Branciforte Adobe

Branciforte Adobe

The Branciforte Adobe, also known as the Craig-Lorenzana Adobe, is the only remaining dwelling from the Villa de Branciforte, the settlement that was established at the time of the Mission Santa Cruz. Because it is the only remaining dwelling, this house is a crucial representative of the social and cultural traditions of the time. [ [ The Villa de Branciforte Preservation Society webpage] ]

The Settlement

The Villa de Branciforte is one of the three settlements in Alta California which was established by the Spaniards in 1797. The other two settlements are located in San Jose and Los Angeles. These pueblos and the Villa de Branciforte were rare happenings in the colonial history of Spain and were created as part of Spain's strategy to protect Alta California against the other European countries such as Russia, England, and France that were trying to gain this Californian territory. All three of these settlements were the beginnings of a population of civilians that were not bound to the church or the military. Unlike the Spanish Missions, the villa was secular and unlike the other two settlements of San Jose and Los Angeles, Branciforte was the only “villa” in the Spanish colonial era in California, the other two being pueblos. The secular side of history from the 18th and 19th centuries has been overshadowed by a focus on the mission's history, however the secular settlements had a greater cultural diversity, free enterprise, democracy, and independent freedom than Spain, Mexico, or the California missions. The Villa de Branciforte was located on the east bluff of the Branciforte Creek in the city of Santa Cruz. The first eight settlers came from Guadalajara, Mexico and were running to escape the law. They soon became “invalidos” or veterans who got special privileges and wages for being a reserve army to defend the coast in emergencies. The village was named the Villa de Branciforte after Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca y Branciforte, marqués de Branciforte, then Viceroy of New Spain. The village was not an immediate success, however by 1831 it had a population of about two hundred people which was mostly made up of merchants, explorers, and retired soldiers. In 1893, about five years after the villa was established the settlers attempted to establish a government by electing an alcade or mayor. This election was most likely the first election ever held in the Alta California region. After this, the citizens of the Villa de Branciforte began to spread over the country. [Santa Cruz County HIstory Journal: Issue number three Art and History Museum of Santa Cruz County 1997] [The Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture 3rd Edition , John Leighton Chase]

The Remaining structure

The only remains from the settlement of the Villa de Branciforte is the two room Craig-Lorenzana Adobe which stands on the corner of Branciforte and Goss in Santa Cruz. It is the oldest single-family dwelling in Santa Cruz, It had two foot thick adobe mud plastered walls which are still remaining, a tile roof classic to the Spanish era later changed to redwood shake, and a veranda on the front rebuilt in the eighties. The original adobe structure surviving from the Villa de Branciforte was one large rectangular room with two covered corridors (porches) on both length wise sides of the house. The rear corridor ending adjacent to the fire pit and cooking area. Over the years the house was modified many times; the most significant modifications were done by Jose Lorenzana in 1848. Lorenzana partitioned a small bedroom from the main room so that he and his wife could sleep separately from their reportedly 21 children. He fancied up the house adding doors, hinges, wallpaper and molding to the house to give it some flair. Jose Lorenzana lived in the house until his death in 1863 ending the reign of Spanish inhabitants.

In the early 1870s, a very prominent man named Andrew Craig lived in the house and became the district attorney and opened a law school in The Branciforte Adobe. Craig was followed by the Winchester Family who covered the adobe walls with Redwood. After the Winchester Family two men, Jim Hawley and Jim Hammond resided in the Branciforte Adobe; they built the exterior and porch, and altered the roof to a redwood shake one. The house was then bought in the 1980s by Edna and Joe Kimbro who continued the restoration by stripping chicken wire and plaster from the exterior of the house and restored the original adobe. This gave her the opportunity to examine the adobe and the wooden pieces used in the construction. At this point she added on two additional bedrooms and two functional bathrooms. Edna Kimbro became very interested in preserving examples of early California History, sold The Branciforte Adobe and moved on to restore and study The Castro Adobe, a two story adobe in the Watsonville area which was built in the mid 1800s. Her work on the Branciforte Adobe was a very deliberate and detailed restoration which yielded information compatible with other classic adobe structures as well as revealing other unique characteristics. The Branciforte Adobe remains a private residence and is owned by a family who tries to honor the history of the home. [A three hour video made by Edna Kimbro to be kept with the house.]


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