Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Rancho Camulos.
National Register of Historic Places Nomination.
By JUDITH P. TRIEM and MITCH STONE.
San Buenaventura Research Associates, Santa Paula, Calif., 1996.
[I. INTRODUCTION] [II. DESCRIPTION] [III. SIGNIFICANCE] [IV. SOURCES]

II. NARRATIVE DESCRIPTION.

Camulos Ranch is nestled near the eastern boundary of Ventura County in the Santa Clara Valley, directly east of Piru and 47 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The 1,800 acre citrus ranch is bounded by low hills on the north, Piru Creek to the west, the Santa Clara River and the Oak Ridge mountains to the south and the Newhall Ranch on the east. The ranch headquarters complex is located south of State Highway 126, bisecting the ranch from east to west. The former Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way runs roughly parallel and to the north of the highway.

The main ranch headquarters on the south side of Highway 126 is composed of eleven buildings: the Ygnacio del Valle Adobe, Nachito del Valle Adobe, barn, bunkhouse, winery, chapel, schoolhouse, gas station, shed and two garages. Directly across from the ranch, north of Highway 126 and the railroad right-of-way are two railroad-related residences and three farm labor residences. Located to the northeast of these buildings, outside of the boundaries of this nomination, is the del Valle family cemetery.

The Ygnacio del Valle Adobe was built in several phases, beginning in 1853 and reaching essentially its present plan by 1880. The first four rooms, built circa 1853, form the southeastern portion of the U-shaped adobe. These original rooms were L-shaped in plan, with porches extending across the northern and southern elevations supported by chamfered wood posts. The medium gable roof was evidently covered originally with wood shingles, but is now covered with asphalt composition shingles. Four doors open onto the porch or corredor. The doors have glass panes in the upper portion and recessed panels in the lower half, forming an X-pattern. Two adobe buttresses frame a solitary window at the eastern corner on the south elevation. A small wooden balcony is located at the east end of the south wing. A door opens onto the balcony from below the gable peak. A brick chimney punctuates the roofline.

Between 1861 and 1862, an addition created three rooms adjacent and to the west of the original four rooms. A cellar under this portion of the adobe is accessed through double wood doors below the porch. Steps lead up to a raised porch, presently enclosed with screens. This section of the adobe has a hip roof originally covered with wood shingles, but now covered with asphalt composition shingles. Wood sash windows have six over six lights. At the same time, a free-standing kitchen building was constructed at the northeastern corner of what was to become the patio area.

During the 1870s (an exact date is presently unavailable) a west wing was added on a perpendicular to the 1853 and attached 1861-2 sections. A screened-in corredor runs along the western elevation of this section of the adobe creating an L-shaped plan. The corredor is supported by square capped posts and has concrete floors. Six entrances located along the corredor lead into the bedroom and living areas. The doors are paneled wood, and the four, wood sash windows are six over six paned. The final alteration to the plan of the adobe was made at some time between 1895 and 1923. This hip-roofed, one-room addition to the north end of the west wing was constructed of stone and covered with plaster to read like adobe. The kitchen was eventually connected to the main body of the adobe by means of a breezeway, completing the U-shaped plan.

The Ygnacio del Valle Adobe evolved and expanded considerably over a roughly fifty year span, but essentially represents the overall plan and appearance it attained by 1880. The most architecturally intrusive alterations are the addition of large picture windows on the west side of the west wing, and on the north side of the south wing made in the 1950s. The original kitchen in the north wing was remodeled into a garage and servants quarters between 1925 and 1934.

The one and one-half-story brick winery was built in 1867. The medium-pitched front facing gable roof of this long, rectangular plan building is covered with wood shingles. The brick building has several large openings: the northern elevation contains large wooden doors with a wood lintel and a radiating arched brick pattern above. The wooden doors have recessed vertical panels. At the south end of the winery, the large wood double doors are accessed by a ramp. The ramp as well as the building's foundation are constructed of stone. Wood sash windows are symmetrically placed below the roofline on all four sides of the building. Additional single wood doors are located on the east and west sides of the building. A shed roofed structure was added to the west side of the building at an unknown date, ca 1935. It is constructed of board and batten siding and is used for farm equipment and automobile storage.

Wines were probably aged in casks in the basement under the winery. Camulos was known for its fine brandies and wines primarily between the 1870s and 1890s. When grapes were no longer grown for commercial purposes, probably after 1900, the building was converted to use as storage. In later years, August Rubel converted the winery building to a museum housing del Valle family artifacts.

The present chapel was also constructed circa 1867, although some form of an earlier chapel existed by 1861. The woodframe chapel measures fourteen feet wide by twenty feet in length, with a thirty foot long porch extending off of the eastern end of the building. The building is constructed on wood and brick piers and covered with plaster. The unusual front gabled porch roof contains a barrel vaulted beaded-board wood ceiling similar to the interior ceiling in the chapel. The gable end is covered with board and batten siding and contains a small white wooden cross. The arch extends across the front of the porch and is trimmed with a decorative fleur-de-lis design that is repeated as a pendant at the gable peak. Three concrete steps lead up to the wooden porch partially enclosed by woven latticework sides. Two raised paneled doors open into the small chapel and are surrounded by wood mouldings. Windows are located on the north and south sides. The wood sash window on the north contains a decorative stained glass window in the upper half. The wood sash window on the north contains six over six lights and wood mouldings. Louvered wood shutters are held back by decorative wrought iron stays.

Directly adjacent and to the northwest of the chapel are the bells. Three bells hanging from a freestanding wooden frame were features of Camulos since at least the 1870s, and possibly earlier. The largest of the three bells was cast by Russians in Kodiak, Alaska, and was used to call worshipers to morning prayer or mass in the chapel. A second slightly smaller bell was also cast in Kodiak, Alaska in 1796. This bell originally hung at the San Fernando Mission and may have been removed to Camulos by Antonio del Valle when he was administrator at San Fernando. A third, smaller bell is missing.

The fountain (and lavatorio) adjacent to the chapel and the south wing of the adobe is a circular brick object about two to three feet in height. The brick at one time had been covered with plaster, but this is now mostly flaked away and the bricks exposed. In the center a tapered raised brick stem supports two, flat plaster and fired clay bowls above the main fountain. Photographs indicate the central stem has been changed from the original, which was more slender and had smaller bowls. The date of the fountain is believed to be 1853 according to a dated sketch located in the Del Valle Collection at the Bancroft Library. The Rubel Family rebuilt the fountain circa 1934.

The barn, located in the work area of the ranch headquarters near the State Highway, measures 54 by 64 feet. It is rectangular in plan with a high gable roof and knee brackets under the eaves. A gabled vent is located on the ridge line. All of the openings on the barn are cut out of the board and batten siding and swing outward on hinges. Large double doors are centered under the front gable and are highlighted with diagonal stick ornamentation. The barn has a concrete floor. The date of the barn is unknown, but the modest Craftsman-style detailing (brackets, rafters and trim) suggests a circa 1910 date. Planting records indicate that the 1909 to 1916 period is when the largest number of walnuts, apricots and orange trees were planted. These dates might coincide with the construction of the barn, gas and oil house and bunkhouse. A shed roof addition of concrete blocks and board and batten was made to the south side of the barn, probably circa 1950.

The gas and oil house was probably built about the same time period, circa 1910. It has similar Craftsman-style detailing. The tiny nine by ten foot rectangular plan building has a low front gable roof with a raised gabled monitor vent across the ridgeline. Exposed beams and rafters are located under the eaves. Wood casement windows are found in threes or singly with plain wood mouldings. The building is covered with board and batten siding and rests on a concrete slab foundation. South of the gas and oil house is a rectangular shaped board and batten clad shed with a corrugated metal roof. It is open on the east side and was built circa 1910.

The bunkhouse, built circa 1916, is a long rectangular plan building with a low pitched gable roof and exposed rafters and knee brackets under the broad eaves. The recessed front porch at the southeast corner has been enclosed with screens. The Craftsman style bungalow is covered with shingle siding and rests on a concrete slab foundation. Windows are both double hung and casement with wood mouldings. A detached pergola extending along the north side of the bunkhouse is covered with mature wisteria vines. The eastern end of the bunkhouse, once containing the dining room, has been removed. A long rectangular shaped four-car garage is located adjacent to the main entrance. It measures 20 by 74 feet and is covered with board and bat siding with corrugated metal siding at the rear and on the roof.

The Nachito del Valle Adobe is located near the main road (Highway 126). It was built circa 1920 and has more recently served as the ranch manager's house and office. Built around a courtyard, this Spanish Colonial Revival style residence's northeastern wing contains a recessed arched entry. The flat roof has a raised parapet with several decorative shed roofs covered with clay tiles. A second entrance, in the middle of the building's facade, is recessed and has a tile roof with wood beam and columns. The front door is of wood planks with a small decorative window with a wood grille.The double hung and casement windows are wood frame and recessed. The windows are arranged in groups of threes and fours with stucco pilasters in between each window. The house is constructed of adobe clad with stucco and rests on a concrete perimeter foundation. Internal walls are woodframe covered with lath and plaster. East of the house is a small one car stucco clad garage with a flat roof.

The schoolhouse was built circa 1930 by the Rubel family to serve their five young children and the bookkeeper's children. It was designed to blend in with the early adobe buildings with its long rectangular plan, low pitched hip roof, plaster siding and long open corredor supported by square posts along the south and east sides of the building. Windows are six over six wood sash with wood mouldings. The front door is of wood planks with heavy iron handles.

In addition to the buildings and objects, a large number of mature trees and extensive gardens lend to the historic character of the property. These landscape features help divide the working portion of the ranch from the residential sections. Surrounding the Ygnacio del Valle adobe, schoolhouse, chapel and fountain, are well manicured lawns, concrete and brick paths, flower gardens and dozens of mature ornamental trees. A wooden cross from 1880, commemorating the death of Ygnacio del Valle, is located next to the chapel. At the southern end of the formal lawn is the family orchard where dozens of varieties of fruit trees are grown. Additional features include a playground, south of the schoolhouse; an aviary and remnants of a grape arbor; a small swimming pool and fish pond; and a barbecue area with brick ovens. The working area of the ranch headquarters, north of the del Valle adobe, is characterized by compacted dirt, mature California Pepper trees and a Cork Oak tree. At the entrance to the ranch is a row of Eucalyptus trees and a low stucco clad wall with gates. Directly west of the Nachito del Valle adobe is a formal lawn within the wall, several mature ornamental trees, a long arbor with mature wisteria vines and a stone historical marker with a plaque denoting the State Landmark status.

Of special interest is the California black walnut tree, the only survivor of four "Black Eagle" seedlings planted by Juventino del Valle circa 1870. The tree has been noted by Maunsell Van Rensselaer in Trees of Santa Barbara as the "Camulos Black Walnut," perhaps the largest California Black Walnut (Juglans Hindsii) in the Santa Barbara /Ventura County region. When it was measured for this book in 1940, its circumference was eighteen feet, and with a branch spread of 129 feet. Today, the tree's trunk measures approximately twenty-five feet in circumference.

On the north side of the highway, a dirt road leads across the railroad right-of-way to five houses paralleling the location of the former Southern Pacific Railroad. To the east of the road and north of the railroad right-of-way is a woodframe railroad section house, built circa 1887 by the Southern Pacific Railway. A small depot was also located nearby, but has been removed. East of the section house is a duplex, used as a bunkhouse for railroad workers. Its date of construction is estimated at 1887. West of the road are three farm labor houses built by the del Valle family circa 1916.

The Southern Pacific Railroad Section House, built in 1887, is one and one-half stories in height with a medium pitched, asymmetrical gable roofline producing a saltbox-house effect. The porch is recessed under the corner of the house and supported by a capped square column. Eaves are closed. A corbelled brick chimney punctuates the roofline. The woodframe double hung windows have multi-panes and wood mouldings. The house is covered with wide horizontal tongue and groove siding and rests on a wood foundation. A water tower located to the east of the house is topped by a metal tank. Located at the foot of the water tower is a small woodframe pumphouse.

The bunkhouse (duplex) is rectangular in plan with a medium side-facing gable roof and was built ca 1916. The roof extends over the porch and is supported by wood posts. The broad eaves are open with supporting brackets on the sides. The house is covered with board and batten siding and rests on a concrete perimeter foundation. Two front entrances are symmetrically arranged and flanked by windows on each side. Windows are double hung with wood frames and mouldings.

The three farmworker's bungalows, built ca 1916, share similar characteristics. They are primarily rectangular in plan with medium to low gable roofs, exposed rafters under the open eaves, medium clapboard siding, double-hung woodframe windows with wood mouldings and concrete perimeter foundations.

Integrity

The integrity of location (the place where the historic property was constructed or the place where the historic event occurred) for Rancho Camulos is intact; all of the buildings remain on their original sites. The integrity of design (the combination of elements that create the form, plan, space, structure, and style of a property) for the site as a whole is almost entirely intact. No new buildings have been constructed since 1930, when the school house was erected. A minor addition to the barn is the only recognizable change to the plan of the ranch complex occurring outside of the period of significance (1853-1945), and this change generally continues the design of the earlier building to which it is attached. Several buildings from the historic period have been demolished, including the railroad depot, a blacksmith shop, post office and a number of barns. The depot was located adjacent to the Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way, near the section house. The blacksmith shop was located to the north of the barn, within the ranch complex. The post office was located to the east of the ranch complex, on the south side of the State Highway. A grouping of barns and sheds originally located adjacent to the railroad right-of-way and to the west of the section house have also been removed. Despite these changes, the historic site planning and spatial relationships between the buildings remains apparent.

Although the Ygnacio del Valle Adobe has been expanded considerably over a fifty year period, this is a characteristic it shares with many adobes of its era, and the last major addition occurred within the period of significance (1853-1880). After 1945, the adobe had a large multi-paned steel mullioned window added on the west side of the west wing. The interior of the kitchen in the southeast corner was also remodeled in the 1950s. Minor changes, such as the removal of louvered shutters, has occurred at various times. The roofing materials, apparently originally wood shingles or shakes, have been replaced with asphalt composition shingles. Despite these minor changes, the overall ability of the adobe to visually convey its sense of historic time and place remains excellent.

The integrity of the setting (the physical environment of a historic property) for the property is almost completely intact. Aspects of the retained setting are the relationships between the extant buildings and structures, the natural environment (mountains, Santa Clara River) and agricultural landscape. During the period 1920-45, the citrus industry sustained an unprecedented era of expansion, increasing the total volume of production in California nearly 150 percent. This growth engendered the profound transformation of the entire economic, social and physical character of the region to an extent described by McWilliams as "difficult to emphasize sufficiently." The establishment of the verdant "citrus belts" along the foothills helped to firmly establish an almost utopian image of Southern California in the national consciousness. This depiction, although it contrasted decidedly with the natural aridity of the area, became thoroughly integrated into the regional mystique, having been championed tirelessly by development interests and the citrus industry (McWilliams, 1946: 213; Gardner and McKay, 1950: 9).

Post-war urban development trends have almost entirely eradicated the evidence of this landscape of citrus cultivation throughout most of the Southern California region, with the conspicuous exception of the Santa Clara Valley. The setting for Rancho Camulos is particularly notable, in and of itself, as a rare survivor of a virtually intact citrus landscape in Southern California. Some reduction of setting has resulted in the urbanizing fringe of Piru, Fillmore and Santa Paula, but this urban growth has largely remained contiguous with these historic urban areas. The widening of State Highway 126 is also responsible for some loss of the historic setting.

To the extent that the original buildings remain, their integrity of materials (the physical elements that were combined or deposited during a particular period of time and in a particular pattern or configuration to form a historic property) and workmanship (the physical evidence of the crafts of a particular culture or people during any given period of history or prehistory) are intact. However, it should be noted that the Ygnacio del Valle Adobe in particular exhibits some evidence of ongoing repair and maintenance. These introductions of new materials were undoubtably necessitated by the fragile nature of adobe construction material and the need for constant upkeep.

The integrity of feeling (a property's expression of the aesthetic or historic sense of a particular period of time) and association (the direct link between an important historic event or person and a historic property) remains particularly strong for this property. The two del Valle adobes, the winery, chapel, gardens and other buildings related to the historic agricultural use of the property are especially evocative of the historic time and place. This feeling of historic place is enhanced considerably by the continuity of use of the property as an active citrus ranching operation and the retention of the rural setting of the Santa Clara Valley.

The January, 1994 earthquake resulted in both structural and cosmetic damage to four of the Rancho Camulos buildings. The Ygnacio del Valle Adobe experienced the total failure of two adobe walls on the southern elevation, and the partial failure of a number of other walls. Brick chimneys toppled to the ground, and both exterior and interior plaster cracked throughout the building. A considerable volume of brick fell from the northern and southern gable ends of the winery building. Two walls on the southern elevation of the Nachito del Valle Adobe failed, and other evidence of damage to the exterior adobe walls of this building is evident. A chimney fell from the schoolhouse. To date, extensive shoring and bracing has occurred on two of the damaged buildings, but the restoration work required to return them to their historic appearance has not commenced.

Name Date Eligibility
Ygnacio del Valle Adobe 1853 NHL
winery 1867 NHL
chapel 1867 NHL
bells 1870 NHL
fountain 1867 NHL
barn 1910 NRHP
gas & oil house 1910 NRHP
bunkhouse 1916 NRHP
Nachito del Valle Adobe 1920 NRHP
schoolhouse 1930 NRHP
S.P. Railroad section house 1887 NRHP
Water tower 1887 NRHP
bunkhouse 1916 NRHP
farmworker bungalow 1916 NRHP
farmworker bungalow 1916 NRHP
farmworker bungalow 1916 NRHP


[I. INTRODUCTION] [II. DESCRIPTION] [III. SIGNIFICANCE] [IV. SOURCES]
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