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Evolution of the Ranch House
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The Los Alamitos Ranch House

The sprawling 10,000-square-foot ranch house of the Rancho Los Alamitos is a vernacular structure that got its start around 1804 as a simple 4-room, reed-roofed adobe building. It began as a modest shelter for vaqueros and livestock alike on an outlying area of one of Manuel Nieto’s ranches. Over the years, the versatile building sprouted new rooms, not to mention entire wings and floors, to suit the changing needs of the occupants that dwelled within. Manuel Nieto and his heir, Juan Jose, merely required a building to establish their legal occupancy of Rancho Los Alamitos, and a shelter for laborers on a remote stretch of coastline. Subsequent owners and tenants during the Mexican and early American periods adapted the building as needed. Eventually, the additions wrapped the original adobe like a cocoon.

Abel Stearns and his wife Arcadia Bandini, the first owners to occupy the ranch house on a regular basis, added wood floors, a gabled roof, new interior walls, and an entire bunkhouse house wing for their vaqueros. The three generations of the Bixby family that occupied the ranch house from 1878 until 1961 added more rooms, myriad windows, skylights, a second story, an entire wing of children’s bedrooms, indoor plumbing, and electricity. The organic structure changed with the times, embracing and absorbing the cultures, technologies, and styles that flowed around it and through it. We are fortunate that in 1968, when the historic site was donated to the City of Long Beach, the Bixby family also donated the historic furnishings within the ranch house. 

Unlike many historic homes, nearly all the furnishings and décor within the structure are original to the house.  The interiors of the Rancho Los Alamitos ranch house convey an authentic and cohesive picture of the family that lived within its walls. Because we have the original furnishings accompanied by excellent written, oral, and photographic documentation for one of the significant periods in the site’s history, the interior of the ranch house reflects the interpretive period of 1920 through 1945, even though the ranch house itself has a much longer history. Today this classic California ranch house, the predecessor of the mid-century ranch houses of the 1950s and ‘60s, is open to the general public year round, a feature of one of the premier historic sites in Southern California.

     

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© Rancho Los Alamitos, 6400 E. Bixby Hill Road, Long Beach, California 90815 - 562.431.3541