The Rios- Caledonia Adobe has a rich history very much tied to the original native inhabitants of this land, to the history of the Missions, the town of San Miguel and the Salinas River making it a unique part of California's early history.


Believed to have been built in 1835 by the local Salinan People under the supervision of Petronilo (Petronillo) Rios, a Mexican Sergeant, the adobe structure 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 Ygnacio became the new mission properties administrator. In 1837, Coronel was replaced by Ynocente Garcia. However, it is not known if they lived in the adobe, nor what actually happened at the adobe until July 4, 1846.


Records show that on July 4, 1846 William Reed, Miguel Garcia and Petronilo Rios bought the San Miguel Mission property (which included the Adobe building) from Governor Pio Pico, who was the head of the civil affairs of California. It was an interesting transaction because the purchase was made just at the time California became part of the United States.

This purchase was subsequently rejected and declared invalid by the California commission officials and the San Miguel Mission was returned to the California Missions*. Other than anecdotal references, in the absence of any clear documented evidence it is unknown when or if Petronilo Rios ever resided in the old Adobe.

*Document 622, 326, S. D. Petronillo Rios, claimant for Mission of San Miguel, in San Luis Obispo county, granted July 4th, 1846, by Pio Pico to William Reed, Petronillo Rios and Miguel Garcia ; claim filed February 24th, 1853, rejected by the Commission May 15th, 1855, and appeal dismissed for failure of prosecution December 17th, 1856.


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


*Diseños were used throughout the land grant process under the Spanish, Mexican and US governments to show boundaries.

1862, 1868

1862: Warren C. Rickard purchased the property, which included the old Adobe and 160 acres, from the state of California on a possessory claim*.

1868: Six years later George Butchart (Butchard) purchased the property and named the old 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 and Frank James, the Dalton Brothers, Joaquin Murrieta, Three Fingered Jack and Tiburcio Vasquez are believed to have visited the inn.

*Possessory claim: Title to public land held by a claimant who has filed a declaratory statement but has not paid for the land. [Cases: Public Lands 31. C.J.S. Public Lands § 41.]

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


Railroad arrived in San Miguel on October of 1886 and passed within 60 feet of the Caledonia Adobe. San Miguel is ideally located right in between San Francisco and Los Angeles and was a midway break point for the visitors. Several large hotels were built during this period. However, with the arrival of the railroad, stagecoach operations began to cease.

The arrival of the railroad to San Miguel in 1886 brought more changes.The upstairs rooms of the Caledonia were used as a hotel and the downstairs rooms were repurposed to house a medical office, a school room, a dressmaking shop and even an upholstery and mattress making shop. Weddings, receptions and dances were also held in the building at one point.


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


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

In 1915 the Nygren family watched the cement/ concrete paving of the original El Camino Real 'dirt' road. The strip of road in the Caledonia grounds is one of the nine remaining strips of the original El Camino Real.

By 1920’s Nygren found it necessary to sell part of his 160 acres. By this time the building was in a serious state of decline. They were the last family to live in the old Adobe building.


The old Adobe found its historical purpose when Mr. Charles Dorries, a real estate broker from Southern California and a Spanish-American War veteran fell in love with it and purchased the adobe and six acres in 1923 with a desire to ‘save and restore the historic old Adobe’. He set to work immediately restoring the old building and opened it to the public as a museum and a historical site. It is possibly the first restoration attempt of a historical building in SLO county.

In addition to his Adobe restoration, he also built an extension to the old Adobe in 1927 and also a separate adobe building in 1930 which is now the Research Library. He landscaped the area extensively, built decorative walls added a wishing well, an aviary, planted cactus, shrubs and even added a gasoline pump.

The visitors can take a stroll in the gardens and see the enhancements that were made by Mr. Dorries.

Were it not for the strong convictions of Mr. Dorries and his relentless battles to save the cherished landmark, it would most certainly have been demolished during the two successive highway widening projects.

In the 1930's Dorries built a separate adobe building. Almost a hundred years later this additional adobe building now serves as a Research Library.

The Adobe building ~1920 - 1930


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

Sadly, with the passing of Mr. Dorries in 1962, the old Adobe began to deteriorate quite rapidly.


In 1964 the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors purchased the Caledonia 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 planning, raising funds, restoring and obtaining historical furnishings.

1961, 1971

1961: The Rios-Caledonia Adobe was designated as a California State Historical Landmark #936. It is one of the oldest historical landmarks in San Luis Obispo County.

1971: The Rios-Caledonia Adobe was declared a historical Landmark site and listed on the National Parks Service's National Register of Historical Places (#71000190).


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

A commemorative plaque was placed at the entrance to the old Adobe building by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the Friends of the Adobes on November 22, 1981.


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.

2019 - Current

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.

2022 projects have included repainting the doors and windows as well as glazing the window glass in addition to updating the landscaping around the adobe.