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ONCE UPON A TIME…

Pies & Cakes at the Pioneer Bakery

Cooper-Molera Adobe is located in downtown Monterey, California. This remarkable place represents the layered history of the families who lived in and built Monterey, from its early years as the political and commercial capitol of Mexican Alta, California, through the development of the State of California. Later, it became known as the center of a region known for both agricultural innovation and historic preservation. The site includes two adjacent adobe homes, a corner store, an adobe warehouse, and a barn complex, all on roughly 2.5 acres surrounded by a historic adobe wall. The principal adobe residence dates to 1827. Other portions of the property were developed across the 19th and early 20th centuries for a variety of commercial and residential uses.

Donated to the National Trust in 1972, Cooper-Molera was operated by California State Parks as a museum property under a long-term lease until December 2016. However, diminishing state resources resulted in substantially reduced operations at the site in recent years. Significant restoration needs—in particular, seismic stabilization of the historic barn complex—went unfunded. As a result, Cooper-Molera had the appearance of a shuttered historic site for many passers-by. Only a small museum shop run by local volunteers of the Monterey State Historic Park Association was in regular operation. With no endowment, no state lease (the previous lease having ended in 2016), and no sustainable sources of funding for operations and rehabilitation needs, we at the National Trust recognized the future of Cooper-Molera to be precarious—a situation common to many house museums and historic sites.

Cooper-Molera is significant as the original home of John Bautista Rogers Cooper, an American sea captain who settled in Monterey during Mexican rule in the early 20th Century. Cooper became a successful merchant, and acquired extensive landholdings throughout Northern California. His wife, Encarnación Vallejo Cooper, was the sister of General Mariano Vallejo, who played an important role in California’s transition from Mexican rule to an American territory. Subsequent generations of the Cooper family made significant contributions to the development of agriculture in the Salinas Valley.

Cooper-Molera showcases residential life in early Monterey, when the small port city was the social, economic, and political hub of California in the era prior to the Gold Rush. The site is a contributing resource within the Monterey Old Town National Historic Landmark District.