Rancho Los Alamitos Celebrates Restoration With a Year of Special Programs

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Rancho Los Alamitos

The June 10, 2012, Grand Opening is a culmination of the historic site’s comprehensive restoration and preservation process —marking a new chapter in experiences at Rancho Los Alamitos.

On June 10, 2012, Rancho Los Alamitos, Povuu’ngna—a sacred site that represents the past, present and future of California—will open to the public its new Rancho Center and restored historic Barns Area. As the centerpiece of Rancho Los Alamitos’ long-term transformation, the Rancho Center project will present engaging new ways of connecting with the diverse voices and stories that shaped this uniquely California site and reflect the ongoing blend of regional culture and environment, including the Native American, Spanish, and Mexican periods, the ranching and farming era, and the imprint of early 20th century development upon the landscape.

The Grand Opening Year will invite visitors to experience the reinvigorated site in a new light through the Rancho Center’s permanent exhibition and learning spaces. An array of new public programs and symposia—will provide a one-of-a-kind vantage point from which to connect with the powerful story of California, its landscape and inhabitants throughout time, reviewing its past, present and future possibilities.

What’s New at Rancho Los Alamitos

At the heart of the ambitious transformation about to be completed is Rancho Los Alamitos’ commitment to public education and historic preservation, both of which will be greatly aided by the creation of the new Rancho Center and a complete restoration of the historic Barns Area. The restoration of the Barns Area included relocating and restoring five agricultural structures to recapture the layout and character of the historic working Ranch. Exhibiting a stunning blend of historic and contemporary architecture and using the 1948 horse barn as the historic core for the new larger structure, the Rancho Center was designed by the renowned historic preservation architect Stephen J. Farneth, FAIA, co-founder of the Architectural Resources Group in San Francisco.

The Rancho Center will house the innovative permanent exhibition Rancho Los Alamitos—Ever Changing, Always the Same, designed by William S. Wells and Claudia Jurmain.  The interwoven themes of “Renewing Possibilities,” “Natives and Newcomers,” and “Borders and Boundaries” extend through the exhibition, which stretches across multiple spaces within the Center and directed the design of the building.

The floor map of the multi-purpose Rancho Room displays the changing borders of the Rancho within the regional context, past and present, while magnificent large-scale watercolor murals by the late renowned illustrator and graphic designer, Dugald Stermer, cover the Rancho Room’s walls and convey the relation between people and place, climate, and the vital role of water. A separate gift store and classroom building will provide additional spaces for special educational programs developed in relation to the site and the Rancho Center exhibition.

In its service to over 25,000 yearly visitors, the Rancho Los Alamitos site itself, along with educational tours, and special programs set the stage for new understandings of cultural ecology—of the intertwined paths of people, resources, flora and fauna over time. The use of geo-thermal technology supports the heating and air conditioning systems of the Rancho Center and the Bookshop/Classroom, minimizing the ecological footprint of the new structures and preserving the tranquility of the site.

A History of Rancho Los Alamitos – Southern California Microcosm:

The story of Rancho Los Alamitos begins long before the Bixby family donated the family ranch to the City of Long Beach in 1968, transforming what had been a working ranch to a public oasis and setting the stage for what Rancho Los Alamitos is today.  As a publicly owned ranch with an emphasis on education, the historic open green space of Rancho Los Alamitos has become a quintessential place for people to experience the living and breathing story of Southern California. Rancho Los Alamitos—its inhabitants and landscape—is a microcosm that illustrates the cultural and ecological evolution of the entire region, past to present.

The Rancho Los Alamitos Historic Gardens:

Rancho Los Alamitos’s four acres of historic gardens are a key feature that makes Rancho Los Alamitos such an invigorating experience for visitors. Elegantly designed and matured by the grace of time, the 1920s and 1930s gardens invite visitors to meander among displays of exotic and native flora and be lulled away to a place where time slows down and inspiration happens. Matt Randolph, of Pasadena-based landscape architects Kornrandolph, whose clients include the Getty Villa and Autry National Center, has worked with RLA staff on the preservation and restoration of the rugged landscape of the barns area, as well as the refined motif of the historic gardens.

Rancho Los Alamitos Grand Opening Year Programming

To celebrate the completion of its campus-wide transformation, Rancho Los Alamitos will offer a special Grand Opening Year program, which includes an already fully booked Conversations in Place lecture series featuring distinguished historians Marc Pachter, Kevin Starr and renowned anthropologist Peter Nabokov, among others, and continuing a tradition of award-winning public educational programming. As part of a long tradition of innovative programming, the Conversations in Place 2012 series links the past to the present and features some of the best minds in the country to reflect on topics of conversation occurring “back then” at the Rancho, which still relate to the news today as well as tomorrow’s issues.

For additional details about the Rancho Los Alamitos restoration and grand opening, visit their website www.rancholosalamitos.org.

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