The Oldest California House is Still Standing After 120 Years


California has a rich and diversified history, beginning with Native American tribes that occupied the country for thousands of years, continuing with Spanish and Mexican colonists who created missions and ranchos, and ending with American pioneers and immigrants who reshaped the economy and culture. The Ávila Adobe in Los Angeles is the oldest residence in California and a significant historical site.

History of the Ávila Adobe

The Ávila Adobe was erected in 1818 by Francisco Ávila, a rich rancher and politician who held a substantial chunk of property in today’s Los Angeles County. The home was built in the Spanish colonial style, with adobe bricks created from clay, straw, and water. The house featured a straightforward rectangular layout, with a central courtyard, a kitchen, a dining room, a living room, and many bedrooms. The home included a fireplace, a tiled roof, and wooden doors and windows.

The mansion was located on Plaza de Los Ángeles, which was the focus of civic and social activity in early Los Angeles. The Plaza was bordered by other adobe structures, including the church, the government building, and the prison. The Ávila family hosted numerous visitors and activities at their home, including parties, dances, and religious rituals. Francisco Ávila was a significant member of the city, serving as mayor of Los Angeles in 1810 and 1816. He also participated in the Mexican War of Independence and the Mexican-American War.

The mansion saw numerous historical events and changes, including the secularization of the missions, the shift from Mexican to American control, the arrival of Anglo immigrants, the finding of gold, and the city’s expansion.

The home also survived various natural calamities, including floods, earthquakes, and fires. The home was damaged by the 1848 flood, which ruined a portion of the roof and walls, as well as the 1870 earthquake, which split the adobe bricks. The mansion was also endangered by urban expansion, which ringed the Plaza with contemporary buildings and roadways.

The Preservation of Ávila Adobe

Christine Sterling, a civic activist, saved the Ávila Adobe from demolition by advocating for the preservation of historic structures on the Plaza. In 1926, she formed the Plaza de Los Ángeles Restoration Association to generate funding and awareness for the restoration and protection of historic adobe constructions. She successfully convinced the city to designate the Plaza as a historic park and buy the Ávila Adobe as a public museum.

The Ávila Adobe underwent restoration in 1930, including mending damaged walls and roofs, restoring wooden doors and windows, and outfitting rooms with period-appropriate furniture and antiques. The restoration was finished in 1932, and the home was made available to the public as a museum.

The museum showcases the original adobe bricks, fireplace, and courtyard, along with exhibits on the history and culture of the Ávila family and early Los Angeles. The museum also organizes educational and cultural activities such as lectures, tours, and festivals.

The Ávila Adobe is Los Angeles’ and California’s oldest existing dwelling. It’s a California Historical Landmark, a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, and a National Register of Historic Places listing. It represents the preservation and celebration of California’s unique and rich history, as well as the tradition and legacy of the Spanish, Mexican, and American eras.


In the end, the Ávila Adobe is an amazing example of California’s long and interesting past. It shows how different cultures have shaped the state’s culture, from its Native American roots to its Spanish and Mexican invasions and the American era that followed.

Civic organizer Christine Sterling fought to keep the adobe in good shape, which turned it into a museum that shows off its original architecture and serves as a learning center. The Ávila Adobe is California’s oldest house and a beloved historical site that shows how the state’s unique history has survived and will continue to do so.


The Ávila Adobe shows California’s eclectic past, with cultural influences from Native American tribes, Spanish and Mexican immigrants, and American pioneers. Its preservation, spearheaded by civic activist Christine Sterling, has guaranteed that this historical treasure may continue to educate and inspire as a museum. The Ávila Adobe, with its original architecture and insight into the life of the Ávila family and early Los Angeles, is a poignant reminder of the state’s history. As California’s oldest residence, it represents the state’s enduring heritage and people’s tenacity.

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