ABOUT THIS EVENT: 150 years ago, El Ranchito,–the home of Don Pio Pico, California’s last governor under Mexican rule–stood in all its glory on the banks of the San Gabriel River, offering gracious hospitality to countless souls.
The mansion contained 33 rooms, all with the richest and most elegant of furnishings, among them a $12,000 piano in a wonderful carved case, which was carried around Cape Horn. On the upper floor was a great ballroom, where Don Pio’s friends and business associates often gathered to dance and converse.
From hundreds of miles around the guests came, by horseback and clumsy, ox-drawn carretas. Their talk and laughter filled the house and the spacious patio, with its red brick paving, its central well and its famous black fig tree. Some especially favored guests were sent home with supplies of black figs, Pio Pico’s favorite fruit.
Twice, El Ranchito was flooded, and twice Pio Pico rebuilt. Of the original 33 rooms, only 16 remain. The vineyard and gardens are long gone. California came under American rule. Pio Pico died, penniless, in 1894. In 1907 his friend Harriet Russell Strong saved the adobe from demolition and began to restore it. In 1914, she gave the compound to the State of California, to be maintained for the education and enjoyment of the people. The State has restored the adobe three times: in 1946, 1968 and 2000.
But only 2000 people visited Pio Pico’s adobe in 2011, and this low attendance has put El Ranchito on the list of state parks marked for closure on July 1. In hopes of avoiding this sad shuttering, the Friends of Pio Pico non-profit is raising money in the community, and collecting cans and bottles for recycling.
We urge you to join us for a guided tour of this important historic home while it still remains open to the public, as was the wish of Harriet Russell Strong and in keeping with the communal spirit of Pio Pico himself.