Rancho Guajome Adobe
Day-use Hours: Sunrise to sunset, daily
Museum Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Wednesday – Sunday
Guided Adobe House Tours: 12 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday and 2 p.m., Saturday – Sunday
Self-Guided House Tours: 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Wednesday – Sunday
Wedding Tours: Wednesday – Sunday, by appointment
Note: I went after hours therefore have no photos of the inside of this place which is like 90% of the trip.
History: In an era when sheep and cattle far outnumbered human inhabitants in Alta California, Mexican Governor Pio Pico granted two Luiseno Indian brothers 2,219.4 acres of land known as Rancho Guajome. In turn, the brothers sold the land to a businessman from Los Angeles, Abel Stearns, for a mere $550. Stearns held onto the land for a few years before giving it to his sister-in-law, Ysidora Bandini, as a wedding gift. Ysidora had just wed Lieutenant Cave Johnson Couts of Tennessee, who was a dragoon with the U.S. Army and had been sent to California to aid in the establishment of the U.S. and Mexican border.
The newlyweds lived happily in Old Town San Diego near Ysidora’s family while their home, “La Casa del Rancho Guajome,” was being built. With two children and another on the way, the young couple moved to Rancho Guajome in 1853, where they would raise 10 children. By the time the Couts family settled into Rancho Guajome Adobe, Cave was already making a small fortune in the cattle industry supplying a ready supply of beef and leather to the Bay Area during the gold rush era. However, being an entrepreneur, he was quick to delve into other markets from sheep to citrus crops to wheat to having his own general store on the property. He had also worked in a number of different arenas from serving as an officer in the U.S. Army to an Indian sub-agent to a surveyor, establishing the layout of San Diego’s first streets.
After Cave’s death in 1874, the Rancho was managed by his son, Cave Couts Jr., along with the sage advice of Ysidora, of course. Cave Couts Jr. made many modifications and renovations over the years from adding the sewing room to enclosing the covered porch to adding the mission-revival style arches by which Rancho Guajome Adobe is known and recognized.
Fortunately, the adobe remained in the Couts family through the Rancho era and the years that followed. In 1936, the Ranch house was listed as California State Historic Landmark No. 940, and in 1970, was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.
In 1973, the County of San Diego, Department of Parks & Recreation acquired the historic adobe along with 566 acres of the original land grant with intentions of preserving this important piece of California and U.S. History. In 1994, after much research and preparation, the restoration process was started with the last phase being completed in 1996. Since the completion of the restoration process, many of the 22 rooms have been beautifully appointed with period furnishings.
Since opening to the public in 1996, thousands of visitors have seen the adobe through weekend tours, school tour programs, weddings, and special events like Rancho Christmas and the Quilt Shows. Through its unique history and lasting beauty, the adobe has left a lasting and important impression with many of its visitors of the bygone Rancho days.