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Dana Adobe

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Many point out that missions are generally placed about a day's travel apart. While generally true, this is not an absolute. Today you can travel between Mission Santa InÚs and Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in about an hour. During the mission era this was at least a two-day trip. Friendly adobes were often placed along the way and provided shelter to travelers. The Dana Adobe in Nipomo is one such that survives today. Pronunciation: The first "a" is a soft "a" as in the man's name Daniel. So it's "Dan-ah."

Dana Adobe
Picture taken 11:20am 9 Jun 2001

Nipomo is just north of Santa Maria on U.S. 101. Exit at Tefft and turn east (left if southbound and right if northbound). A block past the freeway is a signal at Oak Glen Avenue; turn right on Oak Glen. The Dana Adobe is about a mile. It's presently only open on Sunday afternoon. Please close the gate behind you as you drive in as there are horses in the area. GPS at the El Camino Real bell: 35° 01' 26"N 120° 28' 25"W.

History

Captain Dana

Captain William Goodwin Dana was born in Boston in 1797. In 1825 as master of the Waverly he arrived in Santa Barbara and 20 August 1828 married Maria Josefa Carrillo, daughter of Don Carlos Antonio Carrillo, who would become provisional governor of California in 1835. There were 21 children (eight died in infancy).

Dana was granted Rancho Nipomo, a 37,888-acre rancho, in 1837 and built his main house on the hill where it sits today. You can see it in the lower center of the overhead picture shown here. From the house you could see a large distance (see panorama below); a need in those days of raiding parties and bandits. El Camino Real ran directly in front of the house. Since the riverbed you see here was dry most of the year, it was used as the roadbed much of the time.

Dana Adobe overhead
Picture taken 11:55am 9 Jun 2001 (picture of picture)

Panorama from porch
Picture taken 1:15pm 17 Jun 2001 (8 photo 180-degree panorama, N on left S on right)

In those days, hosting travelers with free meals, lodging, and even horses (which would be returned via a relay system) was commonplace. Indeed, if the traveler were in need a bowl of money would often be left by the bed.

Over time the ranch became a stage stop and in 1847 it was one of four designated exchange points on California's first U.S. mail route.

Toward the end of his life Dana became paralyzed as his rheumatism grew worse. He was confined to the house and died 12 February 1858 and is buried in San Luis Obispo.

Inside the Adobe

The Adobe is under restoration but some areas are available to see. It's actually fascinating to come during the restoration as you see some of the restoration techniques in action.

The picture above shows that you enter the Adobe via the back door. The panorama above was taken from the front porch on the other side of the building. As you enter you first see a stairway that leads up to the attic where a dormitory was located. This area is not generally available for tours but I was given permission to show it to you.

Attic stairs
Picture taken 12:55pm 17 Jun 2001

Used more as a storeroom today, the open attic is being restored. To the right you see a chimney from a room below.

Open attic area
Picture taken 1:25pm 17 Jun 2001

Chimney through attic
Picture taken
1:25pm
17 Jun 2001

The living room, off the entry to the left, shows a more representative view of what Adobe rooms might have looked like.

Adobe Living Room
Picture taken 12:55pm 17 Jun 2001

The restoration process involves the systematic documentation of everything about the room as the layers are removed and then rebuilding to as close to the original as possible. The documentation starts with a laser survey which establishes absolute measurement standard points and then recording where everything is related to the standard. Individual layers of plaster are documented as removed and the underlying structure both documented and studied to determine if it was original or a later addition.

Plaster removal
Picture taken 1:05pm 17 Jun 2001

Here is shown a part of the restoration of the master bedroom.

Bedroom restoration
Picture taken 1:00pm 17 Jun 2001

Throughout the Adobe are examples of various stages of this measure, document, remove, and restore process.

Pottery shards
Picture taken 1:00pm 17 Jun 2001

Also on display at the Adobe are various items found at the site. These include pottery shards as well as various relics you might find on any old ranch.

Old wheel
Picture taken 1:25pm 17 Jun 2001

Rancho Nipomo Heritage Day

On 9 June 2001, the Dana Adobe became California Registered Historical Landmark No. 1033. During the ceremonies the plaque was brought to the site aboard a typical wedding coach of the period.

Landmark plaque arriving
Picture taken 11:15am 9 Jun 2001

Landmark plaque arriving
Picture taken 11:15am 9 Jun 2001

As part of the ceremonies a painting of the adobe was presented and the local quilting society unveiled the centerpiece of a memorial quilt being constructed as a fundraiser.

Painting of Dana Adobe
Picture taken 11:35am 9 Jun 2001

Dana Adobe on quilt
Picture taken 11:45am 9 Jun 2001

Land Purchase Celebration

16 January 2009 DANA (Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos); an organization formed in 1999 to coordinate and raise funds for the adobe restoration project, celebrated the final purchase of the 29 acres the adobe sits on. This was particularly appropriate because shortly before San Luis Obispo county set aside 100 acres of land next to the adobe (basically, the viewshed) for conservation. The adobe now has 129 acres of land and viewshed to work with.

 

Landmark 1033

Landmark plaque
Picture taken 11:20am 9 Jun 2001

Rancho Nipomo
(Captain William G. Dana Rancho)

Rancho Nipomo, almost 38,000 acres in size, was granted to Boston sea captain, William Goodwin Dana, in 1837. The Rancho for many years was the first stopping place on El Camino Real south of Mission San Luis Obispo. From 1839 until Dana's death in 1858, the Rancho was known throughout the state as a hospitable stopping place for travelers, including Captain John C. Fremont, Edwin Bryant, and General Henry W. Halleck. In 1847 the "Dana Ranch" became one of four designated exchange points on California's first U.S. mail route.

California Registered Historical Landmark No. 1033

Plaque placed by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos, June 9, 2001.

References

  • Contreras, Shirley (SM Valley Historical Society). "Dana: A sailor who became a Central Coast institution." The Good Years column: Santa Maria Times, 19 Mar 95, p. C-4.
  • Attendance at 3rd annual Rancho Nipomo Heritage Day, 9 June 2001.
  • DANA (Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos) site at http://danaadobe.org/ (Note: This site contains a wealth of information, pictures, and maps of the adobe layout if you want to explore further.)

A special thank you to Brian Dunn, the caretaker at the Adobe, for his assistance during my visit.

Navigation for Mission-Related Pages:

Related Index :: Mission Founding Order :: Nicknames :: Blessed Serra Bio :: Padre Lasuén Bio :: Calif Spanish Governors :: Calif Mexican Governors :: Calif Military Governors :: Mission Presidents-General :: Secularization :: Chumash Indians :: Spanish Settlement :: El Camino Real :: Dana Acobe :: Stories :: Property :: Measurements :: Find Mission Plans :: Mission Materials :: Jorgensen Paintings :: Calif Missions Museum :: Earthquakes


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Copyright © 2002 Tom Simondi, All Rights Reserved
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