“We reinforced old wood with new beams,” said a docent.
  • “We reinforced old wood with new beams,” said a docent.
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A cluster of buildings in Temecula from the mid-1800s that once served cowboys, cooks, kids, and travelers, is useful again after nearly 20 years of planning by a restoration association that won a settlement in 1998 to save the historic buildings from demolition.

Vail Headquarters

32115 Temecula Parkway, Temecula

Throughout the years, commercialization blossomed around the Vail Ranch Headquarters site, which is on four acres between a Kohl’s department store and a Famous Footwear shoe shop.

During the July 17 ribbon-cutting weekend of the newly renovated site, Suzanne Dechert a docent on the Temecula Valley Historical Society board of directors hosted a tour of the cookhouse, which was attached to the schoolhouse in the late 1800s.

Inside the blacksmith's shop

Inside the blacksmith's shop

“You could almost feel the history in here of the cowboys eating or lining up at night,” she said. “By the sink outside — they were to come in through the side door and probably get in line to have their meals.”

The original long wooden table used for cooking the cowboys’ meals is on display inside the cookhouse. Upon closer inspection, it was found to be layered with eight pieces of oilcloth, natural fiber tablecloths that were sealed with linseed oil — a component of linoleum — to make them waterproof.

A Los Angeles Times newspaper from 1922 was found underneath the final cloth.

Renovations on the barn, bunkhouses, adobe store, water building, cookhouse/schoolhouse, and the blacksmith station began several years ago. Construction avoided interfering with the original building footprints.

“We reinforced old wood with new beams,” said Dechert. “But this door came from salvaged wood from the Merc in Old Town,” she said.

A saddle store is already open. No horses for sale, though.

A saddle store is already open. No horses for sale, though.

New bathrooms and an ADA compliant ramp were added to the foreman’s house, but fixtures and built-in cabinets were kept intact. But because the historic site needs a source of funding, the buildings will soon function as living museums and offer food, coffee, ice cream, art, jewelry, and other retail.

According to the Vail Ranch Restoration Association, an onsite workshop will allow guests to observe woodworking and repairs performed on old wagons. An operational blacksmith pavilion will also be featured.

The now-landscaped acreage has a stage in the center of the old structures, where entertainment and farmers' markets are expected to take place.

Darell Farnbach, cofounder of Vail Ranch Restoration Association, said the locale used to be the main hub to Vail Ranch, an 87,500-acre cattle ranch. “There’s so much history here. We are standing on the Southern Emigrant Trail,” he said.

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