Vista Irrigation Distric & its General Manager Roy Coox
Preservationist of the Year
In this the 30th Anniversary of the People In Preservation Awards, it is fitting that we recognize one of the region's most important restorations.
The first regular overland transcontinental stage connection between California and St. Louis ran along the Missouri Trail, the most southerly and only all-weather route. In 1857, Vincenta Carrillo, a prominent early Californio woman rancher, built an adobe directly beside the Emigrant Trail in what is now known as Warner's Ranch. The adobe served as the Butterfield Stage Stop from 1858 until the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. Located within the first well-watered valley to be encountered by westward ho emigrants and pioneers crossing the great southwestern deserts, the site figured prominently in their diaries as a welcome first glimpse of the "promised land."
The Warner-Carrillo Ranch House sits in the midst of a huge expanse of open space, over 40,000 acres, owned by the Vista Irrigation District or VID. It is of import to note that if the VID were not to have this land under its ownership it would likely be housing developments and the great watershed that it protects would be instead a wasteland. Because of their conservation efforts and protection of these lands the historic setting has changed very little from the time of the great western migration, presenting the public with an extremely rare opportunity to experience an unspoiled past.
Shortly after being placed by SOHO on our Most Endangered List and with the National Parks Service listing it and calling it out as the "most important unprotected historical site in San Diego County," a concerted fundraising effort was initiated by the VID with its general manager at the helm to fully restore the adobe, by then nearly in ruins. After numerous grants and some private donations the site was stabilized enough for the VID to apply and receive a California Council for Humanities Endowment Grant, which finally allowed for the ranch house restoration to be completed with the VID providing the all important and considerable matching funds that were necessary to win the CCHE. And since that time the VID has continued to invest even more in completing the restoration of one of our nation's most historically significant sites.
Because of the VID's leadership and an operating agreement with SOHO, a restored Warner-Carrillo Ranch House and Butterfield Stage Stop will soon be open to the public where generations of Americans will be able to see and learn a little bit about what life was like on the frontier in Southern California a hundred and fifty years ago, and why this story and this place is still so important today.
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