Group Hopes to Save Abandoned Adobe House
By Krista Walton | Online Only | May 1, 2009
The oldest surviving residence in Contra Costa County will soon be surrounded by new residential lots. The good news is that the the 1841 Joaquin Moraga Adobe in Orinda, Calif., may also finally be restored.
The Moraga Adobe was built by the grandson of Spanish explorer Jose Joaquin Moraga, who founded the city of San Jose. The Moraga family lived in the residence until about 1880, when it was sold to a series of private owners who used it as a residence until the 1980s. During that time, the house underwent three expansions, including a major project in the 1940s that covered much of the adobe with drywall.
Though structurally sound, the house has stood vacant for several years. Recently, vandals broke in and defaced the interior and exterior with grafitti. The new owners, a trio of local developers, have boarded up the windows to prevent vandalism and trespassing. They are also in the process of filing a preliminary proposal with the city of Orinda; their plans reportedly call for developing 16 lots on the 20-acre site, leaving one lot for the adobe.
"We are awaiting a report from a historical consultant hired by the City of Orinda, that will give recommendations concerning the adobe," Michael Olson, one of the developers, said in an e-mail. "Once that report is received we will meet with the city to determine our collective course of action." The plan is scheduled to be completed next month.
Concerned locals formed the Friends of the Moraga Adobe to keep abreast of the development process, and to make certain their voices are heard. The group held its first meeting Feb. 9. Attendees included Orinda Mayor Sue Severson and Moraga Mayor Dave Trotter, as well as board members of the Orinda Historical Society and other area residents.
Friends of the Moraga Adobe hopes to preserve, restore, and use the adobe as a local-history education center or small museum. "The new owners have been pretty cooperative," says Kent Long, president of the organization. "[They] were fairly proactive in contacting the historical societies, and I think they understand that there is some historical significance to the building."
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