Rancho Camulos: Getty Takes the Lead with 1994 Earthquake Repairs.

1) After the Quake: Historic Preservation in Los Angeles
By John Hinrichs
The Getty Conservation Institute Newsletter 9.2 Summer 1994

2) Preserving Safety and History: The Getty Seismic Adobe Project at Work
By William S. Ginell and E. Leroy Tolles
The Getty Conservation Institute Newsletter 14.1 Spring 1999


The Del Valle Adobe, situated near Piru, California, is a rancho of Mission San Fernando and is considered an outstanding stylistic example of California's old ranchos. Established as a nonprofit organization in 1994, the 40-acre site, now called the Rancho Camulos Museum (part of a much larger, functioning 1,400-acre ranch), includes the adobe main residence, a brick winery, a smaller adobe outbuilding, and the original chapel. Many of the historic features of the buildings — such as the cocina (kitchen), the Greek Revival detailing of the fireplaces, chair railings, and corredor posts — remain as exemplars of early California architecture. The main residence is one of the attractions of the rancho because it served as the model for the home of the heroine in the well-known romance novel Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson; the novel is noted for its portrayal of the idyllic pastoral days of early California.

The earliest portion of the building, constructed in 1841, consists of three rooms that are one-and-one-half stories in height and a one-story, one-room extension. Over the years, the building evolved into a u-shaped complex with a central courtyard. The single-story room, known as Ramona's room, is situated at the southeast corner. During the earthquake, two walls of Ramona's room collapsed. The gable-end wall at the southeast corner was severely damaged but did not collapse; the stone walls at the north end of the west wing suffered severe cracks at the corners.

Crack damage occurred throughout the building, especially at corners and, because of pounding, at wall intersections. Spalling of interior and exterior plaster was extensive, as was the collapse of adobe in areas that had been weakened by previous repeated exposure to water. In many locations, the walls had pulled away from the ceiling joists, and damage to the walls further reduced their ability to support the joists. The severe damage to the building probably resulted from a combination of factors: the lack of structural elements either tying the walls together or tying the roof-ceiling system to the walls, the presence of pre-existing earthquake-related cracks, and water damage that weakened the lower sections of the adobe walls and foundation.

As part of GSAP, a team consisting of E. Leroy Tolles, Anthony Crosby, Edna Kimbro, and Frederick Webster surveyed the extent of Northridge earthquake damage to historic adobe structures, including Rancho Camulos, immediately after the earthquake (the survey findings were later published by the GCI). At the request of the Rancho Camulos owners, a damage assessment was made; emergency shoring and bracing plans were formulated; and a strategy for obtaining repair financing was developed.

Ultimately, federal funding of $500,000 was obtained through a program administered by the Historic Preservation Partners for Earthquake Response, a collaborative project of the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the California Office of Historic Preservation, the Los Angeles Conservancy, the California Preservation Foundation, and the GCI. Additional funding of $250,000 was obtained from the County of Ventura.

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