RLC Adobe - The Courtyard
John Temple, a prosperous merchant in Los Angeles by the time he purchased Rancho Los Cerritos, could well afford to build a grand, Monterey Colonial style casa. As was fashionable for that period, Temple’s adobe combined local building styles with New England style architectural features – drawing inspiration from Thomas Larkin’s fashionable adobe in Monterey (which dates to the 1830s), among others. Built around an inner courtyard, Temple’s adobe was constructed of whitewashed, sun-dried adobe bricks. Its original roof was flat and waterproofed with brea (tar). Its doors, window frames, stairs, and some of the floors were made from redwood imported from Monterey. Other building materials included glass, iron, and fired bricks – for main house windows, door locks, and the backyard terrace, respectively – which were imported from the United States. The work wings included a foreman’s room, a bunk room, and dining room for the ranch workers, plus storage rooms for wood, food, extra furniture, and tools. Cone-shaped windows and a brick chimney indicate that the south wing also included a blacksmith’s shop. The main house had a parlor and dining room downstairs and several bedrooms upstairs, accessible by an indoor staircase. The cooking area was outside. The entire structure was built over two dry seasons, as evidenced by the pattern of interlaced bricks – with a place in each wing where flush walls not interconnected. Visitors can view eight exhibit rooms along the south wing of the adobe, which span the structure’s history as a cattle ranch, a sheep ranch, and a private estate: the foreman’s room and blacksmith shop (cattle ranching, 1840s-50s); the laundry room, furniture storeroom, and food storeroom (sheep ranching, 1860s-70s); and the bedroom, library, and sunporch (private estate, 1930s-40s). Please proceed to your right and continue in a counter-clockwise direction as you explore the courtyard. At the far end of the courtyard, please cross the brick terrace and circle back along the north wing to exit.
Backstory and Context
A typical adobe home in Spanish/Mexican Alta California was a two-room, single-story structure built on a packed earth foundation (looking something like the RLC Visitor Center). Such an adobe had one room for sleeping and another for dining and recreational activities. Each room had a door for access and a window for light, but the rooms were not commonly connected through interior passageways and the windows were not often enclosed with glass. Thick adobe walls provided stability as well as natural air conditioning, and the structure had to be maintained with whitewash to prevent water damage. Additions could be made over time as a family’s needs and resources grew. Temple's adobe, in contrast, included at least twenty rooms!
Monterey Colonial style architecture was popularized during California’s Mexican period (1820s-1840s) by prominent immigrants who sought to combine Spanish Colonial building methods with New England style architectural features. A Monterey Colonial style adobe typically features a second story, a wrap-around porch on each level, and a low-pitch wood roof. Mission Revival style architecture became fashionable at the turn of the twentieth century (1890s-1920s) as architects drew inspiration from California’s romanticized colonial past – and especially its chain of 21 Spanish missions. While examples vary in perspective and materials, Mission Revival buildings are characterized by unadorned white adobe-like walls, red tile roofs, courtyards, and covered walkways.