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The Leonis Adobe Museum

A preserved piece of history in Calabasas

By Dr. Farzad Farahmand

Published in the October 2012 issue of the Calabasas Times Magazine:

 

At 23537 Calabasas Road under the oaks lies a preserved piece of history that often goes unnoticed by the residents and the visitors of Calabasas.  Cars often drive by and bypass it without realizing this old cultural home of one of the most colorful and legendary figures of early Los Angeles in the midst of the modern city of Calabasas. 

 

The home was built in 1844 and restored to its original beauty by the Leonis Adobe Association and it's a great representation of the style of living when the San Fernando Valley was ranching country and Los Angeles still a dusty settlement.  The home belonged to the legendary historic figure, Miguel Leonis who was one of the early settlers of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.  Miguel was a French Basque.  He was very ambitious, physically powerful and a gifted businessman.  His headquarters was Leonis Adobe where he became known as the "king of Calabasas". 

 

Leonis acquired Livestock and over 10,000 acres of land that extended into what is now the Leona Valley.  He married the young Chumash widow, Espiritu Chijula and acquired more wealth in land that belonged to her family.  This land is today's Bell Canyon, just North of Calabasas.  

 

Leonis Adobe was built in stages.  Exactly who built the original portion is still subject to research.  At first, it appears to have been a simple 2 story Adobe house with whitewashed walls.  This original portion of the house is believed to date back to 1844.  Leonis discovered the abandoned Adobe in the mid 1870's and he extensively remodeled and enlarged the house to make it into the gracious Monterey style mansion that it is today.  Around 1880, Miguel and Espiritu moved in and made it their home. 

 

A great deal of research, study and careful work has gone into restoring the Leonis Adobe to the way it is believed to have appeared after Leonis completed enlarging and remodeling it. 

 

I had a chance to pay a visit to the Leonis Adobe and I was greeted warmly by their hospitable staff.  There I met and talked with one of the members of the Board of Directors, Ms. Ruth Abel.  Ruth was kind enough to give me a tour of the estate which in 1966 after being restored was established as a museum.

 

We started by visiting a section called the Plummer house.  This house was originally located in Plummer Park, West Hollywood where it was known as the “oldest house in Hollywood”.  It was moved to the Leonis Adobe grounds in 1983.

 

We then walked through the barn visiting the barn animals including Marino sheep, gouts and long horn cows, before we entered the Leonis Adobe.

 

The museum is open to public free of charge, Wednesday through Sunday from 1 PM to 4 PM and Saturdays from 10 AM to 4 PM.  Donations are appreciated.

 

I very much enjoyed my visit to this beautiful historic estate located in the heart of Calabasas and I strongly recommend everyone to stop by and enjoy this historical site.

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