Built in 1844, the adobe is one of the oldest surviving private residences in LA County and one of the oldest surviving buildings in the San Fernando Valley. The museum is committed to preserving the remains of the old west and the ranch style life that existed in the area in the late 1800’s.

Located in what is now Calabasas, California, the adobe was occupied by the wealthy rancher, Miguel Leonis, until his death in 1889.

Located in what is now Calabasas, the adobe was occupied by the wealthy rancher, Miguel Leonis, until his death in 1889.

Following Leonis' death, the property was the subject of a legal dispute between his common law wife, heirs, and a daughter born out of wedlock; the dispute lasted more than 15 years in the courts. In 1961, the adobe had fallen victim to vandalism, and its owner applied for a permit to raze the structure and erect a supermarket in its place. Preservationists succeeded in having the adobe declared a Historic-Cultural Landmark (the first structure in Los Angeles receiving the designation) in 1962.

Following Leonis’ death, the property was the subject of a legal dispute between his common law wife, heirs, and a daughter born out of wedlock; the dispute lasted more than 15 years in the courts. In 1961, the adobe had fallen victim to vandalism, and its owner applied for a permit to raze the structure and erect a supermarket in its place. Preservationists succeeded in having the adobe declared a Historic-Cultural Landmark (the first structure in Los Angeles receiving the designation) in 1962. The adobe was restored and is now operated as a living museum.

The original portion of the adobe dates to 1844, but little is known about its use before it was acquired by Miguel Leonis. Some reports indicate that the adobe served as a stagecoach stop on the Camino Real between Mission San Buenaventura and Mission San Fernando Rey de España

The original portion of the adobe dates to 1844, but little is known about its use before it was acquired by Miguel Leonis. Some reports indicate that the adobe served as a stagecoach stop on the Camino Real between Mission San Buenaventura and Mission San Fernando Rey de España.

The adobe was acquired by Miguel Leonis (1824–1889) in the 1850s or 1860s.[4] Leonis was a bearded, 6-foot-4-inch (1.93 m) native of the Basque region in the French Pyrenees. Leonis controlled much of the west end of the San Fernando Valley and part of Ventura County.[4] The Adobe was built in stages and by the 1870s Leonis had extensively enlarged and remodeled the adobe into the Monterey Colonial-style mansion that remains today.[4] Leonis walled in the upper and lower porches to add more rooms. He also added a Queen Anne-style veranda on the front of the house and paneled the walls of the living room.[5]

The adobe was acquired by Miguel Leonis (1824–1889) in the 1850s or 1860s. Leonis was a bearded, 6-foot-4-inch native of the Basque region in the French Pyrenees. He controlled much of the west end of the San Fernando Valley and part of Ventura County. The Adobe was built in stages and by the 1870s Leonis had extensively enlarged and remodeled the adobe into the Monterey Colonial-style mansion that remains today. Leonis walled in the upper and lower porches to add more rooms and also added a Queen Anne-style veranda on the front of the house and paneled the walls of the living room.

Leonis came to Southern California as "an ignorant Basque sheep herder and blossomed into a robber baron holding feudal sway by the aid of a small army of vaqueros."[6] The first land he acquired was the 1,100-acre (4.5 km2) Rancho El Escorpión, in what is now the West Hills section of Los Angeles. He started as an employee at the ranch and bought half of the ranch from its owner when he became ill. The other half of the ranch was owned by a widowed mission Indian, Espiritu Chujilla. Leonis acquired Espiritu's land by marrying her, though the marriage was later denied by Leonis.[7][8] He added to his holdings using the California homestead laws. Wherever his livestock grazed, he built a shack and had one of his 100 employees become a "tenant" to support his claim under California's homestead law.[7] To prevent competing homestead claims, Leonis and his vaqueros were in constant conflict with squatters. In 1875, a conflict with a group of former Union soldiers who tried to settle on his lands led to two weeks of violence and killings, culminating in a battle in what is now Hidden Hills.[7][9] It was said that at the time of his death: "His flocks and herds ranged over a hundred hills, and his lands were measured in mileage rather than acres. When he died he left an estate valued at approximately $1,000,000."[10][11]

Leonis came to Southern California as “an ignorant Basque sheep herder and blossomed into a robber baron holding feudal sway by the aid of a small army of vaqueros.” The first land he acquired was the 1,100-acre Rancho El Escorpión, in what is now the West Hills section of Los Angeles. He started as an employee at the ranch and bought half of the ranch from its owner when he became ill. The other half of the ranch was owned by a widowed mission Indian, Espiritu Chujilla. Leonis acquired Espiritu’s land by marrying her, though the marriage was later denied by Leonis. He added to his holdings using the California homestead laws. Wherever his livestock grazed, he built a shack and had one of his 100 employees become a “tenant” to support his claim under California’s homestead law. To prevent competing homestead claims, Leonis and his vaqueros were in constant conflict with squatters. In 1875, a conflict with a group of former Union soldiers who tried to settle on his lands led to two weeks of violence and killings, culminating in a battle in what is now Hidden Hills. It was said that at the time of his death: “His flocks and herds ranged over a hundred hills, and his lands were measured in mileage rather than acres. When he died he left an estate valued at approximately $1,000,000.”

In 1889, Leonis died from wounds suffered by falling off and being run over by his wagon near Cahuenga, California.[12] The accident was said to have resulted from his unsteady condition after "too free indulgence in sour wine."[13] After his death, his will was read, identifying Espiritu Chujilla as his "faithful housekeeper" and leaving her only $10,000 with the balance of his estate going to his siblings. The Los Angeles Times reported that the entire French population was surprised that he left such a small sum to the woman "who has for nearly thirty years been considered his wife."[12] Espiritu contested the will, and a decade of court battles followed that were covered in detail by the Los Angeles press. At a jury trial in 1891, Espiritu called 40 witnesses who testified that Leonis had publicly acknowledged her as his wife. When Espiritu appeared in court dressed in black with mourning veil attached to a black flat straw hat, the Los Angeles Times described her as "a typical Mexican of the original cast," with "a very dark complexion, small black eyes, nose blunt, mouth large and lips tightly compressed when in repose."[14] When Espiritu took the stand, she testified that she met Leonis at the Escorpion Indian camp in 1859, lived with him for 30 years, and even had a daughter with him who died before adulthood.[15] The grave identifying Leonis as the deceased child's father was offered as proof of their relationship.

In 1889, Leonis died from wounds suffered by falling off and being run over by his wagon near Cahuenga, California. The accident was said to have resulted from his unsteady condition after “too free indulgence in sour wine.” After his death, his will was read, identifying Espiritu Chujilla as his “faithful housekeeper” and leaving her only $10,000 with the balance of his estate going to his siblings. The Los Angeles Times reported that the entire French population was surprised that he left such a small sum to the woman “who has for nearly thirty years been considered his wife.” Espiritu contested the will, and a decade of court battles followed that were covered in detail by the Los Angeles press. At a jury trial in 1891, Espiritu called 40 witnesses who testified that Leonis had publicly acknowledged her as his wife. When Espiritu appeared in court dressed in black with mourning veil attached to a black flat straw hat, the Los Angeles Times described her as “a typical Mexican of the original cast,” with “a very dark complexion, small black eyes, nose blunt, mouth large and lips tightly compressed when in repose.” When Espiritu took the stand, she testified that she met Leonis at the Escorpion Indian camp in 1859, lived with him for 30 years, and even had a daughter with him who died before adulthood. The grave identifying Leonis as the deceased child’s father was offered as proof of their relationship.

When an old friend of Leonis reported that Espiritu had previously lived out of wedlock with two other men, the Times reported in detail on the "Sensational Disclosures."[16] After a five-week trial, the jury took less than a day to return its verdict finding in favor of Espiritu and awarding her one-half of the Leonis estate.[17] However, Espiritu's legal troubles continued, as competing claims were made to the lands and swindlers pursued the uneducated Espiritu's money. The estate produced a "hopeless jumble" of over 100 lawsuits and was "rich feeding for many law firms."[18] A young Hollywood tavern owner persuaded Espiritu to appoint him as her agent and to sign a blanket conveyance of all her property to him on the pretense that it would be easier to transact business in his own name; further litigation followed to recoup income taken for his own benefit and to contest conveyances and mortgages he had made to others.[6][18][19][20] So completely was Espiritu taken advantage of that "it is said that she was at one time reduced to a diet of acorns which she picked up off the ground at her home, her property being so tied up in the courts."[18] When the 65-year-old Espiritu married an 18-year-old man, the Los Angeles Times could not restrain itself, noting that her new husband was "barely out of pinafores" and that the "frisky" old woman's "affections appear to have been bubbling at a lively rate, in spite of her well-worn widow's weeds."[21] Litigation over the estate continued until 1905, and Espiritu continued living at the adobe until her death in 1906.[5]

When an old friend of Leonis reported that Espiritu had previously lived out of wedlock with two other men, the Times reported in detail on the “Sensational Disclosures.” After a five-week trial, the jury took less than a day to return its verdict finding in favor of Espiritu and awarding her one-half of the Leonis estate. However, Espiritu’s legal troubles continued, as competing claims were made to the lands and swindlers pursued the uneducated Espiritu’s money. The estate produced a “hopeless jumble” of over 100 lawsuits and was “rich feeding for many law firms.” A young Hollywood tavern owner persuaded Espiritu to appoint him as her agent and to sign a blanket conveyance of all her property to him on the pretense that it would be easier to transact business in his own name; further litigation followed to recoup income taken for his own benefit and to contest conveyances and mortgages he had made to others. So completely was Espiritu taken advantage of that “it is said that she was at one time reduced to a diet of acorns which she picked up off the ground at her home, her property being so tied up in the courts.” When the 65-year-old Espiritu married an 18-year-old man, the Los Angeles Times could not restrain itself, noting that her new husband was “barely out of pinafores” and that the “frisky” old woman’s “affections appear to have been bubbling at a lively rate, in spite of her well-worn widow’s weeds.” Litigation over the estate continued until 1905, and Espiritu continued living at the adobe until her death in 1906.

When Espiritu died, her son (by her first marriage), Juan Menendez, moved into the adobe with his family. Menendez built the barn that stands at the back of the adobe. Menendez was a blacksmith but also made wine and built the tank house at the adobe to store wine.[7] Menendez sold the property in 1922 to the Agoure family, for whom the community of Agoura was named. The Agoures remodeled the house in 1920, adding bathrooms and expanding the living room. The Agoures lost the property to foreclosure in 1931, and the adobe was reportedly used as a chicken dinner restaurant and later as a retirement home.[7] In 1962, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reported that the last person to reside in the house was motion picture actor John Carradine, who had reportedly moved out of the refurbished adobe several years earlier.[22]

When Espiritu died, her son (by her first marriage), Juan Menendez, moved into the adobe with his family. Menendez built the barn that stands at the back of the adobe. Menendez was a blacksmith but also made wine and built the tank house at the adobe to store wine. Menendez sold the property in 1922 to the Agoure family, for whom the community of Agoura was named. The Agoures remodeled the house in 1920, adding bathrooms and expanding the living room. The Agoures lost the property to foreclosure in 1931, and the adobe was reportedly used as a chicken dinner restaurant and later as a retirement home. In 1962, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reported that the last person to reside in the house was motion picture actor John Carradine, who had reportedly moved out of the refurbished adobe several years earlier.

Fortunately the Adobe has been preserved.

Fortunately the Adobe has been preserved.

The best part about visiting the adobe is seeing the animals that populate the property.

The best part about visiting the museum is seeing the animals that populate the property.

There are cats...

There are cats…

...turkeys

…birds…

...and lots of.turkeys.

…and lots of turkeys.

Gooble, gooble.

Gobble, gobble.

There's hens...

There’s hens…

...who like to get up close and personal...

…who like to get up close and personal…

...and of course a rooster

…and a rooster…

....

…who likes to do the same.

There's real horses...

There’s real horses…

...and a fake one too.

…and a fake one too.

dd

They’ve even got a few sheep but my favorite animal of all time continues to be…

...the goats...

…the goat…

...and they've got a few of those too.

…and they’ve got a few of those too.