Category Archives: Mission Hills
If I ever made the mistake of sneezing in front of my grandmother, she would insist I drink some orange juice. It was either citrus immediately, or persistent nagging and then the inevitable surrender to citrus later. The welcoming party from the San Fernando Valley Historical Society (SFVHS) went to the same school of perseverance as my grandmother. But instead of orange juice, they really wanted me to eat a hotdog. “Well if you won’t have a hotdog, at least have some cookies,” they followed.
After it was understood I wanted nothing to do with processed meat and nothing to do with refined sugar, a darling woman named Midge rose from the table to be my guide. She was an 82-year-old Burbank native with a true love for the Andres Pico Adobe. “You know what the best part is?” she asked. With little hesitation, she continued, “We own it. It’s public property. This building belongs to you and me.”
Though Midge was a wonderful tour guide, I will cordially disagree with her. The best part is how the house tells its own history because all of its owners have left a mark. Enslaved Indians of the San Fernando Mission built the original structure in 1834 as a lodge for travelers along the El Camino Real. A man named De Celis moved in and built North and South wings. Soon after, Andres Pico came into ownership. He handed it off to his adopted son, Romulo, who built the second story in 1873. Then a man named Mark Harrington moved in around 1927. Harrington added plumbing.
The SFVHS moved in 1968. They’re my favorite tenant because the adobe now houses all their stuff. It seems they get donations and then just plop them somewhere in the home. There’s a piano, a player piano, an organ, AND a melodeon. There’s a chest filled with belongings of the great bandit, Vasquez, and a pennant from the official opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. There’s a California history research library, a room filled with hats, and we cannot forget, lots of hotdogs.
It’s easy to see this rose garden through this rose colored glasses when standing by the statue of a small Indian boy happily held in the arms of Father Serra, founder of New Spain’s mission chain. Before the garden became a memory, this park was part of the original land grant of the San Fernando Mission. It was given to the city in 1920.
While New England was fighting off Old England, on the other side of the country, the Spanish were enslaving and converting Native Americans. Of the 21 missions that mark the Spanish takeover of California, the San Fernando Mission was built 17th in 1797. The two-story convento not only houses a room devoted entirely to sculptures of the Virgin Mary, but it is the largest adobe building in California. If you don’t feel like taking the historical tour of the grounds (about an hour), it’s just a lovely place to sit down and breathe. For more about the California missions check here: http://www.californiamissions.com/cahistory/background.html