First Shirley and Robert Lorenz were devastated at the sight of what the Northridge earthquake did to their family's 1853 adobe ranch house, a Ventura County historical landmark near Piru.
Now they are devastated by the news they did not get any federal grant money to repair the Camulos Ranch, a sprawling Spanish structure they want to turn into a public museum.
"It's not that they were turned down," said Pam O'Connor, program manager for the Historic Preservation Partnership for Earthquake Repair, which distributed $3.25 million in federal funds to repair historical landmarks damaged by the quake.
"They are still in line for funding, but unfortunately the funds were exhausted before they came up."
O'Connor said the partnership reviewed 24 grant applications and rated them all on a point system. Camulos Ranch was tied for seventh on that list, and the six applications in front of it all received grants.
Knowing her family home was just inches away from a grant gives little comfort to Shirley Lorenz. She still has to put on a hard hat to walk through the adobe, and there is no need to point out damage.
Whole chunks of rooms are gone, crumbled into piles of plaster and dust on wooden floors. Cracks lace out over virtually every wall, exposing wooden framework and handmade adobe bricks. Fireplaces have been reduced to gaping holes.
Wooden braces prop up several sagging walls, and dust thrown into the air from the quake sits thick on the few remaining pieces of furniture. No one would need to read the inspection sign on the door to know the adobe is uninhabitable.
"The adobe has been through a lot of earthquakes before," Lorenz said, looking sadly at the mess. "But I never remember one quite like this. It went in both directions, first east and west, then north and south."
Lorenz's father, August Rubel, bought the ranch in 1924. It was built by Antonio Del Valle on land given to him in 1839 by the Spanish king as a prize for securing the Mexican missions. The complex includes a winery, several adobe homes, a schoolhouse and a wooden chapel.
In the 19th Century, the ranch was known as the Lost Mission because of its chapel, which offered Franciscan priests a spot to worship between the San Fernando and San Buenaventura missions.
Architectural historian and Southwestern adobe expert Edna Kimbro said she was dismayed to learn the Camulos Ranch adobe had been overlooked for funding.
"It is absolutely tragic," Kimbro said. "In all of Ventura there are only seven remaining adobes, all of them significant. But Rancho Camulos doesn't just stand out in Ventura, it is exceptional statewide. It is quite without parallel."
Kimbro helped the Lorenzes write the grants to the Historic Preservation Partnership for Earthquake Repair, a group hastily formed after the Jan. 17 quake. Its members include the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, the Los Angeles Conservancy, the state Office of Historic Preservation and the Getty Conservation Institute, which Kimbro works for.
Both Kimbro and the Lorenzes feel the application process was confusing and poorly handled.
"They just jerked us all over the place," Shirley Lorenz said. "They held us up asking for silly things, they changed rules on us. We feel that it was an uneven playing field."
Two grant applications had to be filed, according to Kimbro, one for technical costs--architects and engineering reports--and one for construction costs. She said she was told the technical grant application had to be approved first. But while the Lorenzes were struggling with that application, others were bypassing the first step and filing both requests at once.
"Some people skipped Go and went right to Park Place," Kimbro said. "We were unaware of that option."
O'Connor said the applications could have been filed concurrently. But by the time the Lorenzes and Kimbro found that out, all but $851,000 of the federal money was gone.
She acknowledged the partnership's rocky start, saying staffing problems and post-earthquake confusion led to most of the money being allocated before all the applications were in. But the partnership's priority was to start repairing historical landmarks as soon as possible, she said.
Kimbro said the original request for federal funds specifically mentioned the damage done to many of Southern California's adobes.
"Now it has mainly been expended on Art Deco buildings from the '20s," she said. "The adobes were used as a pretext for getting the money in the first place. To me that is just unconscionable."
All partnership grants have to be approved by the state Office of Historic Preservation, and Kimbro is hoping officials there will overrule the decision of the partnership.
O'Connor said her group is lobbying hard for more federal funds.
"We have been aggressively communicating with the Park Service," she said. "We're saying to them, look--there are folks out there who still need money, like Camulos Ranch."
Shirley Lorenz is not placing much faith in the possibility of more federal funds turning up for the Northridge disaster.
"There will be some new disaster that comes along soon enough," she said. "They'll need money for that."
Downtown Piru did get one of the grants, which Lorenz said she was grateful for. But her dream of turning her family home into a museum is in danger.
"I know in my heart that this thing will get done," she said. "Maybe not in my lifetime. But so much can be lost in the near future. Those adobes are very fragile. They'll melt away when the rains come."