The Adobe is one of several local Mexican land grants from the 1840's. These were land grants before present day California was ‘Alta California’ and prior to it becoming a US state in 1850. The hand painted mural on the wall outside the Gift Shop shows all the local land grants.
The original land grant was given by the Governor of Mexico to Felipe Subria in 1845 – a Luiseno Indian. Before that, the area was farmed by two Indians from San Luis Rey Mission, and they were awarded a different land grant. Subria built an adobe structure, but it no longer exists. From 1846-47, the Mexican American War ensued and the land was annexed by the US.
Since then, the Adobe has had 12 different owners over the years and many different changes.
Today, the Adobe is owned by The City of Vista.
The original land grant for the adobe area was 1184 acres.
Imagine this area and how it looked when the Adobe was first built. The Mission at San Luis Rey had been present in the area since 1798, and besides the missionaries, there were Indians – Luisenos and Dieguenos, and a few small farms. No vegetation grew taller than 20 feet, mostly shrubs and chaparrel, so there were no tall trees to cut down – hence the Adobe structure – clay, sand, straw, etc.
Since Subria, there have been 12 other owners of this property. All of them have stories about their ownership, what they did here, and some interesting twists and turns. To learn more about the different families who called the Adobe "home" click on link below OR learn more about the history on one of our docent led tours.
Harold and Margarita Fisher purchased the property in 1931. Margarita was a famous silent film movie star and Harold a producer for MGM and owned Pollard Pictures. They filmed several movies together. Some with socially controversial topics.
Pollards invested $150,000 to upgrade the interior including tiles from Mexico and Italy. The master bathroom was remolded with two sinks – unusual for that day - and why we now call this "the move star's bathroom". Heavy doors were installed to join the rooms together. Clothes closets in the form of cupboard were installed in each bedroom. Expensive furnishings, Spanish tapestries, silver crosses, brass and gold plated pieces, and items gleaned from churches throughout Europe decorated their home. They repaired the roof with shingles, repaired damaged adobe bricks with concrete, and had professional landscaping including a badminton court. A three car garage housed their luxury vehicles. They weren’t there long when Harry died in 1934, but Margarita remained until 1951. She had another home built in Vista in the Adobe style but could no longer keep up the maintenance. She became active in Vista society and became the founding director for the Vista Rancheros Historical Society. They received a gift of a magnolia tree from Joan Crawford which remains in the courtyard today.
The last private owner of the Adobe offered to sell the property to the City of Vista. The city council began hearings and voted to approve escrow on July 10, 1989. After the purchase, a core of volunteers built a museum from scratch. It was proposed to use the property as a wedding venue, and other events, for most of the income to offset maintenance costs. The City also offers a popular 'Adobe Days' program featuring hands-on California history for 4th graders