Today, Malibu is twenty-one miles of restaurants and mansions along the Pacific Coast Highway. But it wasn’t always so. Less than 100 years ago, this exclusive beach enclave was the property of a single family. Their legacy? The incredible Adamson House.

The back patio of the main house

Rhoda was the daughter of the Rindge family. The Rindges owned Malibu as a cattle ranch. (They donated the land for Pepperdine University, among other things.) Merritt Adamson was their ranch foreman. Despite protests, Rhoda and Merritt married, and were given an amazing plot of land nestled up against the Pacific Ocean to build a home. And build they did.

The main entrance, with tile set around the door and windows.

In 1929, the Adamson House was completed, incorporating Spanish and North African styles along with the nautical themes that seem only natural along the coast. The house also featured elements from one of the Rindges’ other businesses: the Malibu Tile Company. It was this tile that saved the home. Rhoda Adamson outlived her husband, and died in 1962. In 1965, the state of California paid $2.3M to obtain the home under eminent domain, planning to tear it down to build a large parking lot for the thousands of beach goers who now visited Malibu daily. The local community opposed destroying the home, and it was the collection of tile that convinced the state to keep it, eventually turning it over to California State Parks to run as a museum to an earlier era of Malibu life.

Notice the tile both above this door and to the sides. Features like this are everywhere.

The main house contains roughly 5,000 square feet of living space, and can only be seen through a docent-led tour. It is very much worth the time, and the $7 charge. You’ll marvel at a hallway designed to look like an outdoor walk, ceilings painted to appear as wood, tile “carpets” complete with tiled tassels, and all of the original furniture which came with the home. You’ll take in stunning views of the ocean from each room. And of course, you’ll be stunned at the incredible Malibu pottery tile used in every possible feature of the home. You won’t, however, be able to take photographs of the interior, so you’ll have to visit to see these things!

The grounds are nearly as impressive. A star-shaped Moorish-inspired fountain is the most prominent feature, but the tiled peacock fountain will captivate you as well. Don’t miss the pool house with its painted walls of the Spanish arriving in Malibu.

The fountains are not to be missed!

As your docent guide takes you through the house and the grounds, you’ll learn not only of the features you can see, but also about the family that once owned all of Malibu. The kitchen features bottles from the Adamson business: a dairy named Adorh (Rhoda backwards). The five car garage has been turned into a museum, complete with cattle brands from the different families who owned the land up to the Rindges.

If California history is something that interests you, the Adamson House is definitely a sight not to miss!

Note: thank you to California State Parks for generously sponsoring my tour. All opinions, as always, are my own.

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