Cooper-Molera Adobe Garden


History of the Cooper-Molera Adobe

Vintage Photograph of the Cooper-Molera Adobe

The Cooper-Molera Adobe, built over three generations beginning in the 1830s and fully restored in the 1980s, encapsulates the story of a multi-ethnic family with Mexican, Spanish, Californio, English and American members.

The home was built by John (Juan Bautista) Rogers Cooper, a ship captain from New England who settled in Alta California when it was part of Mexico and married into a prominent Californio family, the Vallejos. Cooper traveled extensively by sea and land, trading in hides, tallow, general merchandise, and sea otter pelts that were highly prized in China. On display at the adobe are the elegance and wealth of the family after statehood was achieved and the house was expanded in 1850.

As the site of a townhouse that also accommodated a limited amount of livestock and agriculture, the site includes barns, vegetable gardens, a small orchard, and housing for farm animals. The two-story Casa Cooper-Molera contains an unusually complete complement of original family furnishings acquired over time as prosperity increased. The grounds contain period structures that pre-date and post-date the main house, reflecting a broad sampling of California’s architectural history. Visiting this 2.5 acre site in the center of downtown Monterey, California’s capital under both Spain and Mexico, brings history to life right up through the early American era.

In 1971, when California State Parks began planning to operate the Cooper-Molera Adobe, they described it as “the vehicle for the most exciting and relevant historical interpretive effort in the Monterey Area, if not in the entire State.Grade school children visit each year to learn how to make adobe bricks in the garden. The adobe and grounds are also a part of Living History Day and Christmas in the Adobes.

One of the Barns within the Cooper-Molera Complex

Original Development Proposal

Unfortunately, the adobe is not financially viable for the property owner, the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They are looking for ways to commercialize the site.

The original development proposal included: (1) conversion of the ground floor of the Cooper Adobe and the Diaz Adobe to a table-service restaurant (a later alternative proposed a restaurant in the Cooper Adobe and retail in the Diaz Adobe); (2) conversion of the Spear Warehouse into a wine bar and the Corner Store into a café (a later alternative proposed retail in the Corner Store); and (3) creation of a large event center in the barns, following a substantial rehabilitation and seismic retrofit. (The barns are currently red-tagged for seismic reasons, and not open to the public under any circumstances.) Two new kitchen facilities, appropriately designed and sited, would be needed to support the proposed commercial food service operations. Common areas within the interior of the property would be maintained in their open configurations, but with portions adapted and repurposed to accommodate the commercial activities.

AMAP Involvement

This proposal was not acceptable to AMAP nor the Monterey State Historic Park Association (MSHPA). Both organizations expressed concern that commercial development of the site would adversely affect its historic character and public educational and interpretive programming, and that the proposal represented the prospective loss of a public historic site that has been operated as part of the Monterey State Historic Park for some 30 years.

AMAP board members, along with MSHPA, have been working with the National Trust since June of 2013 to make the property sustainable and profitable while at the same time maintaining the site as a living history museum.

Interior of the Cooper-Molera Adobe

The New Vision for the Cooper-Molera Adobe

Now, largely due to efforts of AMAP and others, the current plan is much more compatible with the historic nature of this important Monterey landmark. The current plan includes a variety of nonprofit and commercial uses, and which may create opportunities for new or expanded partnerships with California State Parks, MSHPA, other local cultural institutions, the City of Monterey, and others within the local community.

The new approach is one that would still introduce compatible commercial functions at the site, but maintain an active program of historic interpretation, centered within the Cooper and Diaz Adobes but integrated throughout the site. It is believed that this model will actually create greater opportunities to engage the public at Cooper-Molera, and to maintain the property as a community asset.

The four principal components of the current vision are as follows: (1) an active historic interpretation and public education program, centered on the Cooper and Diaz Adobes, but taking full advantage of all other site assets, including other structures on the property, as well as the gardens and grounds; (2) compatible retail use of the Corner Store and the Corner Store Addition; (3) compatible use of the Spear Warehouse and adjacent yard for restaurant services and catering services within the site; and (4) adaptation of the Barns for private and public events, ranging from weddings to educational, theatrical, and other arts-oriented uses.

It is hoped that the final plan will allow the house and garden to be maintained primarily as a living history museum with only limited, compatible, and appropriate commercial activity. In this way, both public benefit and economic vitality will be maintained.

You may read the entire report

("A New Vision for Cooper-Molera Adobe, Monterey, California")

by Clicking Here.

The Cooper-Molera Adobe Fund will support and protect the gift of Frances Molera, especially historical education programs for children. You may donate by clicking the button below.