Charlie (Castro) Kieffer Named ‘Community Hero’

November 26, 2014

Charlie Kieffer, a Friends’ board member who serves our organization in many, many ways, was named a Community Hero by the United Way of Santa Cruz County this month.

We’re very proud of Charlie and grateful for all he does for our local parks, especially here at the Castro Adobe, where he can often be spotted giving a tour.  Charlie became a docent at Wilder Ranch State Park in 1989 and fell in love with state parks.

Charlie is the Chair of Friends’ Castro Adobe committee and serves on our Mission Adobe committee – perfect fits since he is a direct descendant of the Castro family that came to California 1775 with the Anza Expedition out of Mexico, and whose family was also one of the 15 founding families of San Jose in 1777.

Charlie has been an active volunteer in Santa Cruz County for many years. The long list of organizations that have benefitted from Charlie’s participation include the Museum of Art and History, Friends of Longs Marine Lab, the Optimist Club, SCOPE, and the Boy Scouts of America. Charlie is a proud member of “Los Californianos”, an organization whose members must be of Hispanic heritage and whose family must have arrived in “Alta California” prior to 1848.

Charlie is a retired businessman and former owner of Santa Cruz Mattress and Upholstery Co., and served three years in the Army as a member of the 101st Airborne Paratroopers Division.


First Annual Castro Dinner Celebrated

November 16, 2014

The first annual Castro Adobe Stewardship Dinner was held Nov. 15 at the Kimbro House. The sold-out event honored Castro Adobe stewards Edna & Joe Kimbro and Jim Toney, three preservation visionaries who worked tirelessly to save the Castro Adobe as a unique community asset while building support for a future State Historic Park to be enjoyed for generationsto come.

The afternoon event began in the newly restored Potter-Church Garden at the Castro Adobe. Guests mingled while Gonzalo Rodriguez performed on the harp. Later, the reception moved to the Kimbro House, the planned to be the future home of the State Park’s Visitor Center and the Edna Kimbro archives.

Fred Keeley acted as Master of Ceremonies and several people spoke while Monterey Bay Caterers served a rancho-themed meal. Sharing their thoughts on the preservation and restoration of the Castro Adobe were Charlie Kieffer, a Castro family descendant; Tony Crosby, a preservation architect who specializes in earthen architecture; Bonny Hawley, executive director of Friends of Santa Cruz State Park; and Charlene Duval, a public historian who serves as chair of the Kimbro House Committee.

The event concluded with a special video from 1988 featuring Edna Kimbro discussing and reflecting on her overall vision for the property. Friends is thankful for everyone who attended the event or helped make the dinner possible.

We look forward to making this event a tradition by which to recognize stewards of the Castro Adobe while updating on progress made as we move forward in opening Santa Cruz County’s newest State Park!


Living History!

September 8, 2014

We recently had an exciting visit from John Rocha Jr. who had worked on the Castro Adobe in 1938-39!

John, now 96, worked on the roof of the Castro Adobe when he was 20 years old. At that time the property was owned by Frank Mello, a local farmer who also operated a small dairy on the surrounding acreage. Frank Mello was one of the early stewards of the historic adobe building and continued to work on restoring the building into the early 1940s. John Jr. and his father John, both local dairymen, were asked by Mello to help install a metal roof on the adobe.

During his visit to the Castro Adobe on July 31, John shared many recollections about the poor condition of the building back in the 1930s, including a very muddy floor due to water leaking from the damaged roof. He said they installed a corrugated metal roof directly over the deteriorated shingle roof. He recalled that Mello owned an apple orchard across from the Castro Adobe and workers in the orchard would sleep under the balcony of the adobe. He also remembered eating his lunch in the nearby Hansen house, which was built after the 1906 earthquake.

John found his name etched into the wall of the second floor along with some other familiar names including Joe Simas, who also helped repair the roof in 1938-39, and Alice Rocha, John’s sister. We’re thrilled John Rocha Jr. came out to share his memories with us, and we are always looking for more information and recollections of the Castro Adobe.

If you know anyone who worked at, lived in or has historic photographs of the building or site, please contact us.


Bird Bath Added to Potter-Church Garden

July 15, 2014

A new St. Francis bird bath has been installed in the recently restored Potter-Church Garden.  A bird bath was originally installed in the garden about 1972 but was later stolen from the site.

The St. Francis bird bath forms the centerpiece of the garden within a circular planter. Using historic photos as a guide, a similar bird bath was purchased and restored to its location which is surrounded by Japanese anemones and Bearded irises.

— Jessica Kusz, Castro Adobe Project Manager


Castro Adobe Featured in New Michael Schwab Art

July 1, 2014

Beloved graphic artist Michael Schwab, creator of iconic park image such as the Golden Gate National Park illustration, has created a new series of artwork featuring Santa Cruz County State Parks. His new Adobe Series features the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, the only remaining building of Mission Santa Cruz, and the Castro Adobe, which is poised to become the newest State Historic Park in California.

The illustration was revealed at an open house at the Castro Adobe on June 7. It is available as a fine art print, as well as on posters, coffee mugs, magnets and T-shirts. Some merchandise is sold in Friends’ online ParkStore. The ParkStore at the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park carries posters, notecards, mugs, magnets, men’s and women’s t-shirts, and sweatshirts. The ParkStore at Seacliff also has Castro Adobe shirts, posters and mugs.


Castro Open House Draws a Crowd

June 16, 2014

The Castro Adobe, an active construction site rarely accessible to the public, was opened June 7 for a 2-hour public open house. Visitors were able to tour the historic site, including the cocina and the recently restored Potter-Church Garden.

Historian and Castro family descendant Charlie Kieffer shared stories and the new Michael Schwab illustration of the Castro Adobe was revealed.  Did you miss the open house? The Castro Adobe is accessible currently by appointment only. To make an appointment, call 831- 429-1840 or email.


Historic Resources Commission Applauds Castro Adobe Restoration Effort

May 14, 2014

The Santa Cruz County Historic Resources Commission named California State Parks and Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks as award recipients for their work “preserving the history of the Mexican Rancho Period in Santa Cruz County.”  The Commission honored the Castro Adobe and Friends’ work at its Landmark Awards Celebration on May 3.

The Castro Adobe was purchased by California State Parks a dozen years ago. In 2007, in partnership with State Parks, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks managed and funded the construction of 2,500 adobe bricks used for reconstruction and subsequent seismic stabilization. Friends undertook the restoration of the Castro Adobe in order to preserve and interpret for the public the only remaining building of the Rancho era in the Pajaro Valley.  The public is welcome to attend an Open House at the Castro Adobe on Saturday, June 7 from 12-2 p.m. The event will offer visitors a rare chance to explore the Castro Adobe and surrounding property, as well as meet artist Michael Schwab, who will be unveiling his latest Santa Cruz State Parks illustrations, the Adobe SeriesClick here for more information about the event.


Planting at the Potter-Church Garden

March 13, 2014

The landscape contractors crew installed trees, dozens of shrubs, perennials and vines at the Potter-Church Garden this week. Following the detailed restoration plan, the plantings will include Meyer lemon, Haas avocado, apricot and loquat trees as well as a multitude of hybrid tea roses, lilac, yarrow, foxglove, Chinese forget-me-not, Shasta daisy, lemon verbena, Japanese anemone, several types of daylily, poppies, irises, nasturtium and daffodils.  Some of the vegetation will be in planters near the building but most plants will be installed in the ground as per the restoration plan. The next step is to install the irrigation for the garden The garden work should be mostly complete in just over two weeks.


Garden update: Plants delivered, walking paths created

March 7, 2014

Spring is in the air at the Potter-Church Garden. The crew amended the soil this week to prepare the ground for planting and worked to restore the pathways of the garden. The paths, made of decomposed granite, are defined by metal borders. Plants were delivered Wednesday. Next week, the landscape contractor comes to the site to “place” the plants and then Laura Livingston will begin digging the holes to insert the plants.


California State Parks Foundation comes to the Castro Adobe

January 25, 2014

Members of the California State Parks Foundation visited the Castro Adobe in January. The field trip, part of a meeting the Foundation held in Santa Cruz, gave members a chance to tour the Adobe and see first-hand the restoration in progress at the property.