Schedule a field trip to the Castro Adobe

September 28, 2016


A visit to the Castro Adobe in Watsonville immerses students in our community’s story from the heyday of the vaquero to the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Hands-on, sensory experiences bring more than a century of history to life, while guided investigations of students’ own inquiries make learning personally relevant. You don’t need to leave the Pájaro Valley to touch a real adobe and connect with California’s colorful past.

The free tours are 2.5 hours long and offer curriculum that supplements teaching of third grade (local history) and fourth grade (California history) content standards. Email Interpreter Joseph Carr Ritchie or call 831-226-9669 to schedule a visit.

Learn more about field trips to local State Parks and Beaches. 

Steel support beam installed at Castro Adobe

May 17, 2016

After years of planning, design modifications, site preparation and funding procurement, the steel beam which will support the second floor was installed on Friday, May 13.

The beam was carefully brought into the building and inserted underneath the second floor joists by Sea Berg Metal Fabricators, Inc. The steel beam was cranked and lifted into the place, running the entire length of the adobe building.

Everyone on the site was ecstatic at the install of the beam and emotions ran high as the beam, so long in the planning, was finally installed. A long-term goal of the Castro Adobe renovations is to increase access for all. The beam strengthens the second floor of the historic structure, making it possible for a larger number of visitors to go upstairs.

This picture doesn’t do it justice. Come see the beam for yourself at the next Open House Day , 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, June 11.

Hand-crafted ‘Californio’ saddle debuts at Castro Adobe

May 10, 2016

A custom replica 19th Century “Californio” saddle was unveiled at Castro Adobe State Historic Park during the April open house event.

San Juan Bautista State Historic Park docent John Grafton crafted the period-specific saddle especially for the Castro Adobe. He attended the open house to demonstrate the materials, tools and techniques he used, and visitors got to try their hand at leather-working with him.

Much like the Castro family who built the adobe, John Grafton has made cattle a way of life. His childhood and early career took him to ranches throughout the West—of both North and South America. During and after a later career in law enforcement, John developed a relationship with California State Parks as a docent specializing in hands-on demonstrations of the horse culture of early California.

He currently volunteers at San Juan Bautista State Historic Park, where he does blacksmithing, leather and rawhide work, and woodworking — and combines these activities with interpretation of the material and social culture of the early Californios. Grafton said he started volunteering at Sutters Fort in Sacramento and, when the park’s administration learned he had a background in ranching, he was encouraged to create an interpretation of a Californio saddle.

“That has led me to research and attempt to make accurate representations of the early Californio saddle, and the Castro Adobe saddle is my latest effort in this ongoing project,” Grafton said.“May it serve to increase our understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of our Californio heritage. ”

The saddle was commissioned by an enthusiastic supporter of the park who said, “I’m very pleased to donate it to the Castro Adobe organization…. (I feel) it is important for visitors to have a visual sense of an early California saddle from the era of the Castro Adobe. Saddles have changed through the years to meet various needs, but aspects of our early California saddles remains the same.”

Basics of saddle:

  • Tree – hand carved out of Douglas Fir wood.
  • Stirrups – hand carved from local oak wood.
  • Leather Coverings – all have an individual purpose. All imprinted by hand made tools with floral and geometric motifs known in the mid-1800s era.

Spring will bring two more opportunities for the public to visit the Castro Adobe and view the saddle — as well as the restored cocina (kitchen), Potter-Church garden and more. Join us for “A Founding Family of California,” the story of the Castros’ arrival in California as told from the perspective of Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza, 11 a.m. to noon, Saturday, May 21. The next Castro open house event will focus on life at the adobe after the Castros. The park will open for “The Castro Adobe in the 20th Century” from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, June 11.

Hal Hyde Donates Antique Faro Table to Friends

April 6, 2016

Friends wishes to thank Harold “Hal” Hyde of Corralitos for the generous donation of an antique solid mahogany Faro Table for our collection at the Kimbro House at the Castro Adobe State Historic Park.

“Faro was the most popular card game in the Old West… much more popular than poker because it was amazingly easy to play and odds for winning were the best of all gambling games,” according to the Sharlot Hall Museum. “Nary a saloon in the West was without it between 1825 and 1915…Because the game generally moved fast, it was very easy to cheat.”

The table donated by Mr. Hyde reportedly “came around the horn” in 1868 before completion of the transcontinental railroad. It was used from 1875-1925 at the Five Mile House Saloon at the northeast corner of Corralitos Road and Freedom Boulevard (then the Santa Cruz/Watsonville Highway). The Five Mile House served customers from all over the area and was possibly a stage stop. The saloon was about a mile from the Castro Adobe as the crow flies.

The table was purchased by Mr. Hyde’s parents, Harold A. Hyde, Sr. and Fern Kilburn Hyde, around 1925 after they saw it on a back platform at the saloon. After the elder Mr. Hyde’s untimely death in 1926, Mrs. Hyde used the table in her homes in Watsonville and Berkeley. It was then given to their son, Mr. Hyde, who used it at various locations — including for many years at his Corralitos home and as a conference table in his office at UCSC where he was the first Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance at the university.

In addition to helping to found UCSC, the younger Mr. Hyde helped establish Cabrillo College, the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, the Cultural Council and the UCSC Arboretum.

Friends is so honored by his gift of this family treasure. We also would like to thank his daughter, Marilyn Hyde, for helping to facilitate this wonderful donation to Friends. One interesting feature of the Faro table design is a special cut-out area where the dealer sat.

We look forward to telling the story of this fascinating table to the public and learning more about the history of this kind of entertainment in the area. Was Faro played at the infamous Fandango dances held at the Castro Adobe?

This blog post was written by Bonny Hawley, executive director, Friend of Santa Cruz State Parks.

Open House Days begin with Romance on the Rancho

January 28, 2016

The Castro Adobe State Historic Park will be open to the public six Saturdays in 2016. Admission is free with donations to support the park gratefully accepted. Located in Larkin Valley, near Watsonville, the two-story Castro Adobe, built between 1848-49, is one of the finest examples of a rancho hacienda in the Monterey Bay area.

Open House visitors will be able to tour the property including the restored cocina (kitchen) and the Potter-Church Garden. The garden is a unique outdoor space originally created by then-owners Elizabeth and David Potter (1968-72), in consultation with noted landscape architect Thomas Church.

Each open house will be themed to highlight an aspect of the historic property. The Open House Days begin Feb. 20 with “Romance on the Rancho.” Enjoy traditional hot chocolate, make tortillas, stroll through the historic garden and more.

Future dates include: April 23: Vaqueros y Banditos (Cowboys and Bandits), June 11: Castro Adobe in the 20th Century, Aug. 13: Evening at the Adobe, Oct. 15: Earthquakes and the Adobe, Dec. 3: Festivos en el Rancho (Holidays at the Rancho). The open houses will be 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the exception of the August evening event.

State Park Interpretive Rangers and Friends’ volunteers will be on hand to offer a “sneak peak” into the restoration process and to assist visitors who would like to enjoy handmade tortillas cooked on the recently reconstructed brasero (stove).

The Castro Adobe is located at 184 Old Adobe Road, north of Watsonville. Parking is extremely limited, so carpooling is encouraged.

Follow us on Instagram

January 4, 2016

Castro Adobe State Historic Park is on Instagram! Follow the posts from State Parks Interpretive Ranger Joseph Carr Ritchie, who started at the Castro in the fall. See the Castro Adobe through eyes of the interpretive team and get the latests photos by following @castroadobe on Instagram.

Also, be sure to tag your Instagram pics with #thatsmypark anytime you visit one of the 34 state parks and beaches in Santa Cruz and coastal San Mateo counties that is supported by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks.

Archaeologist uncovers interesting bits of Castro history

December 11, 2015

As part of the work to install a lift for ADA access and stairs to the second floor, portions of the wood plank floors were removed exposing the soil underneath. State Park Archaeologist, Mark Hylkema, spent two days unearthing artifacts in the dirt floor below the wood floor.

He also exposed the river cobble foundation supporting the historic adobe building. Mark found: shells; bones from bird, deer and fish; ceramic plates; horse tack, metal, old marbles; a shell button; and various parts of glass bottles. The items Mark discovered help with the overall interpretation of the site and a few items may date back to the Castro or Hansen era.

In Memory of Fred Webster

December 1, 2015

On October 11, 2015, after a long struggle with cancer, we lost our dear friend and colleague Fred Webster, the structural engineer on the Castro Adobe project. A founder of The Earthbuilders’ Guild, Fred was a PhD graduate of Stanford University and was well known in engineering and preservation communities. Fred worked on many California heritage properties, including Mission San Miguel, Mission San Luis Rey, Monterey’s San Carlos Cathedral, as well as many other adobe structures in California, the Southwest and around the world. He was one of the principle investigators of the Getty Conservation Institute’s Getty Seismic Adobe Project (GSAP), the results of which are known and utilized internationally.

Fred was also a regular participant in national and international conferences, and the recent conference of EarthUSA dedicated its proceedings to him. Fred Webster was an outstanding engineer, and we were blessed to have a man of such experience and knowledge of adobe structures and seismic strengthening principles involved in our project. We will miss his expertise, dependability, and dedication, but mostly we will miss his smile, interest and engagement in our issues, whether professional or personal, and his patience and openness. Fred Webster was an extraordinary human being and that humanity is what we miss most.

The Family of Fred Webster has requested that those wishing to support the restoration of the Castro Adobe while remembering Fred, may donate to the Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks in his name. Donations can be made online or by check (mail to: Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, 144 School St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060; please indicate “Fred Webster” on the memo line).

Messages of condolence may also be sent to Fred’s family in care of Friends.

Thank You.

Phase 2 Major Construction kicks off

November 16, 2015

The restoration of the Rancho San Andrés Castro Adobe, the focal point of Castro Adobe State Historic Park in Watsonville, reached a new milestone Saturday with the start of Phase 2 Major Construction.

Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and California State Parks have been working together for several years to restore the historic two-story adobe and begin a phased opening of the new State Historic Park. Work done to date includes earthquake repairs constructed using handmade adobe bricks, major seismic stabilization, preservation and restoration of the exterior walls and roof, restoration of the historic cocina (kitchen) and the Potter-Church Garden, and installation of an ADA accessible parking space and pathway to the adobe.

The phased opening of the new State Historic Park began earlier this year with monthly open house days, development of a Castro Adobe Teacher’s Guide and bilingual (English/Spanish) curriculum for school children studying California’s Rancho Period, school field trips for local elementary school students, and the hiring of a new State Park Interpreter dedicated to the Castro Adobe four days per week.

Phase 2 Major Construction kicked off during Saturday’s open house. The work will include construction of new interior stairs to create a larger space for the interpretation of the second floor fandango (dance) room, installation of a lift to make the second story fully accessible to all, final tie-in to the seismic stabilization system, and installation of a structural steel beam to strengthen the second floor, making it accessible to groups of school children and other park visitors.