Casa de Abel
State senator may move in to historic adobe.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Even senators must contend with the Monterey Peninsula’s housing crunch.
After a prolonged search for suitable, affordable office space, state Senator Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, has set his sights on the 160-year-old Casa Gutierrez adobe in downtown Monterey.
“We are looking at the building and it’s our number one choice,” says Tom Kise, Maldonado’s communication director. “We’ve been trying to get an office for some time now, but because of rent prices, it’s been a difficult task.”
Maldonado’s 15th district extends for 220 miles, from Silicon Valley to northern Santa Barbara County.
Kise says that the senator is eager to find an office on the Peninsula as members of his staff have been forced to “operate out of their cars” while in Monterey.
Located at 590 Calle Principal, Casa Gutierrez—which was recently vacated by celebrity artist Thomas Kinkade—seems to fit the bill.
Preserved from demolition when the Monterey Foundation purchased it in 1954, the historic building was eventually acquired by the State of California and became part of the Monterey State Historic Park. Since then it has been rented as a concession of the Parks Department. Over the years, Casa Guiterrez has housed a Mexican restaurant and a number of art galleries.
Yet some feel the senator’s designs on the building are inappropriate.
A representative for Maldonado created a stir when he stated the senator’s intentions at a California State Parks meeting last month. Attended by nearly 40 people, including a relative from the Gutierrez family, the meeting had been convened to solicit public comments and suggestions for the vacant adobe.
One of those made unhappy by Maldonado’s plan was local cultural anthropologist and historian Nancy Peden.
“It should be open to the public,” Peden says. “And support the mission of the State Parks to promote local history. It’s a great place for readings, weddings, and historic reenactments.”
Kise counters that should Maldonado move in, the adobe would remain the people’s casa.
“We want to see it as open as we can have it to the public,” Kise says. “If we can have a public servant in there, they can come and talk to an elected official and see a historic site at the same time. Abel has seen it and is excited about having tours.”
Peden worries that while visitors might have access while Maldonado and his staff are there, the adobe’s educational and historic potential would not be fully realized
“I’m sure he can, as others have, find another suitable office and keep Old Monterey open to the public,” she says.
One of the few remaining adobes built in the simpler Mexican style that once lined Monterey’s streets, Casa Gutierrez was constructed by Joaquin Gutierrez, a young cavalry soldier who came to Monterey from Chile in the 1830s.
Gutierrez married a daughter of the respected Escobar family, and they had a family of 15 children. In 1841, Gutierrez bought a plot of land from the town authorities, and began building the house we see today about five years later. The current building occupied the southern portion of the plot; an additional wing has since been torn down. When Gutierrez died in 1872, his heirs divided the property.
“It is a jewel in the crown that is Monterey Bay and we want to highlight that,” Kise says. “We want tours during business hours, we want students to come down and visit the senator—we love the building for its historical value.”