The Dana Adobe and Cultural Center held its Heritage Day on Sept. 11, a gathering celebrating the historic landmark and the mid-19th century Californio era that it signifies.
"We're trying to bring it back annually, because it's really a big event where there's reenactments and so many community groups that come together to celebrate," Executive Director Lexi Carreño said as we walked through the modern cultural center, which sits about 150 meters from the historic adobe. "[The Adobe] is really the root of how Nipomo blossomed."
The Dana Adobe's story begins with William Goodwin Dana, a Bostonian who was orphaned three times in his youth. Through his sailing escapades, he got to know the Central Coast of California and set up a store in Santa Barbara in 1825.
Shortly after, he met María Josefa Petra del Carmen, who he eventually married. But as a foreigner—before California statehood—Dana had to get permission from José María de Echeandía, the Mexican governor of Alta California. Dana had to become Catholic and learn to read and write Spanish before he could marry her.
In doing so, he also became a legal citizen of the Mexican territory of California, which allowed him to apply for a Rancho land grant. Dana was granted thousands of acres in Nipomo, which comes from the Chumash word ne-po-mah, meaning foot of the hills. The Chumash were the original inhabitants of Nipomo, before the Spanish missionary era and subsequent Mexican control of the missions.
- Photo Courtesy Of Dana Adobe
- HISTORY RESTORED Here, the Dana Adobe is pictured mid-restoration. The exposed bricks call back to the building's traditional Adobe roots, and the restored parts exhibit some of the Greek revival elements that were woven into the original building.
The Dana family home drew inspiration from traditional Mexican adobe as well as Greek revival architecture brought from the East Coast. As we walk through the restored Adobe, Docent Helen Daurio tells me about her earliest impression of the adobe.
"When I first walked into the house, it was in crumbles," she said. "I felt like I had come home. It was a really eerie feeling, I felt like I belonged, so I jumped right in and became a docent."
Today, locals and visitors can visit a restored landmark thanks to a state grant. In 1999, Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos formed to begin the restoration process, which once started took 13 years. In 2015, the Adobe received the governor's award for historic preservation.
Through the restoration process, wooden marbles, ceramic shards, and metal tools were among the artifacts recovered, which are now displayed within the adobe. These small remnants indicate that the Dana family, which included 13 children who lived to adulthood, had a comfortable life, Daurio tells me.
While some events last year were put on hold due to the pandemic, the Dana Adobe's staff and docents still found ways to keep the community connected to one of the oldest architectural pieces of Nipomo history.
"We made a really big [effort] to keep staff here, so all of us were still here to work," Executive Director Carreño said. "As far as volunteers ... our education team most definitely kept intact to work on virtual tours. ... We had a couple auctions to keep fundraising because we are just based on fundraising here. We were able to have our first summer camps, under every COVID regulation we could, and we had 14 campers [in 2020]."
This summer, the number of summer campers doubled.
Moving forward, Dana Adobe staff and docents are excited to invite the community for other events like a family-style taco dinner on Oct. 9, Hauntings on the Rancho Oct. 22, a Halloween Bash Oct. 29, Taste of Nipomo on Nov. 13, and more. Plus, visitors are always welcome to come take a tour of the Adobe, see the cultural center's latest exhibit, or enjoy one of the three hiking trails on the property. Reservations are requested during the week, and on the weekend guests can come from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Head to danaadobe.org to learn how to get involved with the historic landmark, located at 671 S. Oakglen Ave. in Nipomo.
• The Pad Climbing Gym is partnering with HelpSLO and the United Way to fill Little Free Pantries across SLO County. All revenue from passes sold to the gym for its very first Community Day, Sept. 26, and 15 percent of retail and memberships sold that day will be donated to the United Way, earmarked to resupply the pantries. For more info about The Pad, visit thepadclimbing.org. Δ
Staff Writer Malea Martin wrote this week's Strokes. Reach her at [email protected].