Malibu Trekker @ thecityedition.com ----- Post #3 - Dec. 4, 2009

Malibu Potteries (1926-1932) saved Rhoda May Rindge from foreclosure.

Back to the Garden at Malibu's Adamson House

Cont. from Post #2.

Tucked between Malibu Creek State Park and Malibu Lagoon State Beach, along PCH, there's an old estate that dates well back in time. The Adamson House lies about halfway between two bus stops on the MTA #534 from L.A., one at the refurbished Malibu Pier, the other at Counry Mart, which I described in an earlier post.

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This unexpectedly lush roadside attractions comes under the purview of the state park system. The women's restroom, however, is like something out of a Jane Austen novel. It's more of a private room with furniture, and has a window that looks out at the ocean. A Victorian cloth drapes a small table in the corner and is adorned with fresh flowers in a vase. This is a nice place to cry, or at least take some deep breaths and collect yourself in a pinch. But be prepared for a long wait to partake of such a tranquil refuge. I noticed that once the door shuts, nobody seems to want to come out anytime soon.

Back outdoors, you'll traverse a dirt path that winds between flower beds and a patch of lawn. It's a nice stroll, to say the least. A songbird will probably be there to serenade you as you meander along. The main attraction itself, the old house, was locked up the day I went, which I found rather disappointing. Not a bad idea to check the Adamson House website to find out the days and hours when they conduct the tours. A guide leads a tour group through the house, which costs a little money, and is worth scheduling your time appropriately. But even without the interior, you can still wander around the outside and enjoy the grounds.

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Adjacent to the house sits the visitor center (in the left photo below). This is where the tour starts. There's a little museum with exhibits describing the Chumash Indians and early pioneers in Malibu, as well as the family which lived here for so long and gave the place its name.

The Chumash referred to this seaside paradise as Humalino, “the surf that sounds loudly." As a matter of fact, native people occupied the site for hundreds, if not thousands of years before Spanish explorers dropped anchor in the mid 16th century. An official land grant from Mexico established "Rancho Malibu" in 1802. And long before the term "sub-prime mortgage" was coined, a European bought the land for about ten cents an acre in 1872. Eventually, Frederick Hastings Rindge and his wife Rhoda paid a whopping $10 per acre in 1891 when they took the place over. Boy, those were the days to get into real estate.

Tragically, Rindge died in 1905. Rhoda carried out his plans to finish work on a huge ranch (now a Franciscan retreat across the highway), despite having to pay a big inheritance tax and interest. It all worked out though, and in the 1920's the Rindge spread was considered one of the most valuable single real estate holdings in the United States.

To generate cash, Rhoda started Malibu Potteries in 1926, a ceramic tile factory that quickly gained international notoriety, with the aid of locally-excavated red clay. The company flourished until the Great Depression. Rhoda invited a few Hollywood celebs to come out and live along the beachfront with her, eventually selling a big chunk of land that would become the Malibu Colony. Actors and directors swarmed into Malibu like locusts, building vacation homes and counting their lucky stars to be free of their stuffy L.A. haunts in summertime. Today, the Colony is a gated community, located just west of the lagoon that borders Adamson House to the north. (Incidentally, it's also the view you see in every episode of the Charlie Sheen series Two and A Half Men.)

Inside the house. Photo credit: California State Parks

Anyway, after admiring the tilework in the fountains, outside the house I returned to the garden and started shooting some of the shapes and colors that abound there. What a lot of blooming things for such a fog-filled coastal climate. Then another photographer approached me, her husband lagging behind, and asked about my macro lens. I told her I didn't have one, then showed her the setting on my Rebel XT with the little flower icon. "That's cheating," she said.

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It's true, every now and then I may play around with the hue and saturation settings in Photoshop, or use the "Sharpen" filter to actually bring the images into focus, but I'm sure even National Geographic does that. At any rate, I kept walking, eventually arriving back at the Beachhouse, which is just across that bathroom I mentioned. State Park personnel have converted this structure into offices, since it's perched right by the entrance gate.

And now I think I've told you everything about the Adamson House except how it got to be called Adamson House. That just occurred to me... Hmmm, why isn't it called the Rindge House? Did Rhoda remarry? Did she sell the place to someone named Adamson? And did the Chumash Indians predict the end of the world in 2012? Well, I guess I should have plunked down the money and waited for that house tour. Travel writing can be so wearing...

M.T.


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