Atop a hill above San Luis Obispo High School, secluded from view, a historic adobe owned by the city has been left to crumble in disrepair.
An effort is now being made to save the La Loma Adobe on Lizzie Street from collapse.
The two-story adobe is one of four city-owned adobes and is in the worst condition. It was donated to the city in 1995 by the Bowden family but has been unoccupied since 1953.
For years, vandals have added to the weight of neglect, leaving the building, which dates to the late 1800s, littered with garbage and graffiti despite a fence the city put around the perimeter to try and protect it from intruders.
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Funding to preserve the adobe has never been a city priority, but $110,200 in Community Development Block Grant money has been set aside in the past few years to make sure the adobe is at least stabilized. “We have been working on this issue for 15 years,” said Bob Vessely, a local structural engineer and member of the Friends of Las Casas de Adobe. “The city’s hands have been tied in many respects because they don’t have the money themselves or the extra staff to try and find other sources of funding.”
Vessely recently donated his time to draft a plan to stabilize the historic structure.
“I have a lot of respect and admiration for these old buildings,” Vessely said. “If the city had to wait until sufficient funds for engineering were available, it would be years if not decades before anything was done.”
The first phase of work, completed in April, included securing the structure’s doors and windows and patching holes to keep vandals out.
Steel rods were also installed inside the adobe to provide structural support and stop the walls from spreading apart and collapsing.
The next phase of work, currently out to bid, will repair two exterior wall sections that have partially collapsed.
City staff had originally hoped that the leaning walls, which have been badly damaged by erosion and poor drainage, could be made upright by pushing them together. However, because of the extent of the damage, parts of the walls must be rebuilt, said Mike McGuire, city engineer.
Surplus adobe bricks that were purchased for the restoration of San Miguel Mission will be used, Vessely said.
The walls will be disassembled and reconstructed using the adobe’s original material and the additional bricks.
There is still much work that needs to be done to preserve the adobe, including a new roof, but the recent efforts should keep it standing should an earthquake occur, Vessely said.
LA LOMA ADOBE
In 1855, Maria Concepcion traded the Rancho Potrero de San Luis Obispo to Estevan Quintana for the land known as the La Loma de la Nopalera, which had two adobe buildings including the La Loma Adobe. During the 1850s, it was expanded from a two-room adobe to a two-story structure. It is considered a significant example of Spanish Colonial architectural style and is among just a few two-story adobes in San Luis Obispo County.