Historic Agoura Hills Home to Roll Out the Welcome Mat

Times Staff Writer

The historic Reyes Adobe in Agoura Hills has survived earthquakes, centuries of exposure to the elements and extensive remodeling, yet there never seemed to be enough money to make it accessible to the community -- until now.

Despite the state's financial crisis and the city's tight budget, officials have found $1.2 million to prepare the old house and barn for public tours.

Citrus and oak trees, shrubs and a creek will be added to the 4.6-acre site to re-create the adobe's late 18th century surroundings. Electrical upgrades and repairs are planned for the adobe, which will be outfitted with period furniture and display cases.

The barn -- thought to have been built in the 1940s and thus not to be as historically significant -- will be used for presentations.

The work, scheduled to be completed in May, will be paid for with nearly $530,000 in grants from voter-approved Propositions 12 and 40, in addition to a $400,000 grant from the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area and a $75,000 Getty Foundation grant, officials said.

City employees will do the work on the project, which will begin with a ground-breaking ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday at the site, next to Reyes Adobe Park.

"It's pure survival when something like this thrives and becomes a resource for the community," said City Councilman Jeff Reinhardt.

"For the kids to point to something that can trace its roots to the late 1700s is important. That's why it's so wonderful that the site will be restored."

Officials hope that opening the adobe to the public will increase community interest in the area's past.

"This establishes an historic foundation for the city. It allows residents to appreciate the fact that this area has a colorful history," said attorney Jim Lahana, chairman of the Reyes Adobe Citizen's Advisory Committee.

While much is known about the adobe, some facts are missing or simply fuzzy. A Historic American Building Survey completed in the 1930s records the adobe as having been built about 1836. The land was part of a Spanish grant acquired by Jacinto Reyes and the adobe is thought to have been built by a relative, Jose Reyes.

However, Reyes family descendants say the main section of the home dates to 1797, according to city officials. The adobe was a working cattle ranch and a rest stop for travelers along El Camino Real until at least 1853. (A consultant hired by the city is researching the adobe's history.)

The adobe went through a series of owners from the early 1920s until 1980, when it was acquired by the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department. After incorporating in 1982, Agoura Hills acquired the adobe and did a major restoration in 1988.

Officials expect the adobe to be open only one or two weekends a month and by appointment during the week.

Even so, local schools are anticipating some interesting lessons close to home.

"It will be really nice to have something like this so close," said Sandra Argast, principal of Yerba Buena Elementary School. "Young children really can't picture what they read. But when they see it, everything they've read clicks in."

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