The San Dieguito River Park
18372 Sycamore Creek Rd.
Escondido, CA 92025
Phone: (858) 674-2270
Fax: (858) 674-2280
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.
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.
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
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
of the farmhouse interior and exterior. Restoration began
the week of March 24, 2003, and was finished by the end of
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.
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
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)
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,
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.)
The tasks to accomplish these goals are being
undertaken now, and are intended to help us achieve the long-term
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
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
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.
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.
Above is an exterior shot of the adobe portion before the first restoration.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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 RMHDELD@aol.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 858 674-2275 x