Summer Of 99--life In The Adobes
History comes alive in Monterey's historic adobes.
Thursday, May 27, 1999
In the middle of downtown Monterey, tucked away behind stucco walls or flowering trees, lie 12 oases of mid-19th-century Mexican-American life: Monterey''s lovingly preserved historic adobes, owned and maintained by Monterey State Historic Parks. A different, more colorful twist on the usual adobe walking tour is to take a two-hour tour of two of the more lovely historic gardens, planted as they might have been in the 1850s, with plants that were available at the time.
Al Graham, a volunteer with the Historic Garden League, led our verdant romp one recent Saturday, beginning at the Cooper-Molera Adobe across from the Monterey Transit Station. Graham, whose British great-grandfather jumped ship off the Monterey coast to set down roots here, regaled us with tales of how his grandmother prepared concoctions from the herbs and medicinal flowers on view, using the same methods as the adobe''s original inhabitants. Lemon verbena, for example, was "boiled in a pot on the stove, in the days before deodorant," while cactus needles were boiled down, and their juice mixed with plaster to spread on the adobe walls. Snapping off a branch of a salvia plant, Graham showed us how pioneers used the stems for candle wicks.
After a couple hours of smelling the roses, skip on over to the Memory Garden in the Custom House Plaza where Pacific Repertory Theatre this summer is reenacting the life of Joaquin Murrieta, the so-called "Robin Hood of Monterey." Pac Rep dramaturg Dan Gotch penned this paean to the 1849 Mexican bandit/freedom fighter who was so slippery that the authorities at one point thought up to a dozen different men were he. "The Americans could never figure out who was the real Joaquin Murrieta," Gotch says. After they captured one suspected Murrieta, "they carried around his head in a pickle jar for years, but was it his?"
The Murrieta play ends at 3:45 sharp, just in time for "Actors in the Adobes," a state-funded dramatic reenactment of great moments in Monterey''s founding history that''s been presented on weekends in the summer in various Monterey adobes for the past 10 years. This year''s offerings are sesquicentennial specials: Saturdays at 4pm, California First Theater founder Jack Swann discourses on the theater, and Sundays at 4pm, Walter Colton and Robert Semple discuss the building of Colton Hall and the writing of the California Constitution.
Historic Garden Tours, every Saturday and Tuesday at 1pm through September. Meet in the Cooper-Molera courtyard, Munras Avenue at Polk Street, Monterey. $2/donation. 649-7118. Actors in the Adobes and the Memory Garden play, Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30pm, June 26-July 18. Free. Part of Monterey Bay TheatreFest. 622-0700.