Pío Pico Adobe
CASA DE GOVERNOR PIO PICO
FOLLOWING THE MEXICAN WAR PIO PICO, LAST MEXICAN
GOVERNOR, ACQUIRED THE 9000 ACRE RANCHO PASO DE
BARTOLO AND BUILT HERE AN ADOBE HOME THAT
EVENTUALLY WAS DESTROYED BY THE FLOODS OF
1883-84. HIS SECOND ADOBE CASA, NOW KNOWN AS
THE MANSION, REPRESENTS A COMPROMISE BETWEEN
MEXICAN AND AMERICAN CULTURE. WHILE LIVING HERE
THE EX-GOVERNOR, WAS ACTIVE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF
CALIFORNIA REGISTERED HISTORICAL
LANDMARK NO. 127
PLAQUE PLACED BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND
RECREATION IN COOPERATION WITH THE CALIFORNIA HISTORICAL
LANDMARKS ADVISORY COMMITTEE, GOVERNOR PICO MANSION
SOCIETY, POPPY TRAIL PARLOR NO. 266, AND WHITTIER
PARLOR No. 298, N.D.G.W., JULY 30, 1966.
External views of the Adobe
Historical displays and exhibits
The Pío Pico Adobe has a wealth of information that is presented
in displays throughout the house. There are display boards containing
biographical data, history of the rancho, quotes from contemporaries, and
vintage photographs, as well as furniture and historical artifacts.
Below is a sample of what you will see and learn when you visit.
Pío de Jesus Pico IV
California's Native Son
Born May 5, 1801 at Mission San Gabriel
Died September 11, 1894 in Los Angeles
The story of Pío Pico spans nearly a century of California
history. Born a poor soldier's son in a frontier Spanish
mission, Pico gained wealth and status as a businessman and
politician in Mexican Era California -- twice rising to serve
as governor of the territory. Pico's power, influence, and
wealth continued after California became part of the United
States. This well-respected Mexican "Don" was an
important leader of his time. It is here at his last home that
much can be learned of this fascinating and sometimes
controversial historic figure.
I was born of the 5th of May 1801, at the San Gabriel
Mission where my father, José Maria Pico, company
corporal of the San Diego garrison, commanded the cavalry.
My father was a native of Fuerte, at that time in the
province of Sinaloa. My mother's name was María
Eustaquia Gutiérrez, a native of San Miguel de
Horcasitas in Sonora
(Pío Pico, Historical Narrative, October 24, 1877 )
Pío Pico's family migrated to Alta California in 1775
with the famed de Anza Expedition. The Pico Family
ancestry was typical of other settlers from the Mexican
frontier whose ethnicity included Spanish, Native American,
and African roots. Although his father was only a soldier,
Pío Pico and his siblings did well in frontier
Mexican California society. His seven sistere married
into prominent families and his two brothers were active
in the military and in politics.
Pío Pico's "El Ranchito"
Rancho Paso de Bartolo Viejo was a thriving 19th Century
ranching community. Pio Pico began acquiring this land,
originally part of the Mission San Gabriel, in 1848. The
smallest of his many landholdings, Don Pío
nicknamed his 8,893 acre ranch "El Ranchito" (the little
ranch). Pico's adobe home was at El Ranchito's center.
North of the adobe (across present-day Whittier Boulevard)
was El Ranchito's Settlement, home to many of Don
pío's workers and their families.
Today, Pío Pico State Historical Park includes only
a few acres of Pico's original rancho. The survival of the
Pico Adobe and the reconstruction of the ranch landscape
offer a glimpse of the past and help us remember people
who came before us.
Water was the life source and an economic commodity
in the success of El Ranchito. Pico used simple brush
dams and unlined ditches (zanjas) to create
an intricate irrigation system throughout his ranch.
Wavy lines on historic maps indicate where river water
was brought to irrigate the fields and orchards of the
dry ranch landscape.
Water was El Ranchito's lifeblood, and obtaining it drove
many to desperate actions. Pico spent large amounts of
time and money in court protecting his water rights. In
one such case, several neighbors...
...were commanded to refrain...from destroying, throwing
down, or in any manner interfering with any dam which (Pico)
may erect in the River San Gabriel on the lands of the "Paso
de Bartolo Viejo" belonging to him...
(Judgement, Pico vs. Cyrus A. Gray and O.R. Parsons, 1859)
The Power of Water
Water was essential at El Ranchito, yet it could also be
destructive. Pico's network of dams and ditches served
well in bringing water to the arid land. It also proved
to be an easy route for overflowing during flood episodes
in 1867 and 1883-84.
...a good deal of land was swept away, and crumbled into
the angry flood, and with it went one wing of the old
Governor's house. The house now stands upon the very
brink of the river, but levees have been built to protect
the banks from further inroads.
(Los Angeles Times, February 12, 1891)
Welcome to the Ball!
Parties, customs, and hospitality of Old California were
legendary throughout the 19th Century. Don Pico
and his family hosted colorful balls (bailes ) with
singing, dancing, and socializing. Such festivities at the
Pico Adobe centered around the parlor (sala) and the
adjoining patio. Pico Americanized his parlor by way of
furnishings, wall coverings, and modern conveniences, but
the hospitality was purely Californio.
There is a nice large parlor - carpeted -, and to
my surprise, a modern piano with a handsome
Rosewood frame and very good tone.
- Eliza Johnson, January 1870
Pío Pico, Businessman
Don Pico was legendary as a man of great wealth and lavish
spending habits. Although land rich, Pico was often cash
poor due to an unstable banking system, risky investments,
and outstanding debts. Pico was noted for his extravagant
lifestyle that included fine clothes, expensive furnishings,
and a fondness for gambling. While his early financial
successes were countered by losses in later years, Pío
Pico was a pioneering entrepreneur in both Mexican and
Pío Pico, Ranchero
Pío Pico once owned more land than any other
individual in Southern California. During the 1850s,
Pico was in possession of the ex-Mission San Fernando
and several ranchos, totaling more than half a million
acres of land.
Like most Californios, Pío Pico suffered greatly
trying to prove legal title to his land as required in
the new American courts. These cases were expensive to
defend and sometimes took decades to clear. Of all the
vast ranch lands that he owned, the Rancho Paso de
Bartolo was the one that Pico held onto the longest
until his final court case was lost, and so was his
home at El Ranchito.
Interior views of the Adobe
The Park Grounds
The Park grounds are being developed to display the types of
activities that would take place on the rancho. There are
areas designated for corrals, crops, orchards, gardens, and
The Pío Pico Adobe is located in Pío Pico State Historic Park,
at Pioneer and Whittier Boulevards, in Whittier. See
Items of Interest...
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