I love historical stories, as my blog readers know by now. When a Malibu pioneer, Rhoda-May Adamson Dallas died last October at age 94, I read the obituary in the LA Times and remembered my tour of her childhood home, right on the beach in Malibu. It would cost a small fortune to build the same house today in that ideal location.


The Adamson House Museum

It’s hard to believe the state of California bought the property for $2 million in 1965 and first planned to turn it into a beach parking lot since it’s adjacent to Malibu Beach, the lagoon and Malibu pier.

Luckily, it was turned into a museum, which also saved the extensive landscaping (13 acres of property) and all the unique and elaborate tile work. Since I wrote a story on the home for a local magazine some years ago, I was shown the more intimate family rooms. There was a closet still full of women’s clothes belonging to a Adamson family member. There were more than a few dresses in the same style but different color in one of the closets. As I recall, the tour guide told me that once this family member liked a certain style, she’d make sure she had several in various colors, and that included shoes. It made sense: Malibu has never been an easy drive from major department stores in Los Angeles or the San Fernando Valley.

One of the most distinctive features of the home, which was built in 1929, is the very colorful Spanish style tile, all made at Malibu Potteries, which was a short distance away near the pier and only in operation from 1928 to 1932. In every pattern and color imaginable, the tile was used everywhere: the bathrooms (including the ceilings), on floors, borders for windows, on flower planters, and stairways and for fountains throughout the house and yard. The historic tile can still be found in homes and businesses in Southern California, including Los Angeles City Hall.

A fountain of lovely tile

Once upon a time, in the late 1800s, a large part of Malibu was a Spanish land grant and the Rindges, who were Rhoda-May’s maternal grandparents, owned and operated a 17,000-acre working ranch there. Rhoda-May, whose parents had a dairy business, Adohr Milk Farms (they used their daughter’s name spelled backwards), grew up in that beautiful mansion by the sea.

The Admanson family’s real estate empire was quite beneficial to the Malibu area. They donated 138 acres of undeveloped land to Pepperdine University in 1968 and what a thriving educational facility it’s been ever since.

Driving south on Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu is a vision of contrasts: stony mountains, steep canyons and public beaches, palatial mansions perched high on the hills or on the lowlands, and shopping centers that grow more exclusive every year. It’s not all a display of wealth: along the highway and in the beach parking lots, there are plenty of old cars and hundreds of surfboards.








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