When most people think of Nipomo, they think of either fields of strawberries or a round of golf on one of the community’s three major courses. But Nipomo also has a rich history.
Two important historic events took place in Nipomo.
In 1837, Capt. William Goodwin Dana built an adobe that is a historical landmark and is becoming a major cultural center. A century later, photographer Dorothea Lange captured an iconic image of the Great Depression with her shot of a worried migrant farmworker mother with her children.
Marina Washburn, director of the Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos, believes that the adobe plays an important role in the cultural life of Nipomo because it is a potent reminder of one of the county’s earliest times — the rancho era when the county was a vast, undeveloped pastoral domain.
“Just like Captain Dana was an entrepreneur, the Dana Adobe is becoming a destination that is putting Nipomo back on the map. What we are offering here is not found anywhere else,” she said.
Since Dana’s day, Nipomo has become a vibrant residential and agricultural area with a quaint Olde Towne and its famous Jocko’s Steak House.
Plans are in the works to convert the adobe and 130 acres of surrounding land into a cultural center and park. The Dana Adobe Amigos have secured a $3 million state grant and hope to have the work done by the end of 2016.
Three thousand people visit the adobe annually, with 1,200 of them schoolchildren. The size of the park is important because it protects the views surrounding the adobe.
“It really gives you a feel for what it was like 175 years ago,” Washburn said.
The inside of the adobe is already finished. Now, the Amigos are moving on developing the other parts of the property, including a visitors’ center.
Washburn grew up in Nipomo and jumped at the opportunity to head the adobe and its restoration. She can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“It’s exciting to think that what I am creating will be here in perpetuity,” she said.