1871 Adobe Themes New Shopping Center

Times Staff Writer

Although eight-ninths of the early-day community of Peralta has vanished, the single remaining structure has been restored as the architectural key to a shopping center in the mouth of the Santa Ana Canyon.

In addition to being the theme building for the 67,433-square-foot Anaheim Hills Shopping Village, on the Santa Ana Canyon Road scenic corridor at Fairmont Boulevard, the restored Ramon Peralta Adobe will be operated as an Orange County museum.

The $7-million shopping center opened last July 25 and is 90% leased, according to Craig Langslet, president of C. Robert Langslet & Son Inc., the owner and developer. Centered on a 30,000-square-foot Hughes Market, it offers 33,243 square feet of speciality and service shops for the 35,000 people who live within a two-mile radius.

The old adobe stands on the edge of the scenic corridor, apart from the shop buildings, and makes up the balance of the square footage, along with a new building that enfolds it on three sides and will be occupied by a Tarberll-Realtors office whose front windows overlook the corridor.

On Grandfather's Land

The adobe was built in 1871 by Ramon Peralta on land granted to his grandfather by the Spanish governor, Jose Joaquin de Arrillaga, in 1810. It was the last of nine to rise in the community of Peralta on the Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana, then jointly owned by the Peralta and Yorba families.

The adobe was occupied through the 1960s and possibly until 1973, by which time it had been completely abandoned and for a decade was a home for vagrants and a target for vandals. During that time, there were several unsuccessful efforts to develop the property.

By 1983, the Langslet firm had purchased the 6.6-acre site surrounding and landlocking the adobe. The county, which had bought the adobe during the 1970s, agreed to lease the small parcel it stood on to Langslet if the latter would restore the structure.

"Basically, we felt that the Anaheim Hills area and beyond, the east side, had tremendous growth potential," Langslet said. "This was the last commercially zoned parcel that was on the Santa Ana Canyon scenic corridor.

"In addition, the market surveys prepared for us by Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Services revealed that this was the highest per-capita income area in Orange County, with tremendous growth potential to the east.

"Coldwell Banker declared that there was a definite need for a grocery market and retail shops and services. Also, the site had excellent visibility and its size lent itself to shopping center development." The Coldwell Banker company is the leasing agent.

Langslet retained David M. Van Horn, the principal of Archeological Associates, Sun Valley, to study the adobe and offer recommendations for its restoration and preservation.

Built of Adobe Bricks

The building is 24 by 34 1/2 feet in size. The walls were built of home-made, sun-dried adobe bricks measuring 18 by 9 by 3 1/2 inches.

The house originally had a gable roof and the end walls were carried up in a triangular shape to form the gables. They were 18 inches thick, as was a center wall that supported the ridge, and were built on a perimeter ditch filled with cobblestones for stability and drainage.

Two front-to-back walls on each side of the center wall were nine inches thick and built on the same sort of foundation; they divided the adobe into six rooms, with doorways connecting each to its neighbors. The front had three entrance doors into the three rooms but no windows; the back had a central door and no windows.

There are no windows in the gable ends. Later, the two flanking doors in front were converted to windows.

In 1893 the building--which had received severe fire damage at some time--was renovated and remodeled. The end walls were shortened to the height of the front and back walls, as was the center wall, and a hip roof was built.

The rooms were covered with a ceiling that left an attic space used primarily as a children's bedroom and reached by a new stairway from the lower story. At some point, two dormer windows were built.

There were other additions during the early part of this century, including a porch and an outside bathroom-utility room, all of which are gone now. Sometime before 1935 (the archeological report gives no date) a restaurant, Mac's Canyon Cafe, was built in the back, which then faced the road, and the adobe was used as living quarters by the families operating the cafe.

A realignment of Santa Ana Canyon Road in the late 1960s caused the cafe's business to trickle off and it was closed in the early 1970s.

Principal Route

Until the opening of the Riverside (91) Freeway, Santa Ana Canyon Road was the principal route to San Bernardino and the desert.

The new buildings of the shopping center were designed by the Pasadena architectural firm of McClellan Cruz Gaylord & Associates to have the same appearance as the adobe house, with high-pitched roofs, dormers and an exterior matching the reconstructed exterior of the house.

In renovating the house, Langslet said they decided to return it to its appearance after the 1893 remodeling, which involved building a new roof that duplicated, in modern materials, the hip roof that was built at that time. The loft floor had to be rebuilt, too.

Two windows in the back had been added at some point and one of them still retains the original frame, which has been left visible, covered with a modern window. Other windows match those of the period as nearly as possible. Modern ceiling lights and electric outlets have been installed for its use as a museum.

Outside walls were brought up to current earthquake-safety standards by the addition of steel-reinforced Gunite on the outside.

The adobe will be operated as a museum by the county and is expected to open this spring. The walls and floor have been cut away in several places to show construction details, both original and later work, through glass covers.

One room is to be furnished and decorated as a period exhibit but details have not been settled.

However, in consultation with county authorities (as all the work on the house was), Langslet put a simulated dirt floor in that room--representing the kind the entire house had until the remodeling of the early 1890s.

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