Riverside’s Trujillo Adobe is second on a list of the Top 10 Latino historical sites in need of protection in the United States, according to a report by the Hispanic Access Foundation.
The 32-page report, titled “Place, Story and Culture,” was released Sept. 21 to help advocate for the preservation of historical sites that embody Latinos’ architectural and cultural history in the United States.
The advocacy is sorely needed, according to local defenders of the adobe, which is on Center Street, west of Orange Street in Riverside’s Northside neighborhood.
Many remain unaware of the importance or even the existence of the adobe, built in 1863, and it’s crumbling, said Nancy Melendez, president of the Spanish Town Heritage Foundation.
“It’s dire,” Melendez said. “There are three walls left, and they need to be supported.”
The report should help restoration efforts, she said.
“I think it gets the word out. So many times there are stories that we don’t hear in history, so when we do find one and it’s here in our backyard, it needs to be shared with people,” Melendez said.
The Trujillo Adobe, which is now encased within a protective structure, is one of the only remaining signs of the first non-native settlements in the San Bernardino Valley.
The settlement consisted of La Placita de los Trujillos in what is now the Northside neighborhood of Riverside and the Agua Mansa community across the Santa Ana River in what is now Colton. Together, they constituted the largest settlement between New Mexico and Los Angeles.
Ten Latino families led by Lorenzo Trujillo took the Old Spanish Trail in 1842 from New Mexico to land granted to the Lugo brothers in San Bernardino.
When the Lugos didn’t offer the deal the families had been told about — that they could own land of their own in return for protecting the Lugos’ crops — they found a similar arrangement on Juan Bandini’s Mexican land grant, Melendez said.
A flood destroyed those first structures in 1862, but the Trujillo Adobe and the Agua Mansa cemetery, built shortly after the flood, remain. (Buried somewhere downstream, artifacts of the first settlement must also remain, Melendez said. She’s seeking tests to find those tools.)
The settlers — who came before California became part of the United States — represent not just local history but the broader history of the West, according to Manuel Galaviz, Norma Hartell and Ashleyann Perez-Rivera, who wrote the report.
“The Trujillo Adobe is a site that demonstrates the connections and contributions that Latino communities had as part of western expansion, specifically the settlement of California,” reads the report. “The adobe is the last standing remnant of the Trujillo legacy and one of the first nonindigenous settlements in this region.”
The Trujillo Adobe has been designated a landmark by the city and county of Riverside. It’s also a California site of Historical Significance, said Darlene Trujillo Elliot, co-founder of the Spanish Town Heritage Foundation and — like Melendez — a descendant of Lorenzo Trujillo.
The goals now are to get on the national register of historic places, to get grant funding for preservation and to create renderings of the area so people can see what the settlement looked like, Trujillo Elliot said.
That type of historical economic tourism would be unique in Riverside County, she said.
“We want to get people to visit,” Trujillo Elliot said. “This was a big farming community, and we’re trying to have a way for people to see — this is how we lived.”