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Warner-Carrillo Ranch House
Grand Opening

June 1 · 11am-4pm

On June 1, 2013 the newly restored 1857 Warner-Carrillo adobe ranch house, which played important and colorful roles in the Western frontier as a Butterfield Overland Stage Station, stopover for itinerant gold prospectors, Civil War trading post and longtime cattle ranch; will formally open as a house museum alive with the lifestyle and lore of early California days.

A grand opening with a host of historically themed activities and attractions will be held Saturday, June 1 for an all day celebration from 11am to 4pm at the historic adobe at San Felipe Road/State Highway S-2, one-half mile east of Highway 79 near Warner Springs. Admission is $5 and free to ages 3 and under. Food fit for hungry cowboys, will also be available for an extra charge. The event is also a fundraiser for the national landmark, with its adobe barn next on the restoration list.

"We invite families and visitors of all ages to come for ranch house tours, Concord stagecoach rides, Wells Fargo exhibit, and hands-on historic interactive demonstrations and exhibits," says Bruce Coons, executive director of Save Our Heritage Organisation, San Diego County's largest and most active historic preservation group. "You can have your picture taken by a tin type photographer if you come in costume, hear the Antebellum Marine Band and Kumeyaay Bird singers, or watch a historic reenactment by the Army of the West."

Warner-Carrillo Ranch House is a National Historic Landmark owned and restored by Vista Irrigation District (VID) and operated by SOHO, which is devoted to preservation and education, and which played an integral role in saving the site. SOHO also manages the recently reopened Santa Ysabel Store, an 1884 landmark just 11 miles away from the ranch house in San Diego's backcountry, and three museums in the city of San Diego.

Vista Irrigation District, established in 1923, has been instrumental in the agricultural development of North San Diego County. The district received a coveted Governor's Historic Preservation Award for restoring the ranch house and stabilizing its hand-hewn timber barn for future restoration. The district and its general manager also were named Preservationists of the Year by SOHO in 2012 presented at its 30th annual People In Preservation Awards.

"We're very excited about the grand opening of the Ranch House," said Roy Coox, General Manager of the Vista Irrigation District. "After years of hard work by so many people, it is extremely gratifying to be able to open the restored house to be enjoyed by the public. SOHO has been a wonderful partner in the restoration and we look forward to continuing to work together to manage and improve this historic landmark."

"Because the cultural landscape at Warner's Ranch has been able to be preserved through the ownership of the VID, it is still possible to see the same views that pioneers saw when they first reached the Promised Land with the rutted emigrant trail still visible near the ranch house," said Bruce Coons.

Native Americans had settled in the area centuries earlier, taking advantage of local hot springs, and abundant water sources but they were expelled from their homeland by the ranch's ownership in the early 20th century.

Doña Vicenta Sepúlveda Carrillo, a well-to-do rancher, wife and mother, built the adobe ranch house in 1857 for her family, and lived there until 1869. Twice widowed, she supervised ranch operations such as raising cattle, sheep, barley and hay with the help of her children and local Mission Indians. Known for her hospitality, Doña Carrillo was described by William Heath Davis, a prominent early San Diego pioneer, as "a beautiful and fascinating widow" who "managed her rancho with much ability."

Thousands of settlers, gold prospectors, soldiers, and adventurers stopped at the house, which served as the Butterfield Stage Stop from 1858 until the Civil War began in 1861. The Overland stage route, which embarked from St. Louis and Tipton, was California's first regularly scheduled transcontinental connection, and a popular choice, as it was the most southerly route to California and the one with the most favorable weather. Many settlers' diaries recorded the pleasure and relief of arriving at the inviting adobe outpost, set in the well-watered valley, after an arduous and often dangerous journey crossing the great southwestern deserts.

After the turn of the 20th century the ranch was owned by a series of cattlemen, including former California governor John G. Downey. Waves of cowhands moved in using it as a bunkhouse and ending its life as a family home.

Despite this heavy use and subsequent deterioration after it was vacated in 1960, the ranch house had survived with much of its architectural integrity and a great deal of its historic fabric intact. The original fireplace mantle, woodwork and vigas (rustic ceiling beams) remain. Its restoration was made possible by funds raised and grants awarded to Vista Irrigation District, which responded to the call for protection when SOHO identified the ranch house and barn as San Diego County's "most important unprotected historical site" in 2000. SOHO provided consulting and oversight of the restoration to the VID as well, which was done by the preservation firm of IS Architecture.

"SOHO is honored to interpret and open this national historic landmark site, which figured into the hearts and minds of thousands of settlers and was pivotal to the opening of the American West," said Coons.

For more information, visit or call SOHO at (619) 297-9327. For information about the Vista Irrigation District and its Warner Ranch property, visit or call the District at (760) 597-3117.



2476 San Diego Avenue · San Diego CA 92110 · Phone (619) 297-9327
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