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Pio Pico Adobe to Reopen After Renovation

September 20, 2003|Jose Cardenas | Times Staff Writer

It was battered by two earthquakes and closed for almost two decades, but the Whittier adobe house built by the last governor of Mexican California will reopen today as a state park.

Over the last two years, officials have spent more than $5 million to restore the 22-room Pio Pico Adobe and its landscaping to their original state.

The adobe, which once dominated 9,000 acres of ranchland and vineyards, now is surrounded by homes, gas stations and a freeway.

"Everything else has been developed," said Fred Andrews, an interpreter with the state Department of Parks and Recreation. "It's just a little piece of Pio Pico's past that is right here in the middle of Los Angeles."

Pio de Jesus Pico IV was born in the San Gabriel Mission in 1801. He rose from poverty to become one of the state's richest men, owning more than 500,000 acres. He served as governor first in 1832 and again from 1845 to 1848, when Mexico surrendered California to the United States.

The adobe site became a state park in 1929. But the building was closed after the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, and the five acres that makes up the rest of the park was closed two years ago.

Each room in the refurbished adobe features a theme. One focuses on the personal life of Pico and is dominated by a portrait of Pico, who was of Mexican, Spanish, Native American, African and Italian heritage.

Other exhibits include clothes worn by Pico and his wife, tools from the ranch and original wine barrels. Portions of some walls were left alone to reveal the mud construction of the era.

"The idea is that, in 100 years, our children's children can come and view the park as it is today, so they can learn about our history," Andrews said.

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