Preserving historical landmarks means more than just saving old buildings. It often means preserving the link to the lives lived there.
For decades California’s historic rancho adobes have been disappearing from the landscape. For example, in the city of San José — home to a $12 billion company named Adobe — only two remain where hundreds once stood.
An hour south of San José stands the Rancho San Andrés Castro Adobe. Located outside of Watsonville in the Pajaro Valley, it has been called “The finest example of a rancho hacienda in the Monterey Bay region.”
In 2018 I wrote here about the heroic effort to save, protect and revitalize the Castro Adobe. The effort is now nearly finished, and it is worth a visit.
The home’s features include the large fandango room on the second floor — a key part of Californio life — and the cocina, one of only five original Mexican kitchens left in the state.
Like many California adobes, the Castro Adobe is more than just an architectural curiosity. Dig a little and you will find the drama of California history.
Original owner José Joaquín Castro and his family were ruined trying to defend their land title during the 1860s and 1870s. Their frustrations were well-known and documented in the historical record.
In 1872, rumors spread that José Joaquín’s grandson, José, had aided in a stagecoach robbery. The leader of the gang of robbers was none other than the bandit Tiburcio Vásquez.
Word soon got around that Castro had sought vengeance against the Anglo-American population. An angry crowd soon seized young José and lynched him. Vigilante justice was served.
Or so it would seem. Interviewed before his own execution two years later, Tiburcio Vásquez confessed to the heist. But he also exonerated Castro. “Jose Castro was an innocent man. He was caught and hanged by the Vigilantes for the robbery, but he had nothing to do with it whatever. He is dead now, and I speak the truth and do justice to him.”
By restoring the Castro family adobe, perhaps a little of their legacy has also been restored, 150 years later.