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The Historic Rios-Caledonia Adobe has an interesting and unique California history. It as built in 1835 with the labor of local Salinan Indians, under the supervision of Petronilo Rios, a Mexican Sergeant. It was initially built as a residence for the majordomo (land overseer), for lands that were claimed by Spaniards for Mission San Miguel which at that time were in control of the Mexican government.

The timbers for the fourteen-foot rafters were sawn from trees transported to the site from Cambria and tied together by leather straps. The two-story Adobe was covered with white plaster made from lime, river sand and animal hair.


In 1836, Ygnacio Coronel and his wife Francisca Romero moved into the two story adobe with their five children. Ygnacio was to be the new mission properties administrator. In 1837, Coronel was replaced by Ynocente Garcia. However it is not known if he lived in the adobe, nor what actually happened at the adobe until July 4, 1846.

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In 1846 William Read, Miguel Garcia, and Petronilo Rios bought the San Miguel rancho from Pio Pico, Governor of the Mexican Nation. It was an interesting transaction because the purchase was made just at the time California became part of the United States. Rios and his wife, Catarina Avila, had twelve children and moved into the adobe in 1851.

It is interesting to note that because of the “Bear Flag Revolt”, California was declared a republic in 1846 and officially became a state in 1850. As a result the state declared the sale of the San Miguel Rancho void in 1851 and Rios and partners lost their ownership.


San Miguel (Calif.) -- Maps, Manuscript

Diseño del terreno de San Miguel : Calif.

Relief shown pictorially.Pen-and-ink, watercolor, and crayon on tracing paper.From: U.S. District Court. California, Southern District. Land case 326 SD, page 57; land case map D-1365 (Bancroft Library)."4."Shows drainage, mission, adjoining ranchos, etc.4364 S645 S645:2M5"No. 622, Petronillo Rios. Mission of San Miguel, Exhibit No. 2 ... Annexed to deposition of José Rafael Gonzalez. Filed in office December 14h, 1853, Geo. Fisher, scy."


UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library

Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library



In 1862 German-born Warren C. Rickard purchased the property, 160 acres, from the state of California on a possession claim. Six years later George Butchart purchased the property and named the adobe the “Caledonia”, a Scottish word referring to his homeland of Scotland. He operated a stagecoach stop, tavern, and inn on the property until the railroad arrived. According to local legend, Jesse James, the Dalton Brothers, and Tiburcio Vasquez visited the inn.

Postcard with colored photograph of a train as it enters San Miguel, CA (SLO County Collections)


In 1886, following the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad service to San Miguel, the Rios-Caledonia Adobe was an office for the original doctor in San Miguel, Dr. George W. Jenks, who operated out of a horse and buggy.

It was also home to E.L Reed and family according to C.A. Jenks, grandson of both Reed and Jenks, who was born there in the Adobe in 1888.

Besides being utilized as a residence, it also served as a school room, mattress making and upholstery shop, and a dressmaking/tailor shop.


In 1895 the Fred Telford family lived in the Adobe and operated a dairy farm on the 160 acre site.

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In 1903 Alfred Nygren and his wife purchased the land. Their second daughter, Anna, was the last child to be born in the Caledonia. By the time Anna was four, they had built a wooden home close by and abandoned the Adobe.

In 1915 the original stagecoach road became Highway 101, a part of the original El Camino Real. By 1920’s Nygren found it necessary to sell part of his 160 acres.

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In 1923 the Adobe along with six acres were sold to real estate broker and Spanish-American War veteran Charles Dorries. He developed plans to restore the Adobe as a museum and open it to the public.

Besides his Adobe restoration, he built an extension to the Adobe in 1927 and also a separate adobe building in 1930 which is now the Research Library. He also built walls and added an automobile gas pump, and a garden with cacti and shrubs.

The Adobe building ~1920 - 1930

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In 1956 Mr. Dorries was in a serious automobile accident and the land was left to vandals and decay for many years.


In 1964 the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors purchased the Adobe.


In 1968 the Friends of the Adobes, Inc. was formed to promote the restoration and maintenance of the adobe. The group spent ten years of planning, raising funds and obtaining historical furnishings.


The Rios- Caledonia was declared a Historical Landmark site (#936) and listed on the National Parks Service's National Register of Historic Places.

The Rios-Caledonia Adobe is also a California Historical Landmark No. 936 and a San Luis Obispo County Park.


The building was formally dedicated in December 1972 after major re-construction was completed.


In June 1978, the Historic Rios-Caledonia museum, grounds, and gift shop were officially opened to the public.


The Research Library was opened in 2016. The work continues, following as faithfully as possible the design and appearance of the original structure, and continuing to improve the displays to reflect the history of the time.

The restoration of the Historic Rios-Caledonia Adobe has been a continuing cooperative effort between the Friends of the Adobes, Inc. and the County of San Luis Obispo working though the Department of Parks and Recreation.


In 2018 the Friends Of The Adobes (FOTA) Board of Directors wanted to continue its vision to reflect the history of the time and the stories of the people who have made this historical jewel what it is today. Work was begun to greatly reduce the size of the gift shop to extend the display area for the museum.

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By the end of 2019 two new display walls were installed and the first part of a new pre-Adobe era display. The intent was to recognize the Salinan People as the first residents of this area and their role in building the Adobe. Work continues on three additional pieces of the early, pre-Caledonia history of the area.

Outside, a new entryway is in place thanks to partial funding from a beautification grant from San Luis Obispo County. The Friends of the Adobes was able to install the new entryway with walls based on a wall on site that was built by Mr. Dorries.