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Friday, August 14, 2020
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History Must-see historical site in Milpitas: Higuera Adobe

Must-see historical site in Milpitas: Higuera Adobe

This is the beginning of what will be a continuing series published in The Milpitas Beat describing historic sites in Milpitas from information provided by the Milptas Historical Society. In each instance, a condensed history will be presented to make it a place of enduring interest, prompting the citizens of Milpitas to visit it and not think of it as simply a stark building or as out of place with modern Milpitas.

 

On October 4, 1821, a land grant of 4,394 acres was issued by Pablo Vincente de Solá, the last Spanish governor of Alta California, to José Loreto Higuera (1778-1845), who was mayordomo of Mission San José de Guadalupe (located in Fremont) during the 1820s. Higuera aptly named it Rancho Los Tularcitos (“place of the little tules”).

The exact date is uncertain (thus an invitation for additional historical research), but possibly in 1828 José built a single-story adobe house on Calera Creek near the foot of the eastern hills, around which he planted prickly pear cactus to form a protective hedge, an impressive portion of which is still there today. The pepper, fig, and olive trees in the present José Higuera Park (located east of Highway 680 on North Park Victoria at Wessex Place) are historic, believed to have been planted in the 1830s. 

The Higuera land grant was renewed by Mexican Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado on February 18, 1839 (Republica Mexicana gained independence from Spain in 1821). When the United States acquired Alta California (which encompassed California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah) after the Mexican-American War, yet another application was filed with the American government for a new patent for ownership of Rancho Tularcitos, which was issued July 8, 1870.

Jumping to more recent times, in the early 1960s the badly deteriorated adobe, the possible fate of which was to be demolished, was instead completely restored by Marion Lucy Curtner Weller, granddaughter of Milpitas pioneer Henry Curtner; among other things, she added an outer shell of adobe to protect the walls of the original structure. Then, in the 1970s, she donated that adobe, a nearby wooden building, and some surrounding acreage to the City of Milpitas, which adapted it for use as a public park. In its own remodeling project, the City removed the adobe’s original southern wall to add a modern kitchen to facilitate future banquet use. That non-historic alteration made the building ineligible for registration as a California historic landmark. Currently, the adobe and/or portions of its adjoining park resources can be rented for all manner of private and public events. Note that the park buildings are normally locked and inaccessible (except for public restrooms) to protect their interiors from vandalism.

After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, extensive restoration and reconstruction was necessary to make it safe for public use. In 1993, the City added outdoor-accessible public restrooms, attached to the southern kitchen addition. Finally, in 2017, the City of Milpitas performed yet another remodeling of the park, creating two relocated picnic areas and completely redoing the barbecue facility located behind the adobe.

 

In the 1800s, the very old olive trees on the right lined a long lane to the west leading down to Mission Road (later known as the Old Oakland Road). On a 1961 map, city development transformed the original lane into Curtner Road.

(Photo courtesy of Joseph Ehardt, Copyright 2017)

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Joseph Ehardt
Joseph Ehardt
Joseph Ehardt is a research local historian with the Milpitas Historical Society and one of its annual historical tour docents. Additionally, he is the Society’s current Director of Educational Outreach Programs, which supports Milpitas’ elementary school teachers with local history presentations for young students. He also is a member of the Society’s Board of Directors.

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