A Tour of San Luis Obispo County

Annual Conference of the California Garden and Landscape History Society
September 9-10-11, 2011, San Luis Obispo, California

Lectures and Tours feature:

  • Santa Margarita Ranch
  • Bus tour from San Luis Obispo to Nipomo through the historic cities of Halcyon and Oceano
  • Dana Adobe
  • Bus tour from Nipomo to San Luis Obispo through Edna Valley vineyards
  • Downtown San Luis Obispo
  • Dallidet Adobe and Gardens
  • Hearst Castle
  • North County vineyards

Our 2011 conference will celebrate the wonderful variety of SLO County’s contrasting sites—from 19th-century Californio ranchos to the Hearst Castle to a local winery and its vineyards. This still semi-rural landscape has a long history of compelling landscape development, beginning in 1772, when Padre Junipero Serra founded Mission San Luís Obispo de Tolosa—the fifth established in Alta California by the Franciscan Order. The city that grew up around the mission became the economic, social, and administrative center of numerous large Spanish and Mexican land-grant cattle ranches. Some of the Hispanic ranchero families’ adobe casas are still extant, in town or in the countryside, either well-preserved or lovingly restored, with their historic landscapes viewable.

Join us and see for yourself why William Randolph Hearst chose to build his dream castle in the San Luis Obispo area.

Conference Fee:
Includes all conference events from Friday through Sunday: Friday tour & talk, evening wine-and-cheese reception; Saturday bus tour, lunch, walking tour, afternoon reception, and evening dinner and talk; Sunday tours and lunch.

Before August 12th After August 12th
(space permitting)
CGLHS Members (Full conference) $220 $250
Non-Members (Full conference)* $250 $280
Student (Full conference)* $175 $175

Conference Hotel:
La Cuesta Inn, 2074 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo, http://www.lacuestainn.com/, (800) 543-2777. Reserve by August 12th and mention CGLHS for our discounted rate of $89/night during the week (if they come early, stay over Sunday) but $129/night for the Friday & Saturday rate. Price includes a continental breakfast + tea & cookies in the afternoon. Hotel has a hot tub and pool; request east side rooms (away from Highway 101) and towards the view.

Conference Schedule:

Friday, September 9th: historic Santa Margarita Ranch
9000 Yerba Buena Avenue, Santa Margarita

3pm – 5:30pm
Owner Rob Rossi will provide a tour of this property and vineyards with the recently added historic steam locomotive. This site was formally recognized in 1787, as an asistencia, or assistant mission, supporting Mission San Luis de Tolosa. A lecture will be given in the adobe walled Asistencia on the storied cultural history of the site. Reception to follow. At sunset, enjoy hors d’oeuvres and Ancient Creek wine made from Santa Margarita Ranch vines as you take in the dramatic views all around the site.

Saturday, September 10th, San Luis Obispo and South County

9am – 4pm
Catch the bus outside of La Cuesta Inn at 9am. No ordinary bus ride, while we ride to the Dana Adobe, this docent -ed history tour begins as we travel from San Luis Obispo along the coast. Dr.Herb Kandel will lecture on the local history of Pismo Beach, Halcyon, Oceano, and Nipomo as we ride to the Dana Adobe.

Dana Adobe
Landscape architecture professor and historian Christy O’Hara will lecture on the cultural landscape of this original Rancho-era adobe casa with its preserved 1850s buildings and viewshed. A tour of the site will follow.

Lunch through Edna Valley
Box lunches on the bus will be a picnic as we travel a different route back to San Luis Obispo through Edna Valley vineyards. All the while Dr. Herb Kandel will provide historic background to the many players in the early development of the county.

Walking tour of San Luis Obispo
Beginning at the historic Dallidet Adobe and Gardens, a walking tour of San Luis Obispo will highlight SLO’s cityscape development. We’ll look for the various landscape and architectural elements that defined a growing city, such as its creek as primary water source; archeological clues to its first inhabitants, the Chumash; the 1772 Mission and 19th century adobes; the Chinese influence in the community; architectural standouts like Victorian-era homes, a Frank Lloyd Wright building, and the 1905-built Carnegie Library, now the County’s history museum; and that innovative, triumphant public space, Mission Plaza.. Refreshments will follow.

6:30pm – 8:30pm
Dinner, with a talk by keynote speaker Victoria Kastner on “The History and Restoration of the Gardens at Hearst Castle”
Dinner will be served at a private home overlooking the garden, Edna Valley vineyards, and, in the distance, its morros. Victoria Kastner, the Hearst Castle’s historian, will tell the fascinating story of the landscape changes over time, including architect Julia Morgan’s 30-year collaboration with William Randolph Hearst in creating and then maintaining the gardens, which in recent years are undergoing restoration. Her latest book, Hearst’s San Simeon: The Gardens and the Land may be purchased after at a book signing.

6:30pm – 8:30pm
Dinner, with a talk by keynote speaker Victoria Kastner on “The History and Restoration of the Gardens at Hearst Castle”
Dinner will be served at a private home overlooking the garden, Edna Valley vineyards, and, in the distance, its morros. Victoria Kastner, the Hearst Castle’s historian, will tell the fascinating story of the landscape changes over time, including architect Julia Morgan’s 30-year collaboration with William Randolph Hearst in creating and then maintaining the gardens, which in recent years are undergoing restoration. Her latest book, Hearst’s San Simeon: The Gardens and the Land may be purchased after at a book signing.

Sunday, September 11th: North Coast and North County

10am-12:30pm Hearst Castle
Travel by your own vehicle to San Simeon for a specialized Garden Tour of Hearst Castle. While Saturday provided tours of South County and downtown San Luis Obispo, the conference will move up the North Coast and into North County, exploring a different set on landscapes of landscapes. A docent led tour of the gardens at Hearst Castle will be a wonderful follow-up to Victoria Kastner’s Saturday evening lecture. View the actual gardens themselves and take in the panoramic ocean views from this high hillside site. You’ll understand why even as a boy Hearst dreamed of creating a palace here.

12:30 – 1:30pm William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach
We’ll have a picnic lunch amidst the Julia Morgan-designed buildings and sit by the dock at the base of the vast Hearst Ranch property. Visitors would land here when arriving by boat. It’s also where Hearst’s innumerable purchases of antique furnishings and art pieces were unloaded from ships coming from Europe—many to be stored in a nearby warehouse.

2:30 – 4:30pm A North County Winery (to be announced later)

Sites: (partial list)
Santa Margarita Ranch
The historic Santa Margarita Ranch began as an Asistencia of the San Luis Obispo Mission in 1774. In 1841, a few years after secularization, it was offered as a Mexican Land Grant and today large portions of this spectacular 14,000-acre rancho remain an operating cattle and farming ranch. The Asistencia was important for more than its farming and ranching. It served as a meeting and lodging place for the Padres making the trek between the Missions (San Luis Obispo, San Antonio de Padula and, after 1795, Mission San Miguel). Adobes and a stone-walled storage house with guestrooms and a chapel on a gentle rise were constructed overlooking Santa Margarita Creek. Huge boulders and clay tiles were used in the stone-walled Asistencia building, which still stands today. It is a huge building, measuring 135 feet long and 32 feet wide. Interior stone walls divided the building. Inside, the chapel was 40 feet long and 30 feet wide. Eight other rooms were used for the visiting padre, the mayordomo of the Rancho, and Native American workers; the storage rooms of the granary were located here too. Working with California Rangeland Trust, the new landowners, the Rob Rossi family, donated 333 acres of conservation easement to California Rangeland Trust, to be permanently maintained in a combination of farming, grazing and natural habitat.

Dana Adobe
The Dana Adobe or “Casa de Dana” is a historic building in Nipomo, California. It was the home of Boston sea captain William Dana, who in 1837 was granted the 37,888-acre Rancho Nipomo on the central coast of California. Captain Dana hosted figures such as Henry Tefft and John C. Fremont in his Nipomo home, which also served as an important exchange point on California’s first official mail route between Monterey and Los Angeles. While the site is under restoration to return both the building and landscape to the 1850s, the viewshed and adobe are still intact.

Edna Valley Vineyards
Spanish Missionaries initiated Edna Valley’s history of vineyard development and wine production during the late 18th century. But it was not until the 1960s that the modern wine industry began in earnest. The Niven Family was instrumental in the renaissance of the wine region. They planted Paragon, which is now the estate property of Edna Valley Vineyard. In 1982, the U.S. Government made Edna Valley an official AVA (Americal Viticultural Area), which was a huge step for Edna Valley Wineries.

Downtown San Luis Obispo “City as Landscape”
A city offers clues to its origins in its waterways, the streets’ arrangements and, often, their names, the locations of gardens and parklands, and use of building materials. We will explore the landscape and architectural history of San Luis Obispo by looking at these sometimes hidden elements.

Dallidet Adobe and Gardens
Tucked away in a quiet corner of San Luis Obispo is the Dallidet Adobe & Gardens. Designated California Historical Landmark #720, the 1850s adobe was home to Pierre Hypolite Dallidet, his wife Maria Ascension Salazar and their seven children. Pierre was the first commercial vintner in the area.? The Dallidet Adobe was acquired by the San Luis Obispo County Historical Society in 1953 from Paul Dallidet, youngest son of Pierre and Ascención. Feeling that he wanted to preserve what his parents had founded, Paul deeded the property to the then newly formed Historical Society exactly a century after his father arrived in San Luis Obispo. Paul resided there until he died on February 23, 1958, just months before his 87th birthday. Currently, the Dallidet Adobe & Gardens, owned and operated by the History Center of SLO County, is open to the public for educational tours, events, and weddings.

Hearst Castle
In 1865, wealthy miner George Hearst purchased 40,000-acres of ranchland that included the Mexican Ranchos of Piedras Blancas, San Simeon and Santa Rosa. In 1919, his only son, William Randolph Hearst, inherited the land from his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst. By then the ranch had grown to encompass 250,000 acres. Originally known as “Camp Hill,” its wilderness offered a place for family members and friends to “rough it” on camping trips. Despite elaborate arrangements with separate sleeping and dining tents, Hearst envisioned more comfortable accommodations. His simple instructions to famed San Francisco architect Julia Morgan in 1919: “Miss Morgan, we are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something.” Hearst and Morgan’s collaboration was destined to become one of the world’s greatest showplaces. As they were planning and constructing his dream home, Hearst renamed the rocky perch “La Cuesta Encantada” or “The Enchanted Hill. “ By 1947, Hearst and Morgan had created an estate of 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways. The estate’s magnificent main house, “Casa Grande,” and three guest houses are of Mediterranean Revival style, while the imposing towers of Casa Grande were inspired by a Spanish cathedral. The blending of the architectural style with the surrounding land, and Hearst’s superb European and Mediterranean art collection, was so seamless that world-renowned architectural historian, Lord John Julius Norwich, was moved to say that “Hearst Castle is a palace in every sense of the word.”

Speakers: (partial list)
Victoria Kastner
Victoria Kastner is the Historian at Hearst Castle, where she has worked for more than thirty years. She has a master’s degree specializing in architectural history from UC Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in museum management from George Washington University. She is the author of Hearst Castle: The Biography of a Country House, and Hearst’s San Simeon: The Gardens and the Land, both published by Harry N. Abrams. She has lectured extensively, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as well as being interviewed on the Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, and National Public Radio. Ms. Kastner has also written about Hearst Castle for the London Telegraph, the American Institute of Architects, and The Magazine Antiques.

Christy Edstrom O’Hara
Christy Edstrom O’Hara, conference convener, is both a professor and has a private landscape architecture practice, m + o landscape architecture. She received her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in English and Art History and masters from the University of Washington in Landscape Architecture and Preservation Planning. Prof. O’Hara has lectured nationally and internationally on landscape preservation, as well as its application to sustainable landscape design and construction. Her current research focuses on the California work of the Olmsted firm, and especially on the Olmsted brothers, and their approach to regionalism.
In addition to teaching, Christy practices landscape architecture and historic landscape restoration. This practice also includes the specialty niche of consulting on the restoration and preservation of historic landscapes. She is on the advisory board for the restoration of the Dana Adobe in Nipomo, CA; board for the California Garden and Landscape History Society and a trustee for the National Association of Olmsted Parks.

Herb Kandel
Dr. Herb Kandel is a lifetime student the natural and cultural history of the Central Coast of California. He is vice president of the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, an organization that has permanently protected 15,000 acres of scenic, habitat, and agricultural lands. He is author of a recently funded State grant on behalf of Rancho Nipomo Dana Adobe: Stories of the Rancho: Ecology, Culture and Stewardship– the program and facility will interpret the sweeping story of human interaction on the landscape from the Ice Age to the present day on the former land grant. He obtained his BA in Cultural Anthropology at UCSB in 1979, holds a masters and doctorate degree in the field of Chinese Medicine, and is a practicing acupuncturist in Santa Maria.

For further conference information please e-mail conference@cglhs.org or call Christy O’Hara, 805-440-6320.

Recommended Reading:
Buettner, Dan. Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zone Way. Washington DC: National Geographic, 2011.
Engelhardt, Fr. Zephyrin. Mission San Luis Obispo in the Valley of the Bears. Santa Barbara: W.T. Genns, 1963 (orig. published in 1933).
Franks, Janet Penn. San Luis Obispo: A History in Architecture. Arcadia, Images of America, 2004.
Hamilton, Geneva. Where the Highway Ends: Cambria, San Simeon and the Ranchos. San Luis Obispo: Padre Productions, 1974.
Harrington, Marie and Rocky Dana. The Blond Ranchero. Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop, 1960.
Hill, Kathleen and Gerald. Santa Barbara and the Central Coast: California’s Riviera. CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 2002 (2nd edition).
Hoover, Mildred Brooke, et al. Historic Spots in California. 5th edition revised by Douglas E. Kyle. CA: Stanford U. Press, 2002.
Kastner, Victoria. With photographs by Victoria Garagliano. Hearst’s San Simeon: The Gardens and the Land. New York: Abrams, 2009.
Krieger, Daniel E. San Luis Obispo County: Looking Backward into the Middle Kingdom. Los Angeles: Windsor, 1988.
Lee, Georgia, et al. An Uncommon Guide to San Luis Obispo County, California. San Luis Obispo: Padre Productions, 1977.
Loren Nicholson. Rails Across the Ranchos. Fresno, CA: Valley Publishers, 1980.
Robinson, W.W. The Story of San Luis Obispo County. Los Angeles: Title Insurance and Trust Co., 1957.
Sunset Magazine. The California Missions: A Pictorial History. Menlo Park, CA: Lane Publishing Co., various editions since 1979.

Images: (Left to Right) Mission Plaza, Photo by J. Williams; Hearst Castle, Photo by B. Marinacci