Theophile Vache Adobe

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This Spanish colonial style adobe was built in the early1850’s. Its use was as a store for Theophile Vache known as the “Vache Wine Depot”to market wines from his Cienega Valley vineyards in south San Benito County. Theophile was born in 1814 in France where he trained as a vintner, and ultimately arrived in San Juan via New Orleans. He owned a 320-acre vineyard in the Cienega Valley where DeRose Vineyards and the former Pietra Santa Winery, now Eden Rift Vineyards, are currently located. In addition to the adobe there was a storeroom, stable and two wells on the property. In 1856 the adobe became used as a saloon, first operated by John Forney, then by Mr. Filoucheau, agent for the vineyard products of Theophile Vache.

The one-story adobe building was originally built as two stories and was L-shaped. The exterior walls are coated with smooth plaster. The roof has a moderately pitched, sidegabled roof clad with Spanish style clay tiles. There is a brick chimney visible near the peak of the roof, and a wooden trap door is located in the middle of the main floor area leading to a dirt cellar that was likely used to store wine.

This Spanish Colonial style was popular in the southwestern states, once owned by the Spanish government. Adobe was a very common building material in California during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as it was the most readily available material and it was inexpensive. By the late 1890’s the adobe became a Japanese grocery store owned and operated by Kichigoro Tanimura, with a Japanese bath (ofuro) in the back, which he would allow customers to use.

At some point the building was encased entirely inside a tin warehouse. After falling into great disrepair, in 1958 a group of buildings on this half of the block were rescued and restored by Larry and Paulina Lushbaugh. The Lushbaugh’s rehabilitated the adobe and called it La Pulgita (the little flea). After restoration, the adobe was used as a real estate office.

Manuel Santana purchased the half block of property in 1965 and united the buildings around a beautiful perennial garden for his restaurant “Jardines de San Juan”, which he opened in 1977. From 1992 to 2012 the Vache Adobe was rented as a women’s contemporary art gallery, and also housed a visitors center. It was then converted for use as a sala for Jardines. The adobe is now the Santana Gallery, displaying much of the art work of the late Manuel Santana.

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