Casa de Estudillo
Casa de Estudillo circa 1890. The place was in a terribly dilapidated condition, with the owner having sold off parts of it
In 1937, with "Ramona's Marriage Place" prominently visible. Note the missing cupola.
In 1975 (same view as above), with the cupola restored and "Ramona's Marriage Place" signage removed
Clip from the 1920 Automobile Club of Southern California map No. 482, showing Casa de Estudillo as "Ramona's Marriage Place" in Old Town.
One of the rooms served as a temporary chapel
The bell tower
Portrait of José Antonio Estudillo from about 1830
Of the covers used for Ramona in the last century
Backstory and Context
Meanwhile, the 1884 publication of Ramona, a novel set in Southern California which painted a romanticized portrait of Californio life, generated a nationwide interest in the region. This, combined with the opening of the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railway lines (and the ensuing rate war, which drove prices down to as low as $1 from St. Louis, Missouri to Los Angeles), meant that hordes of tourists made their way to Southern California to see the locations in the novel. Unfortunately, Jackson died in 1885 without ever having disclosed what the actual locations in the novel were, which caused a great deal of speculation.
In 1887, a front page article of the San Diego Union declared the Estudillo home to be "Ramona's Marriage Place", saying, "To sleepy Old Town (the house) is known as the Estudillos, but the outside world knows it as the marriage place of 'Ramona.'" This was despite Jackson never having visited the house, but in the novel, Ramona was married in a "long, low adobe building which had served no mean purpose in the old Presidio days, but was now fallen in decay; and all its rooms, except those occupied by the Father, had been long uninhabited". Despite the novel being a work of fiction, visitors flocked to the building thinking it was the actual location of Ramona's marriage. To be clear, the Union did not simply invent this story; a tourist had already scratched the name "Alessandro" (Ramona's husband in the novel) in one of the walls. The caretaker decided to capitalize on the attendant publicity and began selling off pieces of the house as souvenirs. Naturally, the building's condition began to deteriorate rapidly.
"The Estudillo Family", The Journal of San Diego History 15:1 (1969) by Sister Catherine McShane
Biography from San Diego Historical Society from Smythe's History of San Diego (1907).
Niemann, Greg (2006). Palm Springs Legends: creation of a desert oasis. San Diego, CA: Sunbelt Publications.
Lech, Steve (2004). Along the Old Roads: A History of the Portion of Southern California that became Riverside County: 1772–1893. Riverside, CA.
California Pioneer Register and Index, 1542—1848
José Romero papers. Archival material. Abstract: "Report, 16 January 1824, to Antonio Narbona from Palm Springs, on his activities in Alta California, and on the expedition undertaken with José María Estudillo to locate a trail to the Colorado River, and on the conditions that forced them to return to the Cahuilla Indian ranchería." University of California Library, Berkeley.
DeLyser, Dydia (2005). "Ramona's Marriage Place". Ramona Memories: Tourism and the Shaping of Southern California. University of Minnesota Press.
"Home of Ramona: Cover". Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society.