A walk around the Rancho Guajome Adobe in Vista.

The Rancho Guajome Adobe is an architecturally and historically important 19th century ranch house located in Vista, California. I visited it a little over a week ago and walked around the grounds, learning about the fascinating history of the place while taking a few photographs.

I approached the Guajome Ranch House from the Santa Fe Trail to its south, then circled counterclockwise around the complex, viewing the beautiful arcaded veranda, several cisterns fed by wells, the chapel, and other outbuildings. I spotted various signs and plaques relating the history of the ranch, which was once the home of prominent early San Diego resident Cave Johnson Couts and his wife Maria Ysidora Barbara Bandini.

As you can see, I also stepped into a small museum. That’s where you can purchase tickets to guided and self-guided house tours.

According to Wikipedia: “The adobe was built in 1852 and served as the headquarters of Rancho Guajome, a Mexican land grant. Abel Stearns had given the rancho to Ysidora Bandini (sister of his wife Arcadia Bandini), as a wedding gift when she married Lieutenant Cave Johnson Couts in 1851. It was built with the profits from the cattle boom of the 1850s, when many California ranchos supplied the Gold Rush miners and associated new American immigrants with meat and leather. Couts was appointed sub-agent for the native Luiseño people (San Luis Rey Mission Indians) in 1853. He used their labor to improve his properties in the area, including this one and nearby Rancho Buena Vista and Rancho Vallecitos de San Marcos…”

I didn’t venture inside the 22-room hacienda, but I most likely will at some future time. The old ranch house is located in Rancho Guajome Adobe County Park. Check out the parks website here to learn more.

The following photos provide a taste of what you’ll see should you visit this historic place.

Peering from the veranda through an open door…

The sign reads:

The Carriage Courtyard.

Imagine the activity here where Couts quartered his many servants. The ranch foreman lived next to the gate. Horse and equipment stalls, blacksmith shop, tack room, winery, olive vats and a jail made up the ranch service yard. 300 Indian laborers made the thousands of adobe brick to build the walls, and other materials came from the abandoned San Luis Rey Mission with permission of the Diocesan Bishop.

Guajome Ranch House has been designated a National Historic Landmark

This site possesses national significance commemorating the history of the United States of America


National Park Service

United States Department of the Interior

Rancho Guajome

Formerly attached to Mission San Luis Rey, the 2,219 acre ranch passed through brief ownership by two mission Indians, then Don Abel Stearns, and into possession of Ysidora Bandini upon marriage to Col. Cave Johnson Couts. The adobe ranch house built in 1852-53, is one of the finest extant examples of the traditional Spanish-Mexican one-story hacienda with an inner-outer courtyard plan. It was acquired by San Diego County in 1973 for the Guajome Regional Park.

California registered Historical Landmark No. 940

Plaque placed by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the San Diego County Department of Parks and Recreation and Squibob Chapter, E Clampus Vitus, April 26, 1981.

This El Camino Real Bell commemorates the trail of California missions established by the padres and honors the bell’s designer: Harrie Rebbecca Piper Smith Forbes

Dedicated by the Woman’s Club of Vista


At its beginning, Rancho Guajome was a working cattle ranch. Because the West was dry, cattle owners like Cave Couts would turn their cattle out on unfenced pastures. However, during this “open range” period, sometimes cattle from different ranchos intermixed, making it difficult to determine which cattleman owned which cattle. The branding iron was invented as a solution…

Cave Johnson Couts was born in 1821 in Springfield, Tennessee, and died in 1874 in San Diego at the Horton House. His wife Maria Ysidora Barbara Bandini was born in 1828 in San Diego, was married in 1851 at the Casa de Bandini in Old Town (now the Cosmopolitan Hotel), and died in 1897 in Los Angeles.

Included in the museum display are Native work baskets, Southern California style, circa 19th century.

Rancho Guajome Adobe farm equipment included a farm wagon, breaking carts for training horses, a broadcast seeder, a sulky used for racing horses, and a four-bottom Stockton plow used to turn soil to prepare fields for planting.

In the past I blogged about the Colorado House, a two-story hotel that was built in Old Town San Diego in 1851 by the very same Cave Couts. Today it serves as the Wells Fargo History Museum. Read that here.

I’ve also blogged about the El Campo Santo cemetery grave of Juan Mendoza, who was shot in the back by Cave Couts. See that here. (During one walk I spotted another mysterious wooden tombstone with the name Juan Mendoza by a parking lot, across the San Diego River from Old Town. Read that here!)

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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