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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

4155 Old Adobe Road Demolished

Juana Briones House

old view 4155 Old Adobe
Historic photo of rammed earth construction Photo taken prior to deconstruction


The following is from the Historic Buildings Inventory as revised in 1987:

Physical appearance:   The original structure, built in 1846 or 47, was long and narrow, similar to adobes constructed in the Spanish-Mexican period. It consisted then of three rooms, and remains so today. The original walls were a wooden crib filled with adobe soil. They have been covered with cement to preserve and strengthen them. The location of door, and windows was changed in the 1900 to 1908 period. Two wings and a central courtyard were added in 1908. The winds are made of wood. The courtyard may have been constructed around an original well, and probably incorporates materials from the original building site. Parts of the structure have two stories. The attic of the original Mexican style building has been enlarged.

Significance:  The oldest part of the structure has been lived in continuously for 140 years, and was constructed by Juana Briones de Miranda, the pre-eminent woman of the Spanish and Mexican period of California history.

It was the main house on the 4,400 acre (one square league) Rancho La Purisima Concepcion, which she purchased in 1844 from its Indian owners. The Briones part of the house is thought to have been constructed in 1846 or'47.

Juana Briones was born in the last decade of the 18th century in Monterey or Carmel and lived with her parents at the Mission Santa Clara. She enjoyed a growing reputation from her younG adulthood through much of her life for her skill in the healing arts, and she is mentioned for this for her energy, her hospitality and her compassion in many accounts of California when vituually the only access was by boat or by rare visits by trappers.

She made her living by farming and ranching, and showed herself to be wise in the land transactions, first in Yerba Buena (San Francisco) and later in what is now Palo Alto and Los Altos. Her descendents still can be found in the Bay Area. Subsequent owners preserved the original character of the Briones structure and the early California flavor.

Recent resident/owners were Margaret Eaton and then her niece Susan Berthiaume.

Read and see more about the fate of the oldest Palo Alto house.

children wall
4th grade students of field trip Preserved scetion of original wall
monumentJuana Briones site
Monument at Old Adobe Road and Old Trace Lane Location map

This house was built circa 1846 and is a Category 1 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The property now encompasses 1.5 acres.

Sources: Florence M. Fava, Los Altos Hills, Woodside, CA, Richards, 1976; Phyllis Butler, The Valley of Santa Clara, San Jose Junior League, 1975; Dorothy Regnery; files of California Historical Resources Commission, Landmark # 524, 1970


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