MONTEREY — This month you can get an insider's look at California's most historic city. April 29 is the date of Monterey's 42nd annual Adobe Tour, when many buildings of the city's Spanish and Mexican eras will be open to the public.
On the self-guided walking tour you can view the interiors of 25 adobes that have been preserved over the decades. Among them is the 150-year-old Larkin House that originated the Monterey-Colonial style of architecture.
Special attractions include antique furniture, as well as clothing worn by Monterey residents in the 1800s. Early wardrobes will be on exhibit at the Pacific House and Doud House.
Other highlights are an outdoor breakfast and formal afternoon tea, plus an optional garden lunch and a wine and cheese party. A free trolley service will operate all day along the main tour route.
Another Kind of Tour
Even if you aren't able to join the Adobe Tour, visitors can tour Old Monterey by following a Path of History map to three dozen sites. Among them are nine adobes and other vintage buildings that are part of Monterey State Historic Park.
Near Fisherman's Wharf at Monterey's scenic waterfront is Custom House Plaza, where the park's visitor center is in the Pacific House. Used for military offices and storage when it was built in 1847, the two-story building houses a museum of California history and Indian artifacts.
At Pacific House you can buy a ticket for admission to six state park adobes, including four that feature guided tours on the hour (except at lunch time). Adults pay $3.50, children 6 through 17 pay $2.
Also pick up a "Path of History" brochure to guide you around Old Monterey; round blue markers on the sidewalks show the route and street signs identify all the historic sites.
Fine Mud Brick House
Most recently restored is the Cooper-Molera Adobe, a multi-building complex at the south end of Alvarado Street. The main two-story structure was the finest mud brick house in town when it was built in 1850. On the stair banister's newel post, look for the deed button, a circle of abalone shell indicating that the mortgage has been paid.
Elsewhere in the furnished home is an income tax notice for 1863, when the tax rate was 3%. Tours are given between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.; closed 1 to 2 p.m. and Wednesdays.
Author Robert Louis Stevenson once lived nearby on Houston Street when he came to Monterey in 1879 to woo his future wife. At the time of his visit, the now famous Scot was unknown and sickly and could only afford one meal a day.
Mementos of his life are displayed in several rooms of the Stevenson House, open for hourly tours except noon to 1 p.m., and Wednesdays.
A New Word in Architecture
The hip roof, balcony and veranda that Thomas Larkin built on his house in the 1830s started a building design that gave the word Monterey to the architectural world. Many original family items decorate the interior of the Larkin House, which you can tour except noon to 1 p.m. and Tuesdays; go to the corner of Calle Principal and Jefferson Street.
Monterey style also is evident at the smaller Casa Soberanes that's behind a blue gate in a peaceful garden at Pacific Street and Del Monte Avenue. Its first owner was the commander of Monterey's Presidio, but the adobe is named for the Soberanes family that lived there from 1860 to 1922. Closed 1 to 2 p.m. and Thursdays.
Farther south on Pacific Street, across an expanse of lawn, you'll see an imposing building that's stone instead of adobe and resembles New England architecture rather than Monterey style. Its portico is flanked by twin outside staircases that lead to the second floor, where California's constitutional convention was held in 1849.
Colton Hall was the state's first public building, erected with convict labor and financed in part by taxes on liquor shops and fines paid by gamblers. It served as the county courthouse, then a school, and now is a museum of city history. Visitors are welcome daily without charge from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Not far from Colton Hall you can eat in an adobe that dates to 1841 and is part of Monterey State Historic Park. Enjoy Mexican fare indoors or in the courtyard at Casa Gutierrez, on Calle Principal near Madison Street.
Back near the waterfront, also visit Custom House, Casa del Oro, the Whaling Station and California's First Theater.
If you come to Monterey for the April 29 Adobe Tour, tickets cost $10, students $7; no charge for children under 12. Lunch is an additional $3.50, the wine and cheese party $2.50.
Tickets for the 10 a.m.-5 p.m. tour can be bought in advance from its nonprofit sponsor, the Monterey History and Art Assn. Phone (408) 372-2608, or write to P.O. Box 805, Monterey 93942.
On the day of the tour, tickets will be available at Pacific House, where a baker's breakfast (pastries, orange juice and coffee) will be offered in the Memory Garden from 9 to 10 a.m.
Other Ticket Sites
You also can buy a tour ticket at Larkin House, the Allen Knight Maritime Museum, Casa Serrano, site of the tea party from 1 to 5 p.m., and Cooper-Molera Adobe, where wine, cheese and musical entertainment will be offered from 1 to 4 p.m.
The Junior League will serve lunch in the shady garden of the Old Whaling Station between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Other events celebrating the Adobe Tour are an arts and crafts and antique show along Alvarado Street, a display of art needlework at the House of Four Winds, and the Central Coast Garden Show that runs three days at the Monterey County Fairgrounds.
For information about lodgings and restaurants, visit the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce in the 1849 Jacinto Rodriguez Adobe at 380 Alvarado St. Or call (408) 649-1770.
Get to Monterey from Los Angeles by driving north on Interstate 101 and joining California 68 at Salinas. Round trip is 635 miles.