The Reid-Baldwin Adobe Restoration
By Mitchell Hearns Bishop
In 2012 the Arboretum began an emergency stabilization of its oldest historic structure then known as the Hugo Reid Adobe. At that time the earthen building beside Baldwin Lake was fenced off, soil around it graded for drainage, and a scaffolding and shelter erected for additional protection. Today construction is underway to restore the landmark structure to its storied past.
When the restoration is completed in two years, the Adobe will look as it did in 1900 rather than 1840, when Scottish immigrant Hugo Reid acquired title to Rancho Santa Anita and constructed the dwelling. Whether the Reid family actually lived in the Adobe is doubtful. Their permanent residence may have been a two-story house in the vicinity of the San Gabriel Mission, while some records suggest a location near today’s Lacy Park in San Marino.
Ownership of Rancho Santa Anita changed a few times before Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin took up residence at the Adobe in 1875 after he purchased the property. By the beginning of the 20th century, Baldwin lived in an eight-room structure with broad verandas on three sides, a clapboard wing, and distinctive plantings. To reflect Baldwin’s residency at the Adobe, the State Office of Historic Preservation approved the Arboretum’s request to officially recognize the structure as the Reid-Baldwin Adobe.
Meetings are under way now to plan the restoration, funded in 2016 by a $1.7 million grant from the office of former Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. The project team includes the L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation, preservation architect Kelly Sutherlin McLeod, and the Arboretum Foundation and staff.
To reflect the Adobe’s Territorial style of architecture with characteristic windows, doors and peaked roofs, a new pitched roof will replace the existing flat one. Thus it is important to understand the capability of the existing walls to carry the load of the new roof. Verandas, 11 feet wide, will wrap around all but the Lake side of the Adobe. The verandas, like those at the nearby Queen Anne Cottage, provided a pleasant place to relax and shelter from the sun on a warm day or to enjoy being outdoors in mild winter weather.
A plan for the gardens around the Adobe is yet to be established but will be based on historic photographs of the landscape of that era. Similarly, plans for the interior have not been established at this time. The Adobe will be accessible for the disabled under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In roughly two years, the newly restored Reid-Baldwin Adobe will provide a new window into important chapters of California history from the early rancho era to Baldwin’s years in the San Gabriel Valley.
“The restoration of the Adobe is a milestone in historical preservation and education at the Arboretum,” said Richard Schulhof, Arboretum CEO.
Mitchell Hearns Bishop is Curator of Historical Collections at the Arboretum.