Check out this great article in Watsonville Patch, “A Colorful History: Bear-Bull Fights, ‘Zip Horses’ and Fandangos.”
About the Castro Adobe
The grandest of all adobe buildings representing Northern California’s rancho period is the two-story Castro Adobe near Watsonville. This hacienda features a spacious fandango room on the second floor and an original one-story cocina, one of only five such Mexican kitchens remaining in the state. With its long, two-story proportions and full-width open balcony, it is a distinctly Monterey-Colonial building that demonstrates the expansion to the countryside of this celebrated architectural form from its original urban setting, at the end of the Mexican era (1821-1848).
Juan Jose Castro, a member of one of Alta California’s most prominent founding families, built the large adobe house at historic Rancho San Andrés at around the time of the Gold Rush (between 1848 and 1849). His father, Jose Joaquín Castro, had come as a boy with his family to Northern California from Mexico with the pioneering Anza Expedition in 1775-76. Over time, the Castros were granted agricultural land from San Pablo Bay south to Monterey, as a reward for the family’s military service and for their accomplishments as early settlers. By the 1840s, members of the Castro family ranched over a quarter of a million acres in Santa Cruz County alone. This adobe served as headquarters for the extended Castro family holdings; about 60 people, including Native American workers, lived in and around the building until 1883.
American-era lawsuits took a toll on Castro lands. Rancho San Andrés was originally two leagues in size, or about 11,000 acres, but was eroded over time through legal challenges and attorneys’ fees until the final partition of the rancho occurred in 1873. After partition, the adobe stayed in the hands of Juan Jose Castro, but its surrounding parcel had been reduced to just 40 acres. Apparently Juan Jose almost immediately lost title to this land as well, but he and his family continued to live at the adobe until his death in 1877, and his family stayed until 1883 when the Hansen family bought the property. The Hansens lived in the adobe until the 1906 Earthquake, after which they built a new house nearby on the property.
The adobe’s next century embraces this and a succession of families who acted as stewards of this historic treasure. The historical significance of the 3,800-square-foot house was first recognized by owner Manuel E. Madiros in the mid 1930s, who urged the State to acquire it and had it recorded by the Historic American Building Survey. The next owner, Frank Mello, saved it with a new roof according to local newspaper accounts. Over its long history the building has been the home of many multi-ethnic families and backdrop to a corresponding variety of events, from fandangos to jazz festivals.
In 1988, adobe conservationist Edna Kimbro and her husband, Joe, purchased the Castro Adobe from 20-year stewards, David and Elizabeth Potter. It was during the Kimbros’ tenure that the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake severely damaged the house, but it was also during the Kimbro years when huge steps were taken to preserve the adobe for future generations. The restoration of the Castro Adobe will be the fulfillment of Edna’s and others’ tireless efforts, personally and professionally, to bring the building back to its former glory.
Acquired by California State Parks in 2002, the Castro Adobe currently sits on one acre of land that contains a small orchard. An important and unusual aspect of the adobe is its rural location that retains much of the cultural landscape of the rancho era, and the original carreta path – Old Adobe Road. The authentic early-California building and its setting possess tremendous potential for interpretation of the rural lifestyle and culture of Mexican California for the benefit of present-day residents of Pajaro Valley, Santa Cruz County, and the Central Coast region. The Castro Adobe at Rancho San Andrés will realize its ultimate potential when its stabilization and restoration are complete. Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County are currently working to make this vision a reality.