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The Martinez Adobe

NPS photo of the Martinez Adobe Thousands of acres were owned by individual families under the Spanish and Mexican land grant systems. The original Martinez grant contained over 17,000 acres and reached past the town of Pinole southwest of Alhambra Valley. (Don Vincente Martinez, son of the commandante of the Presidio of San Francisco, built this house of adobe bricks around 1849.)

The foundation of the Martinez Adobe is rough stone, while the walls are sun-dried adobe brick ranging in thickness from twenty-four to thirty inches. The roof was covered with shingles of either cedar or redwood.

Don Vicente Martinez lived in his adobe only four years before he sold it to Edward Franklin, the first of a series of owners who would change the land again.

NPS black and white photo of the Martinez Adobe Dr. John Strentzel, father-in-law of John Muir, purchased the adobe from an Australian, Thomas Redfern, in 1874. Dr. Strentzel, often called the father of California horticulture, soon replaced cattle with fruit trees of many varieties. Dr. Strentzel used the adobe as a store room and as a residence for his foremen.

Contrary to legend, John Muir and his wife never lived in the Martinez Adobe, but it was the home of his elder daughter, Wanda, and her husband, Thomas Hanna. John Muir would often eat meals at the adobe and find time to play with his grandchildren.

The coming of heavy industry to Martinez in 1914, the year of Muir's death, saw the beginning of the end of orcharding in the lower Alhambra Valley. Population growth meant that the land had greater monetary value for homes than for orchards, and the land changed again.

By the 1960s, open farmland was replaced with houses and streets. Concerned citizens organized themselves to preserve a small sample of the past before it vanished, and in 1964, the adobe became part of the John Muir National Historic Site.

Source: John Muir National Historic Site

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