobe. The Historical Society, in partnership with the Works Progress Administration, rebuilt the Adobe in 1939.

“So, the city owns it, and we have been operating it since 1940,” says Deborah Clifford, president of the Historical Society of Pomona Valley.

Adobe de Palomares is a reminder of the Pomona Valley’s Rancho Era, with its gravel-filled driveway that winds past weathered and worn wood fencing, leading to the house that is juxtaposed against a modern community center with colorful murals and a neighboring lawn bowling club. This house, built from adobe bricks and lumber, has a stone wishing well and cacti standing in the front yard.

Now the Adobe is available for guided tours on some Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit pomonahistorical.org. Since the Adobe’s restoration, the Historical Society has furnished and decorated the home with period antiques and artifacts including some from the Palomares family. There are also paintings from the First Catholic Chapel in the Pomona Valley.

The tour takes guests through the inside of the house which has the living room and two bedrooms, and the south wing bedrooms that are accessed through the outside of the home. Outside there is a courtyard with a dome-shaped adobe horno that was used to bake bread, roast meat and other slow-cooking dishes.

A dome-shaped adobe horno sits in the Adobe de Palomares courtyard. The horno was used to bake bread, roast meat and other slow-cooking dishes.

A dome-shaped adobe horno sits in the Adobe de Palomares courtyard. The horno was used to bake bread, roast meat and other slow-cooking dishes.

Deborah says that when the Adobe was being restored in 1939, Genevieve Walker from San Dimas was a part of the committee for finding artifacts for the Adobe.

Since she was a historian at heart, she interviewed everybody she could find who lived through the Rancho period. “They didn’t have terribly many Palomares pieces, but they have things of the era, and we’ve gotten a little better. We’ve picked up a few from descendants.”

The Adobe is also open for school tours for fourth graders. The tours started with the Bonita Unified School district 37 years ago and have now expanded to the Pomona Unified School District and to some schools in Upland and San Bernardino. “We do a historic angle, where we talk about the history and what it was like to live during that time, the culture and everything,” Mike says.

To the Pomona Valley, the Adobe is more than just a house. Registered Historical Landmark No. 372 is a symbol of community and history.

In the 1830s Mexico began awarding land grants known as ranchos to prominent men. In 1837, Ygnacio, a lieutenant, and Ricardo Vejar, his sergeant in the Mexican War versus the Spanish, were ranching in Concepcion’s family ranch in Beverly Hills. The ranch was too small for the cattle that Ygnacio and Ricardo wanted to run, so they went to Mexican Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado and asked him for land. “They spoke Spanish and they were in that war. Therefore, the government was really eager to reward soldiers because it really didn’t have much else to give them, including money, so Alvarado said yes,” Deborah says.

The Adobe de Palomares was abandoned and in ruins by the 1920s. The city of Pomona bought the land in 1937 and the Historical Society of Pomona Valley rebuilt the home in 1939. It is now furnished and decorated with period antiques and some artifacts from the Palomares family.

The Adobe de Palomares was abandoned and in ruins by the 1920s. The city of Pomona bought the land in 1937 and the Historical Society of Pomona Valley rebuilt the home in 1939. It is now furnished and decorated with period antiques and some artifacts from the Palomares family.

Ygnacio and Ricardo staked their claim to land that became known as Rancho San José in the eastern portion of the San Gabriel Mission. Rancho San José was 15,000 acres that is now known as Pomona, Claremont, La Verne, San Dimas and Glendora. Ygnacio settled in the northern section of the land, Rancho San José de Arriba, while Ricardo settled on the southern section, Rancho San José de Abajo. “It was not a partnership like they worked together, ‘You have this half, I have this half’ and off they went,” Deborah says.

Deborah says Ygnacio was a civic-minded person, interested in being a justice of the peace. He helped people negotiate between parties that would make contracts, created a few peace treaties and much more. Meanwhile, Ricardo was land-hungry, and would help people settle their gambling debts by picking up their land. These ranchos were in Walnut, Diamond Bar, Azusa and Glendora. Mick says Ricardo was land-hungry, but it was not in a negative way. “He was at one point considered one of the richest men in Los Angeles County. He was very successful as a rancher, but he was also illiterate.”

Ricardo built his house as a quadrangle with a huge courtyard in the center where he put his horses to protect them from raiders. He also built a chapel in his home, which the Historical Society views as the first church of Pomona. The Adobe currently houses the painting of the Madonna and Christ child, which is originally from Spain, but it was in Richard’s chapel when it was built in 1844.

“It’s unfortunate that he gets a bad rap because of the illiterate thing,” Mike says. “But there are reports that he was just as much of a partier as Ygnacio, and people would write about the wonderful fiestas they’d have in his courtyard.”

The Adobe de Palomares is open for school tours. The tours began 37 years ago and they include a tour of the house, adobe brick making, arts and crafts, and much more.

The Adobe de Palomares is open for school tours. The tours began 37 years ago and they include a tour of the house, adobe brick making, arts and crafts, and much more.

Ygnacio built La Casa Primera de Rancho San José, a two-bedroom home made out of adobe bricks and stucco, in 1837. Adobe bricks are building materials that are made from sand, clay, water and straw or dung. The mixture is typically poured into a mold and left to dry in the sun, which is why they are also known as sun-dried bricks.

Once Ygnacio’s daughter and Ricardo’s son got engaged, both fathers began building them a home on their side of Rancho San Jose. Ygnacio built the Adobe, which is a one-story home made of 24,000 adobe bricks. Ricardo, the son of a master builder who helped build the San Gabriel Mission and San Juan Capistrano, built them a two-story home out of adobe. “The young couple were asked to decide: a six-room, two-story Adobe with a palisade around the top for a view, or four little rooms, where even the tiniest of women could touch the ceiling just about. Ygnacio lost,” Deborah says with a laugh. “They went to live near Ricardo and his wife.”

In 1848, gold was found in Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California, which marked the start of the California Gold Rush. News about the gold drew about 300,000 people—who needed food—to California. Mike says since most ranchos were cattle ranchos, the owners went from selling each head of cattle for $5 to $50. Since ranchers were starting to make decent money, Ygnacio and Conception built the next section of the Adobe. Instead of the three rooms having eight-foot ceilings, like some of the rooms in the house, they had 12-foot-high ceilings. “These three rooms were Ygnacio showing off,” Mike says. “This is him saying ‘Look how much money I’m making,’”

Traditionally, adobe homes would have pounded dirt as floors, but the Adobe de Palomares had wood floors. Ygnacio paid extra money to send people to the San Bernardino mountains to cut pine trees for the floors. The Adobe also had a wood roof, which is another reason the house was nicknamed “Case de Madera” or the house of wood.

The Adobe was also known as the “House of Hospitality” because it served as a stagecoach stop and gathering place for many. The house lies along what is now known as Arrow Highway, which was a pathway for people traveling to places like Los Angeles. The Palomares family would give people food and a place to sleep.

Ygnacio also built a small store in the house where he would sell tobacco, alcohol and bullets. Deborah says it was a very big deal when people stopped by the Adobe because there were not many people in the area besides family members, so they celebrated by hosting parties.

In the 1860s, California experienced four floods, known as The Great California Flood, from December 1861 to January 1862. The flood was followed by a drought that began in 1862 and ended in 1865. Mike says the flood and the drought wiped out the cattle. A smallpox epidemic also occurred in 1862, in which the Palomares family lost three adult children.

“The flood, drought and smallpox epidemic marked the end of the rancho era,” Mike says. “A lot of people were losing their ranchos, which were being divided up and reduced down into small farms.” Ricardo lost his part of Rancho San José during this time. He had borrowed money that had started as $10,000, and in a year, it turned to a $30,000 loan. He was not able to pay it, so his part was taken by the bank.

Ygnacio died in 1864. The cause has never been discovered. Concepcion continued to live in the Adobe until 1872 when she sold the remaining land.

Since the Adobe’s restoration in 1939, the Historical Society of Pomona Valley has been responsible for maintaining the residence, along with its other sites like La Casa Primera. Mike says the city is not always forthcoming in helping to maintain the homes, so the Historical Society is constantly looking for ways to earn money.

One of the ways it earns money is by renting out the Adobe for events like weddings or quinceañeras.

Mike added that the Historical Society is constantly doing research on the historical sites it operates. “We’re the longest continuously operating Historical Society in the state, and that’s why we feel it’s our responsibility to share the history, but also to make sure that we know the history.”

Mr. Davis’ Meadow is named after a long-time resident of Pomona and a librarian in the Chino School district. During his retirement Davis spent his free time volunteering at the Adobe de Palomares fourth grade tours. After his death 15 years ago his wife asked the Historical Society of Pomona Valley if the meadow could be named in his honor.

Mr. Davis’ Meadow is named after a long-time resident of Pomona and a librarian in the Chino School district. During his retirement Davis spent his free time volunteering at the Adobe de Palomares fourth grade tours. After his death 15 years ago his wife asked the Historical Society of Pomona Valley if the meadow could be named in his honor.

Samira Felix is a senior journalism major at the University of La Verne and editor in chief of the Summer 2024 issue of La Verne Magazine.

Kim Toth is a senior photography major at the University of La Verne and photography editor of the Winter 2024 La Verne Magazine.