The Del Valle Buggy in its original condition — before it needed to be restored. Undated photograph.
The Del Valle Buggy.
The Del Valle Buggy at Rancho Camulos was manufactured about 1850 by Miller & Stevens of 368 Broadway (below Canal Street) in New York City. It made the trip around Cape Horn when it was ordered by the family of Ygnacio del Valle, who had inherited the 48,000-acre Rancho San Francisco (western Santa Clarita Valley) and built their main, extant adobe home on the westernmost section in 1853. The buggy remained behind in 1924 when the remainder of the Del Valle ranch — Rancho Camulos — was sold to August Rubel, whose daughters have said they remember riding around in it on the property.
Turn up the clock to 2008. Rancho Camulos Museum docents Ralph Rees, a retired schoolteacher, and his wife Pat, both of Fillmore, undertook to restore the buggy after seeing it on display at a museum event. Shirley Rubel Lorenz gifted the buggy to the nonprofit museum (paperwork on file), and the work began.
According to a report by docent Marie Wren, who chaired the buggy restoration committee, volunteer Jack Schleimer provided a flatbed trailer and transported the buggy to the Rees home on Foothill Drive in Fillmore in March 2008.
Ralph and Pat Rees donated more than 600 hours of labor on the buggy, while their daughter, Wendy, researched its manufacture. John Morgan, a professional carriage restorer in Oak View (Ojai Valley), provided guidance and sold the antique carriage lamps and other authentic and period-appropriate items used in the project. Patterson Hardware of Fillmore donated small hardware items; several pieces of antique window glass were purchased, and others were donated by Fillmore Building Supply out of salvage from a house that had been demolished years earlier.
Ralph and Pat shopped for suitable fabric for the interior of the coach but determined that a professional upholstery job was required. Wren solicited donations from museum board members, docents, friends and Del Valle family members in 2009. Quality Upholstery of Ventura submitted the lowest qualifying bid ($5,777) and installed the upholstery (headliner, cushions, etc.) at their shop.
Museum volunteers got a peek at the work in progress when the buggy was taken to Logsdon's Restaurant at the Santa Paula Airport for a 2009 holiday party hosted by board member Mary Schwabauer. Then it was returned to the Rees home for the finishing touches.
"Most of the wood in the undercarriage has been replaced," Wren writes. "Several pieces were very intricate, but Ralph was able to reproduce them by hand. New leather straps were made. When it appeared the project was complete, Ralph decided the axles and wheels needed additional attention. The carriage was taken to Michl Tool [Works] in Santa Paula for the work for an additional cost of $955."
Ralph attached a brass plaque near the original manufacturer's plate on the rumble seat, while Pat reconfigured a new pickup truck cover into a carriage dust cover.
Perhaps just like when it was new, on Jan. 13, 2010, the fully restored buggy was put on display on a showroom floor — not on Broadway, but at the William L. Morris Chevrolet dealership in Fillmore.
It remained there for a month before being returned to storage at Rancho Camulos. Today it's brought out for viewing at special museum events.
Rancho Camulos Docent Council
Del Valle Buggy Restoration Project 2009
Restoration Work Performed by Ralph and Pat Rees
Rancho Camulos Museum Board
Rancho Camulos Museum Docent Council
Friends of the Museum
Museum Board Members
Shirley Rubel Lorenz
Del Valle Family
Karen and Mark Roswell
Hillary Weireter and Gary Giessman
Frank and Susan Janda
Juan and Carolyn Forster
Docents and Friends of the Museum
Jeri and Jack Schleimer
Martha and Dick Richardson
Maria & Dave Christopher
Fillmore Lions Club
Bob and Diana Cox
Parts donated by:
Fillmore Building Supply