Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Casa de Governor Pio Pico

Los Angeles County, May 25, 1995

Right off the 605 and right on the corner of Whittier and Pioneer, this is one of those state historical landmarks that that you’d short list as a recommendation to someone new to landmark hunting.

Pio de Jesus Pico IV was a Californian, born in 1801 at Mission San Gabriel and passed away in 1894 in Los Angeles. Born a poor enlisted soldier's son, Pico gained wealth and status as a businessman and politician in Alta California, and was twice governor of the territory. Pico's power, influence, and wealth continued after California became part of the United States, a well-respected and important leader of his time.

Pico's family migrated to Alta California in 1775 with the de Anza Expedition. Although his father was only a soldier, Pío Pico and his siblings did well in frontier Mexican California society. His seven sisters married into prominent families and his two brothers were active in the military and politics.

Pico's home in 1903

Pio Pico began acquiring this land, originally part of the Mission San Gabriel, in 1848. The smallest of his many landholdings, he nicknamed his 8,893 acre ranch "El Ranchito" (the little ranch). Pico's adobe home was at El Ranchito's center. Pío Pico State Historical Park today includes only a few acres of Pico's original rancho. The survival of the Pico Adobe and the reconstruction of the ranch landscape offers us a rare look into Southern California’s  past.

Photo: 1920's

Pico and his family hosted colorful balls with singing, dancing, and socializing. Such festivities at the Pico Adobe centered around the parlor and the adjoining patio. Pico Americanized his parlor by way of furnishings, wall coverings, and modern conveniences, but the hospitality was purely Californio.

During the 1850s, Pico owned more land than any other individual in Southern California, totaling more than half a million acres. However, like most Californios, Pío Pico took heavy losses trying to prove legal title to his land as required in the new American courts. These cases were expensive to defend and sometimes took decades to clear. Of all the vast ranch lands that he owned, the Rancho Paso de Bartolo was the one that Pico held onto the longest until his final court case was lost, and so was his home at El Ranchito.

 A side note here is the better half’s connection to Pio Pico in that her grandmother’s Dalton family lived in the vicinity at the height of Pico’s prominence. Her direct line was through a George Dalton, but his brother Henry is of particular interest in that he purchased fair and square with documents, three square miles of land from an original Pico grant that is now Azusa, only lose it to the courts in the same processes that stripped Pio Pico of his holdings. You see, the Dalton brothers were born in England. American citizens who owned land prior to California becoming a state had far fewer difficulties. In the 1880 census, Henry gives his occupation as “Fighting for my rights”

 NO. 127 CASA DE GOVERNOR PÍOPICO - Following the Mexican War, Pío Pico, last Mexican governor, acquired 9,000-acre Rancho Paso de Bartolo and built here an adobe home that was destroyed by the floods of 1883-1884. His second adobe casa, now known as Pío Pico Mansion, represents a compromise between Mexican and American cultures. While living here the ex-Governor was active in the development of American California.
Location: Pio Pico State Historic Park, 6003 Pioneer Blvd, Whittier
USGS Quadrangle Sheet Name: WHITTER
Google 33.994060,-118.070401

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