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The San Dieguito River Park
18372 Sycamore Creek Rd.
Escondido, CA 92025
Phone: (858) 674-2270
Fax: (858) 674-2280



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River Park mailing list

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The River Park has converted from a print-based distribution system to a web-based system. If you are interested in receiving e-mail notices when the quarterly activity schedule is posted to the website, and news of special events occurring in the Park, click above to send us an e-mail.

Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead

* * *

The Sikes Adobe Farmhouse is a State Point of Historic Interest and a City of San Diego historic site that is being restored by the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority to its period of significance – the period from 1869 to 1899 – which is the time period when it was occupied by the Sikes family. From it we can learn what life was like for the pioneer settlers in San Diego shortly after statehood. The Farmhouse was initially restored in January 2004. In October 2007 it was burned to the ground except for the adobe walls. Rebuilding began in August 2009. The Grand Re-Opening Ceremony was held June 26, 2010. Click here for photos of the Grand Opening Ceremony. June 26, 2011 - New Interior and Exterior Interpretive Exhibits by Consultant David Krimmel were Unveiled.



The Sikes Adobe Historic Farmhouse, located at 12655 Sunset Drive, Escondido, the gateway to the San Pasqual Valley, is open for docent-led tours

10:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and
10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sundays

A $3.00 donation per person at the door is requested.

Call (760) 432-8318 or email

Click here for the Activities Calendar to see all the fun things on offer at the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead.

Projects and Events at the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead

Photos above courtesy of Jim Coffee


History of the Sikes Adobe Farmhouse and the Sikes Family

Goals for the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead

Interpretive Themes

Status of the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead Today

Docent Tours/Docent Recruitment


Ancestors and Descendants of Zenas Sikes, Jr - new edition available, donated by Ron Hall.

Archive Information and Activities at the Sikes Adobe

Post-Fire Rebuilding

Archive Information and Activities at the Sikes Adobe
SDRP Hires Sikes Adobe Museum Manager, Anne Cooper (December 2007)

Tea for Colonial Dames (May 2007)
Wallpaper reproduction (October-November 2006; Update February 2007;
Additional Update March 2007)
Creamery Restoration (partial) (July 2006)
Windmill Restoration
by the Escondido and Rancho Bernardo Sunrise Rotary Clubs (June/July 2005)
Ice Cream Social (July 2005)
Saturday Mornings at Sikes Crafts Series
Songs of the Settlers Benefit Concert (October 3rd, 2004)
Grand Opening Celebration (January 31, 2004)
Farmhouse Restoration - Construction Progress (Before and After) Photos (April 2003-January 2004)


Status of the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead Today
The Farmhouse was owned by the City of San Diego Water Department from 1925 to 2008 when it was purchased by the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority with $170,000 from the County of San Diego at the recommendation of Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. Before purchasing the property, the JPA acted as caretaker for the historic site since the early 1990's.

The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority hired a historic preservation architect team to prepare a Historic Structures Report. The team, led by IS Architecture, with subconsultants historians Stephen Van Wormer and Susan Walters, landscape historian Vonn Marie May, landscape architect Laura Burnett (of WRT), and photographer Philip Rittermann, produced an award-winning report that was honored by the California Preservation Foundation on February 8, 2003.

The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority hired a contractor who was experienced with historic adobe restoration, Mark Sauer Contracting, Inc., to begin the restoration of the farmhouse interior and exterior. Restoration began the week of March 24, 2003, and was finished by the end of the 2003.

A grand opening celebration was held in January 2004.

A devastating wildfire, the Witch Creek Fire, swept through the San Dieguito River Valley in October 2007, burning the San Dieguito River Park office, 62% of the River Park area, including trails and habitat, and destroying the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmhouse. Only the adobe walls were left standing.

The San Dieguito River Park determined to rebuilt the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead, using a combination of insurance and FEMA proceeds. The same consultants and contractors were brought on board. The Grand Re-Opening Celebration was held June 26, 2010 at 10 a.m.

Docent Tours/Docent Recruitment

Click here for Docent Training Schedule

Trainees learn about the architectural history of the house, the history of the Sikes family, and the agricultural history of the late 1800’s. They also learn tips and techniques for being a docent, and theory of interpretation. In return, trainees commit to leading docent tours for the public. Docents help convey what the pioneer farm experience in Southern California was like, using the Sikes Adobe Farmhouse as the stage. All training sessions for new docents will be held at the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead.

SCHEDULE includes One 2-hour Orientation followed by Three 2-hour training sessions. No dates are currently scheduled. Attendance at one of the two orientations is required. Training sessions will focus on Sikes farmhouse history, the Sikes family, and pioneer farming history. In addition, we are looking for folks who have particular skills or are willing to learn those skills. The skills we have in mind include: Carpenters, Quilters, Gardeners, Bakers, Brick-layers, Embroiderers, Musicians, Farmers, Artists and Ropers! If you are interested in attending please call the Sikes Adobe at (760) 432-8318 to reserve your place.

Goals for the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead
Long-Term Goals

  • Re-build and Re-open the Sikes Adobe Farmhouse as a house museum and educate the public about the pioneer farming experience via docent-led tours. (In process)
  • Create a “Friends of the Sikes Adobe” support and fund-raising group. (In process)
  • Furnish the Sikes Adobe Farmhouse with time- and context- appropriate furnishings, goods, decorative arts and clothing. (In Process)
  • Restore the creamery, corral, gardens, farm and expand the tours to encompass these elements. (On hold until rebuilding after the fire is completed.)

Short-Term Goals

The tasks to accomplish these goals are being undertaken now, and are intended to help us achieve the long-term goals.

  • Prepare an interior historic furnishings report that specifies what furnishings are appropriate and desired in each location in the house, and how they should be cared for.(Accomplished!)
  • Prepare an exterior historic furnishings report (gardens, corral, windmill, creamery and farming implements).

History of the Sikes Adobe Farmhouse and the Sikes Family

The Sikes Family

Zenas Sikes' obituary says that he and his wife Eliza moved to Santa Clara from Ohio in a covered wagon after they married in 1853. However, our research indicates that this was not the case. Eliza, who was born in Ohio, moved to California with her stepmother Clarissa Burrell and arrived in January 1853. They came west around Cape Horn on the ship “Westward Ho” to join her stepfather Lyman Burrell who had come west overland in 1849 to become a gold miner. The Sykes (Sikes) family has been documented back to Massachusetts in the 1600s, but they had moved to Michigan by 1837. Zenas appears to have left Michigan in March 1850 with three brothers, arriving in California 5 months later. Census records of 1852 list Zenas and his brothers Charles, Loring and Samuel as living in Santa Clara County, California. In July 1853, Zenas and Eliza married in California.   In 1868 they purchased a 2,400 ˝ acre portion of the former Rancho San Bernardo for $2,500.  With their 6 children, they moved on their property by 1872 and built a one-room adobe structure to live in.  Additional rooms in the Greek revival style, popular during the Victorian era, were soon added to the one room structure.  These additions were of wood, not adobe.  Based on letters written by Eliza Sikes, we know that the farmhouse reached its final outer dimensions by 1881. 

Farmhouse Houseplan

Zenas Sikes died in surgery in April 1881 as a result of being kicked by a horse on his leg twice.  Eliza used the insurance payments in part to remodel the house extensively and upgrade the furnishings.  She also continued the wheat farming business.  The family’s fortunes slowly declined in the decade after Zenas’ death.  Wheat became less profitable as competition grew and the land became less fertile.  The family began a dairy operation.  The remains of the old creamery are still on the site.  Debts piled up and in 1897 the property was sold to August Barnett for $10 to pay off the mortgages he held on the property.  In 1917 the house was purchased, along with the buildings in the Bernardo community, as part of the Lake Hodges Dam project, initiated by Col. Ed Fletcher.

North Elevation Detail

Above is an exterior shot of the adobe portion before the first restoration. 

North Wall Interior Detail

Above is a shot of the sitting room taken before the first restoration, showing the brace holding the ceiling up. The fireplace was not added until sometime after 1900, so it was removed during the restoration because the "period of significance" was determined to be the period while the Sikes Family lived in the house, with the date of 1881 chosen because substantial information is available about the house's appearance at that time.

Contextual View of Creamery

Above are the remains of the adobe creamery.  This phase of the project did not include restoration of the creamery.  That will be done in a subsequent phase, as will the landscaping and gardens.


The Sikes and their neighbors became founders of a community of pioneer farmers that settled the former Rancho Bernardo in the 1870s and developed the region into productive agricultural lands that supported a rural society.  Settlement of the agricultural hinterland was critical to the infant city of San Diego.  Farmers were desperately needed to feed the expanding urban population and provide markets for local business.

Farmers in the region prospered largely as a result of grain cultivation.  During initial settlement, pioneer farmers needed a product that could be quickly and cheaply produced.  Grains could be planted quickly with little initial investment and offered a quick cash return at the end of the season.  Wheat was first planted on a large scale in the central valley during the late 1860’s.  It became the largest and most profitable crop in California between 1860 and 1893.  California winter wheat quickly gained the reputation as premium wheat by millers in England, Ireland and parts of Europe by the 1870’s.  Known abroad as “California white velvet”, the wheat was harvested in the summer and could be shipped thousands of miles with little degradation.  The quality was unusually hard and dry, making it suitable for long maritime transport around Cape Horn. 

The Town of Bernardo

Town of Bernardo

In this photo, dated in the early 1910's, the Town of Bernardo can be seen on the right. The Sikes Adobe Farmhouse is located under the cluster of trees in the middle left of the photo.

The Town of Bernardo was a small townsite located about 2,000 feet east of the Sikes Farmhouse on the main road between San Diego and the northern regions of present-day San Diego County.  The town consisted of about a half-dozen buildings that included a general store, blacksmith shop and grange hall.  The town served a community of about 400 people in outlying areas.  The official founding of the community of Bernardo occurred on December 3, 1872 when a post office was established at the Sikes farmstead with Zenas Sikes as postmaster.  Zenas Sikes was the first master of the Bernardo grange, a local chapter of a national fraternal association of farmers.  The grange was also important in the social life of the community, organizing picnics and balls.

The general store at Bernardo was a landmark in the region for 40 years, serving as the main commercial outlet for Valley Center, Rincon del Diablo (present day Escondido), San Pasqual, Bernardo and Poway areas.  The establishment of Escondido in the late 1880’s caused the gradual decline of the general store and the town.

Bernardo continued to exist as a community until the construction of the Lake Hodges Dam in 1918.  By that time, the City of Escondido had become the dominant market town in northern San Diego County, and the site of the store and the post office (relocated to Bernardo in 1876) had been purchased as part of the Lake Hodges reservoir.


The San Diego County Committee of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America provided initial assistance to the furnishing of the interior of the Farmhouse.  The Colonial Dames researched additional history about the Sikes family and about interior furnishings known to have been owned by the family, and researched additional furnishings specific to this period, locale and income level.  We are fortunate that extensive probate records for the Sikes family after Zenas Sikes’ death are available.  The records give information about their household furnishings, the farm equipment, their grocery supplies, etc. 

Interpretive Themes


Six major themes have been identified for interpretation either in an Interpretive Center or at the Sikes Adobe Farmhouse.

  • The Pioneer Farming Experience
  • “Grain as King”
  • The Changing Agricultural Face of San Diego
  • The Sikes Family Story
  • An Evolving Building
  • The Town of Bernardo

Special Note:

Ron Hall, long-term River Park volunteer and Sikes Adobe docent, has authored a book entitled, "Ancestors and Descendants of Zenas Sikes, Jr." The proceeds from sales of the book were donated by Ron to the San Dieguito River Park for use at the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmhouse.

Copies may be purchased from the River Park for $25 in person or $30 if mailed. The book is a compilation of research by Ron, who tracked down an amazing number of living Sikes descendants, and the efforts of Arthur M. Sikes, and Perrin Weston-Coman.

Perrin, whose research was on behalf of San Diego County Committee of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in California, was responsible for the breakthrough contact with Arthur M. Sikes, whose comprehensive family genealogy begins in 13th Century England and ends with Zenas Sikes' generation in late 1800s America. She was also responsible for a watershed of information about Eliza's Burrell's family history through the discovery of the "Burrell Letters" archived in Stockton, Calif.

If you have any leads on information relating to Sikes family history, or photographs of the family or site, please e-mail Ron Hall at

Link to Sikes/Sykes Families Association website

If you are interested in the Sikes Adobe Farmhouse project, and especially if you are interested in participating in a “Friends of Sikes Adobe” support and fundraising group, please email Anne Cooper at or call her at 858 674-2275 x 19.

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