by Anne Donofrio-Holter
Montebello (Italian for beautiful mountain) is located eight miles east of downtown Los Angeles with a population just over 63,000. Incorporated on October 16, 1920, in the early 20th century Montebello was a well known source of oil reserves.
The Juan Matias Sanchez Adobe, built in 1845, still stands at the center of old Rancho la Merced in Montebello. Recently restored, Rancho la Merced is the City's oldest standing structure.
The first grantee of the Rancho La Merced was Dona Casilda Soto de Lobo in 1844 from Mexican governor Manuel Micheltorena. Dona Lobo and her three sons built the Adobe in 1845. In addition to Dona Lobo, the Adobe has been occupied by Juan Matias Sanchez, with his first and second wife, and the W. B. Scott family. Josephine Scott Crocker donated the property to the City on June 24, 1972 with the stipulation it be maintained as a historic site.
Owned by the City, and managed by the Montebello Historical Society since the late 1970's, the Rotary Club of Montebello adopted the Sanchez Adobe Historic Site and Museum in 2005 as its centennial project honoring 100 years of Rotary International. Spearheaded by the Montebello Historical Society, and its belief that history needs to be recorded and preserved for future generations, the goal of the three organizations is to enhance Montebello's oldest standing structure, located just north of the intersection of La Merced and Lincoln Avenue, by continuing to improve the grounds, courtyard and interior of the historical landmark.
The Adobe museum showcases architecture of the mid-1800's with furnished rooms from the time period, Sanchez family artifacts, and historical photos of the City.
To showcase Montebello's memories from the 1900's, in 2014, the Montebello Historical Society, a non-profit organization, began work on the establishment of a 20th century collection. This new collection highlights Montebello's early beginnings when it was known as the City of Flowers because of its many nurseries. This collection, when complete, will highlight individual contributions as well as the City's oil-rich history through pictures and artifacts, include a replica of Newmark general store and mementos from Simons Brick Company Plant Number 3, which opened in 1905. With general boundaries of Vail Avenue on the northwest, Greenwood Avenue on the southeast, the Santa Fe rail line on the southwest, and Date Street on the northeast, at its peak in the 1920's, the brickyard expanded to 350 acres with a population of over 3,000 residents. The complex had its own church, school and Mexican baseball team.
Located at 946 Adobe Avenue, the Montebello Historical Society, through its management of the Sanchez Adobe Historic Site and Museum, is committed to expanding the public's sense of community through understanding Montebello's history by collecting and preserving artifacts and historic archives that document the City's history and heritage.
The Montebello Historical Society invites everyone to visit this city jewel. Museum hours are Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. with docent tours available.
For additional information, contact the Montebello Historical Society at 323-887-4592.