* The William Wolfskill Adobe *
(version January 1, 2019)
Please email corrections to Mike Clark

 

William Wolfskill first arrived in 1831 in Los Angeles, and settled there in 1833 on a small plot of land with a few grape vines. This he sold in 1838 to buy a much larger 100-acre lot that also had a few vines, and here he built an adobe house to live in. He also greatly expanded the vineyard, and planted an orchard of orange and lemon trees. This tract today would sit on the north side of downtown Los Angeles, where it is bound on the north and south by 3rd and 9th streets, and on the west and east by San Pedro and South Alameda streets. His adobe was located near the northeast corner of the property at what today is 239 South Alameda Street, between 3rd and 4th streets.

When William died in 1866 his son Louis took over the vineyard and orchard, but in time all but seven acres of William's ranch was sold and subdivided. The Wolfskill Adobe survived until about 1888 when it was torn down to make way for the old Southern Pacific Railroad Arcade Station at Fifth and Alameda. This too was demolished in 1914, when it was replaced by Central Station, which also no longer exists. Today this area is all part of a bustling city business district that shows no trace of the vineyard and orchard that once stood there.

Below and left is a lithograph of a drawing made about 1882 of what the William Wolfskill adobe and citrus orchard once looked like. There is a railroad siding with loading docks and storage sheds at the bottom of the drawing, with a train leaving the facility loaded with crates of lemons and oranges from the Wolfskill orchard. The Wolfskill adobe is just to the left of the storage sheds. The second image (below and right) shows William Wolfskill's son Joseph William Wolfskill (1844-1928), probably in the early to mid 1880s, standing in the middle of a dirt road in front of the adobe. He knew this adobe well, having been born there.

 

Shown above is an 1899 lantern image of the Wolfskill adobe that was made from the earlier black and white photograph on the right, and hand tinted to create a colorized slide. The original photo was probably taken in the early 1880s, possibly late 1870s, as it contains a palm tree that had been cut down by the time the sepia-tinted photo above it was taken.

 

Above is an 1868 map of Los Angeles to which we added locations of the Los Angeles Plaza Church where William Wolfskill was originally buried, the location of the Lugo House, where the parents of his second wife lived, and the approximate location of his adobe home, which was on the outskirts of town. Below is a photograph taken the following year that shows the Plaza Church. The Lugo House would be to the right, across the plaza, and out of the photo. The cemetery where William was first buried was probably on the left side of the church, but his body was exhumed about 1905 by his son Joseph William Wolfskill, and reburied in Calvary Cemetery.

 


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