Winchester, formerly Pleasant Valley.
The air clears up, the atmosphere changes. You are in San Jacinto, home to some of the last dairy farms in Southern California, but most importantly, one of the oldest settlements in the area/county of Riverside (formerly San Diego).
Now you can explore the few old structures remaining and what is left of that ongoing squabble between Old Town Folks and New Town Folks.
But this article will center on three structures located close to each other geographically, and almost identical in their looks. (And surely there must be more.) The three houses were ordered in the Italianate style of the Victorian. The Queen Anne style soon upstaged the Italianite, preferred at first by those building cottages in rural areas. Two of the three houses pictured belonged to the brothers José Antonio and José Francisco Estudillo. Separated by the river and roughly three miles apart from one another, they show identical traits, two floors and a top open tower (some locals referred to as Widow Maker), a covered porch and a large balcony. The said Widow Maker was truly used in emergencies; its access was hidden inside an enclosed chamber/closet, located in the master bedroom.
The style did not flourish beyond the 1900’s and the Estudillos lost their homes to foreclosure before the end of the first luster of the 20th Century. José Antonio´s mansion was less fortunate as it survived in total disrepair until October of 2014, the date of its demolition. Francisco’s made it to State and National Registers of Historic Properties. It is today a House Museum, centrally located on Estudillo Heritage Park.
It would only make sense to imagine that the third identical structure was also in the Estudillo family, but though that logical conclusion misled me for a while, I visited the more rustic Community House Museum of Winchester, where the Historic Society of Winchester keeps it for viewing by appointment only. This third structure originally belonged to the Patterson Family, hence its name. John and Maria Patterson built their house around 1891 (5 to 6 years after its look-alikes) upon moving from Los Angeles to what was then Pleasant Valley (now Winchester.)
Once I visited the homes, I was dying to research the lives of El Topo (José Antonio Estudillo) and his brother, José Francisco, and to immerse myself in the day of their wives, Adelaide and Carmelita Rubidoux; and later the mysterious stories of the Patterson children, Tilla, Ida, Clarence, Jessie and Lloyd. Yet I took nearly two years to research only the buildings and its meaningful presence in the history of today’s San Jacinto Valley. So here are the houses for you, and for now!
I was lucky enough to hold two photos of the Soboba Mansion (belonging to José Antonio Estudillo and wife Adelaide Rubidoux) from a better day (at the San Jacinto Museum’s Collection). The photographers were Charles Van Fleet and Junis and Pearson.
Pepper Trees still stand in the areas surrounding this California local jewel. They were planted by Maria Patterson as a way to make the property hers, in the 1890's when the house was built.
Gregg Cowdery has supervised every detail in bringing the Patterson House, the jewel of the Winchester Historical Society, closer to its days of glory. I first discovered the existence of Patterson House while visiting Estudillo Heritage Park in San Jacinto. I wanted to see 1st hand the third Italianate Structure of the area. My expectations were met, undoubtedly. I was able to check the structure, retrofitted in most of its basic features.
I had to wait for the end of the summer to set up an appointment, since temperatures rise quite high, so my first task was to set aside some time and coordinate a visit, as soon as possible, a necessary step, since the house is not yet open regular hours.
The best time to visit is Fall or Winter. I recommend the views in the fall, for great camera shots at sunset. Be prepared to start on a journey into the diary of Angie Remsburg, Clarence Patterson's wife. Clarence was the son of John and Maria Patterson, general store owner and blacksmith and home maker, respectively. The pic I share here is of the view from one of the front windows. Little has changed in Winchester since its heyday, also referred to as Pleasant Valley for its original name. So get ready to enjoy every memory, every picture as Gregg shows you through the times. Most importantly, do not discard the paranormal experiences!
I am not much of a believer, but I am always open to tune into the magic of old buildings. So here is my take on that. We came by late afternoon, since we were told that was the best time to avoid the heat, yet we needed sunlight to appreciate the inside. In the rooms, you can feel some vibes and the decor, giving the place the coziness needed, gets you into half nostalgia-half eeriness. There was another visitor who cried when entering Jessie Patterson's room. Jessie died while studying to be a teacher in Los Angeles, and the family kept her bedroom closed for years. Upon leaving, the dog started to howl, while looking towards one of the windows. And my own unexplained occurrence happened the day after. I had planned to devote the day to writing the article that brought me to the Patterson House in the first place. As I was getting ready to start my account in front of my computer, inspired by the tempting aroma of a double expresso, the bathroom door shut and locked. Yes, every thing that happens to us can be explained one way or another, but this one didn't. We never shut that door, adjacent as it is to a hallway giving the bathroom its needed privacy.
Look at my gallery for some of the objects that caught my eye. My favorite part of visiting this museum was to get a glimpse of how life could have been inside that house, with no added glamor or overstated elegance and wealth. Just plain countryside life!
The Patterson House Museum is located in Old Town Winchester, off of 79. You need to make an appointment to see it. For more information on this authentically local House Museum you may visit the Museum Web page here.
Growing up, there was a weeping willow outside my window. I spend many hours looking at it. Perhaps that is why looking out the windows of old houses helps me connect with their original residents. How we look at the world and what we see is a very important aspect of our everyday lives. I found the views and the windows in the Patterson House, for that reason, particularly striking.
For the article published on Patterson House Museum click here
A porch with a light on. A place to call home. That is probably what the American dream still is today, to many. And that is what Ken and Jukichi Harada had in mind when they purchased this property on Lemon Street. Little did they know their neighbors to the left would start a legal suit that would cost them years of their lives and that of their American born children. The purchase of the house on Lemon Street was a sad prequel to yet another tragic chapter, the internment of the entire family in concentration camps set after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, in December of 1941.
To read the published text click here: Casa de Riverside representa lucha por los derechos civiles
When Miné Okubo headed to France to complete her studies in Art, on a scholarship, she would have never guessed a few years later she would be at a concentration camp, struggling to draw every moment in order to tell the dreadful story later. I stood in front of this picture several minutes. The looks, the smile, the cockiness, left me in awe. How do you go from the high stand of being the student of Férnand Léger to being humiliated, beyond belief, at a barrack, heavily guarded by armed men and surrounded by barbed wire.
I walked from Market to Orange in a hurry to buy the book Citizen 13660. Miné spoke directly to me, from her powerful paintings, her voice, her narrative illustrations. A life changing experience! I woke up the morning after my first encounter with Okubo´s work stating the word Evacuation. I must have been half asleep as I googled Topaz and Tanforan. I want to spend the next few years reading about the exclusion laws, the relocation centers, civil rights. This article is the report of my visit to the Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties in the City of Riverside. The Center was built to house the works of Miné Okubo, and it has become a resource for those interested in the history of immigration.
To read the published text click on: Riverside en los ojos de sus inmigrantes
I started working the Western End of Riverside County in 2013. A fascinating local history can only be paired with a burgeoning urban center showing the fastest growth in the entire US since 2012.