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Calendar >  Rancho Buena Vista Adobe – Vista’s Best Kept Secret

Rancho Buena Vista Adobe – Vista’s Best Kept Secret

By   /  March 31, 2015  /  2 Comments


TR Robertson


The third in the series about the adobes in and around Vista centers on the Rancho Buena Vista Adobe. This 163 year old adobe, located next to Buena Vista Creek,  is the best preserved of the more than 25 original “Ranchos” in San Diego County. Many consider this to be the finest preserved, authentic early California home still in existence today. The adobe is located at 640 Alta Vista Drive and owned by the City of Vista. It is a single-story, 4,189 square foot structure sitting on 1.9 acres.

Maintenance of the adobe is carried out by the City of Vista and the education of the public about the adobe and early California life is carried out by The Friends of the Rancho Buena Vista Adobe. Under the leadership of outgoing President Ruth Greene, President-Elect Jan Zelasko and City of Vista Rancho Buena Vista Recreation Coordinator Margie White, plus 35 active volunteers, the history and education of the public continues. The Friends serve as docents, tour guides, special events assistants, and running the gift shop. They also assist with the teaching of a hands-on history curriculum, referred to as Adobe Days at the Rancho, on early California life to third and fourth graders. One of the major projects The Friends takes on is the acquisition and restoration of period piece furniture for the adobe. For more information about volunteering call 760-941-7639 or e mail info@RanchoBuenaVistaAdobe.com . If you are interested in assisting with Adobe Days call 760-639-6164.

Photos by TR Robertson

The history of life in this area goes back over 200 years when the Luisenos and Dieguenos Indians were the main tribes living here. In 1769, explorer Gasper de Portola, and his Spaniards, were the first Europeans to make contact with the tribes. By 1798, Missionaries of the Franciscan order had established Mission San Luis Rey. The Missionaries were intent on promoting Christianity to the tribes and teaching them farming and raising cattle techniques. Between 1834–1836, Pio Pico, the Mexican governor of this area, oversaw the break-up of the San Luis Rey land. The original Buena Vista land grant of 1,184 acres was issued in 1845 by Gov. Pio Pico to Felipe Subria, a Luiseno Indian. Mexican law recognized Native Americans as citizens, and some small land grants were awarded to Christianized Native Californians. Felipe would erect a small adobe and a three-sided barn for his horses.  He would also raise cattle and sheep as well as a garden. Felipe’s daughter, Maria La Gracia would marry William Dunn in 1851, and they would stay for a while to help with the rancho. By 1852, Dunn deeded the property to Jesus Machedo for $3,000.

Machedo would construct the first irrigation system for the rancho and constructed the first of many of the rooms that are still part of the Rancho Buena Vista Adobe. Machedo would sell the rancho to Lorenzo Soto in 1854 and Soto would sell the property to Cave Johnson Couts in 1866. Couts also owned the Guajome Adobe. The adobe would be sold several more times through the years until 1989 when the final private owners, Mr. and Mrs. Rudd Schoeffel, would sell the property to the City of Vista. One of the major changes the Schoeffel’s made to the adobe was moving the driveway entrance off of Escondido Ave. (now Civic Center Drive) to Alta Vista. They would purchase an old Alcohol Beverage Control building in Salt Lake City to acquire 80,000 bricks which would be used to construct the current driveway. 60,000 of these bricks would be used. They also built an additional guesthouse that is now used for the Adobe Gallery. On July 10, 1989, the Vista City Council voted to approve the purchase of the adobe for $1 million, with a loan of $2,150,000. The city proposed to use the venue for weddings and other events to help offset the cost of maintenance. A small flower garden, with a once working windmill, leads to a bridge over the creek that connects the adobe acreage to Wildwood Park.

Today, the Rancho Buena Vista Adobe is extensively used for tours, educational school trips, special events, weddings, visit’s to the art gallery and gift shop. Tours are available Thursday through Saturday, from 10 am until 3 pm. Cost is $3 for Vista residents and seniors, $4 for non-residents, $1 for students. For special events/weddings tables and chairs are available for rent. Event bookings can be made by contacting Santos Callejas at 760-643-5268 or Kim Crawford at 760-643-5275. This is handled through the Vista Parks and Recreation Department.

The Adobe Gift Shop, La Tiendita (The Little Shop), has many varied handcrafted items and books concerning early history of this area. The Art Gallery is open from 10 am to 3 pm, Thurs. through Saturday. Each month the art gallery features artwork by various local and regional artists. Roughly 20 Trained docents lead the adobe tours and point out many of the 4,100 historic items in the collection. The Adobe’s Acquisitions and Restorations Committee assists in the purchase and cataloging of the historical items. They also assist with mending and repairing items at the adobe and items acquired. Assisting in this is the Rancho Buena Vista Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

This beautiful, historic facility is a Vista treasure. Everyone in Vista should at some point stop in to see one or all of the adobes in our area. Each adobe is different and offers a different perspective of early life in California. One thing they all have in common is the need for assistance through volunteering or donations. Becoming a Friend of the Rancho Buena Vista Adobe, working as a docent or volunteering in some other way would be a great way for local citizens to learn more about their community, where it started and how it has grown.






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  • Published: 9 years ago on March 31, 2015
  • By:
  • Last Modified: March 31, 2015 @ 9:16 pm
  • Filed Under: Travel


  1. Nancy Montgomery says:

    Very accurate and interesting article by Mr. Robertson.

    I’m happy to see this subject being written about, and hope it will inspire others to visit the facility…………..and volunteer to serve at this beautiful historic site.
    Thank you for publishing this story.

    Nancy Montgomery
    Docent, Rancho Buena Vista Adobe

  2. cindy goodger says:

    Thank you for writing about this local gem! The Rancho Buena Vista Chapter of the DAR is very active at the adobe, not only in the historic preservation of artifacts, and decorating for the holidays each year, but also assisting with the gardens! The antique rose collection is amazing- many dating back to the early 1800’s. The native plant garden section is a favorite for school groups learning about CA History. The adobe is a wonderful place to visit, volunteer, and learn about our heritage.

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