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Tickets on sale for Adobe Home Tour

Tickets went on sale this week for the 7th annual Adobe Home Tour Sunday, March 18, 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The tour, which has been featured in Westways and in American Bungalow Magazine, will benefit the Escondido History Center—although its primary function is to celebrate adobe architecture and encourage preservation of these beautiful homes.

The tour will showcase five Adobe Homes, all unique, in the Escondido area.

You can buy tickets at this website:  adobehometour.com or drop by the Escondido History Center, located at Grape Day Park. The tickets make excellent Christmas gifts.

Reclaimed timber ceilings… curving walls of handmade brick… expansive views across valleys, hills and vineyards… lush, low-water gardens… Attendees on the 7th Annual North County Adobe Home Tour will visit five semi-rural Escondido homes that celebrate not only the beauty of their surroundings, but also the master builders who made North San Diego County a haven of mid- century adobe homes.

The revival of adobe home construction in this region lasted from the mid- 1930s until the late 1970s, with a concentration in the ’50s and ’60s, a time when “Spanish-style” was interpreted across a diverse spectrum of design and construction. Builders used innovation to suit the needs of a customer, with varied results. Some homes of this era are a mash-up interpretation of the romantic California ranch introduced by builder-designer Cliff May in the 1930s—others were built in western ranch, storybook, hobbit, hacienda and California modern styles, to name a few.

Tour will highlight several builders

This year’s tour highlights the architectural contributions of several builders: Forrest Holly; Hyrum Arrowsmith in collaboration with Don M. Burton; George Patterson; Weir Bros. Construction Co.; and Robert Weir (brother of Jack and Larry). All shared a passion for the challenges, historic place and beauty of adobe homes.

Although the Weir Brothers’ name is most closely aligned with the area’s adobe residences, Forrest Holly predates the Weirs by several years in his arrival on Escondido’s adobe building scene. In 1951, Holly is quoted in the San Diego Union as having dreamed of a housing community dedicated only to adobe home construction.

Forrest Holly was blind, yet in 1948, remarkably, he launched his own adobe construction and block-building company in Ramona. One of Holly’s earliest adobe home construction projects is featured in this year’s tour; it is adjacent to the “adobe-only” Las Palmas neighborhood.

As land for residential construction in Los Angeles was becoming less profitable, Hyrum Arrowsmith and his son-in-law, Don M. Burton, left the area in 1955. They came to Escondido to purchase lots from L.R. Green to build spec houses with adobe block, also purchased from Green.

As the Weir Brothers’ reputation (and fees) for home construction rose, Arrowsmith and Burton filled the gap with prices accessible to customers with middle incomes. This team did not design in the hacienda style, but brought from Los Angeles a modified mid-century modern flavor to their designs. According the Don’s son Mike, his father took pride in the meticulous straight lines of the adobe walls he constructed. Although they contracted work in other areas of San Diego, they built a combined total of 20 adobe homes in Escondido’s Las Palmas neighborhood, including one featured on this year’s tour.

Master builder George Patterson entered the construction arena late in the adobe home construction revival, yet his designs are among the most interesting – including the artistic home featured on this year’s tour. He produced a small number of homes in the late 1970s and early ’80s. A solo builder, Patterson credits his love of adobes and the hacienda style of construction to his youth, when he frequently traveled from Los Angeles to explore Baja California in search of good fishing spots. There, the architecture seeped into his artistic nature, and he would create custom designs for his clients using unique details inspired from his many trips to Baja.

Robert (Bob) Weir, a younger Weir brother, was a talented craftsman who worked for his brother Jack for several decades. For his own family, he built the modest masterpiece adobe (in 1964) featured on this year’s tour. Bob is remembered for his woodworking and detailed finish carpentry, and visitors will note how he was strongly influenced by his brother’s Larry’s creativity, in such details as turret style entrance and custom iron work. This home has undergone very little remodeling, and retains much of its original appeal.

San Diego’s Adobe Back Story

Escondido and its surrounding neighborhoods have a rich history of adobe home construction, and the area is believed to have the highest concentration of adobe homes and structures anywhere in the country outside of New Mexico. But true adobe construction is an almost-lost art here.

The first adobe homes constructed in Escondido date to the era of California’s expansive Mexican land grants. In 1834, Juan Bautista Alvarado built several adobe homes and ranch structures in his rancho, Rincon Del Diablo (ruins shown at left). In time, the land would be subdivided into smaller farms.

What is now the Kit Carson Park area was once the site of another rancho land grant “homestead” petitioned by Captain Joseph Snook, an English merchant mariner. His success resulted in the establishment of Rancho San Bernardo in 1843. Captain Snook built an adobe home and grazed cattle on this thousands of acres. Like Rincon Del Diablo, this rancho land would eventually be subdivided. The Sikes adobe house museum is one example of a small farmland subdivision from this Rancho.

The modern adobe home dates from post World War II to the 1970s, when potential home buyers sought out a unique alternative to the ubiquitous tract housing that offered cookie cutter single-family homes. In some San Diego communities, the draw to an adobe house was based on the desire for a rural location combined with the promise of the conveniences of urban living. In Escondido during the late 1940s and early ’50s, large expanses of agricultural land were subdivided for housing developments, specifically those carved into avocado and citrus groves.

the late 1940s, the revival of adobe home construction was heightened when citrus grower and land developer Lawrence Green proposed a community of adobe-only structures for his subdivision of Longview Acres (now known as the Las Palmas neighborhood in South Escondido, off Centre City Parkway). Construction of adobe homes rose significantly in the rural areas of Escondido. Builders such as Weir Bros. Construction Company, Arrowsmith-Burton, Forrest Holly, Leonard Minor, George Patterson and others carved out a niche for this custom home construction.

The adobe builders were building environmentally friendly ‘green’ homes well before the current trend, as most of the homes were built with the bricks made on site with a formula required at the time, using some asphalt stabilizers for waterproofing and some cement for strength. The thermal properties of adobe (16-inch-thick walls) mean less energy use for heating and cooling.

By the early 1980s the residential adobe building boom cooled down, in part because the state of California made major changes to the building code for home insulation. At the same time, labor for heavy adobe block lifting also became less attractive to construction workers, which increased the cost of the modern adobe home. As a result very few true adobe homes have been built in California since that time. (Non-structural adobe block facade is still prevalent.) As to the question of earthquake concerns, most adobe homeowners laugh at the idea, as the construction and building principals used by the builders in the area produced rock-solid structures.

The Adobe Home Tour was launched in 2011 to draw attention to these unique and beautiful homes by making them available for public viewing. For those interested in architecture, history or just beautiful homes, the tour offers a rare opportunity to personally experience this unique style.

Starting January 1, 2018, visitors may purchase tickets online with PayPal or credit card. Tickets will also be sold at the Escondido History Center. After purchase, ticket holders will receive instructions for obtaining the addresses of the starting-place homes, where they’ll receive a program with details of each of the residences and directions.

Online purchase: $25 (adobehometour.com) by PayPal or credit card • Purchase tickets at Escondido History Center

This is a self-guided tour. Visitors park in each of the neighborhoods, and at the height of the day may require a short walk. NOTE: These are private residences and may not be accessible by wheelchairs or walkers.

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