Malibu’s Historic Adamson House in Need of $3 Million in Repairs

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The Malibu Adamson House

Jules Hershfeld, president of the Malibu Adamson House Foundation, estimates that there are $3 million worth of unfunded repair projects needed at the town’s only National Historic Site and California Historic Landmark. 

The oceanside property, a nearly-90-year-old Spanish colonial revival home built by Malibu’s Rindge family and now owned and operated by California State Parks, had gone from 2010 to 2016 without a curator and also suffered from state budget cuts.

“The Adamson House Foundation’s mission is to restore and repair the Adamson House through ongoing fundraising and education of the general public,” Hershfeld said. “And by being a member, you’re supporting a piece of history.”

However, foundation fundraising only covers some of the costs of maintaining the property and repairs on historic properties aren’t cheap. Additional money comes from state budgets and grants, but needed repairs just aren’t keeping up. 

State Parks recently got approval to fix decorative exterior terra cotta “pipes” outside the living room windows that have crumbled and broken off in about five different places, at a cost of $180,000. “Everything tends to cost three times more than normal because of all the red tape” involving state requirements for contractors on historical sites, Hershfeld explained.

Dire projects that are not yet funded include replacing or repairing the upstairs balcony that overlooks the back patio, replacing damaged tile on the famous peacock fountain and fixing a number of water leaks. Despite a $250,000 roof repair two years ago, Hershfeld pointed out a number of places around the outside of the house where continued water damage is still clearly visible.

There’s a landscaping project coming up to clear out some brush and trim palm trees, which will cost $18,000 even with female “volunteers” from state corrections helping out. 

Hershfeld also noted that when the house was built, the beach used to extend 100 yards farther out than where it is now. Today, the ocean is so close to the property that erosion has caused a couple of large trees to topple over, and the lawn used for weddings had to be reinforced. Hershfeld blames the beach loss on the Rindge Dam farther upstream, which he said retains all of the silt and sand that used to wash down and replenish the shoreline. He worries that the house isn’t going to be there forever.

One of the original buildings on the property, a small house originally used for staff quarters, is now being used as a State Parks Ranger house, and will be getting $340,000 in repairs, said Board Treasurer Nidra Winger. She also pointed out other smaller buildings on the property that require upkeep, including a whelping shed, a greenhouse, a one-room office building and a small gift shop.

The extensive grounds on the property border Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Lagoon, with large trees, outdoor patio areas and fabulous views. Those attributes make Adamson House one of the most in-demand venues for weddings and other special events in Southern California and State Parks makes the most of that by charging $7,500 for each use of the wedding lawn, with a wedding season that runs from March through November of each year. 

Fortunately, the inside of the fully furnished historic 1929 house, which includes an elaborate number of Malibu-made decorative tiles in the kitchen, bathrooms and floors, appears to be in better shape than the outside. The unique home is currently festively decorated for the holidays, with a wreath on the front door and Christmas trees, wrapped gifts and holiday décor in nearly every room.

Some of the Christmas ornaments and decorations were actually used by the Rindge family who built the house and lived there, while other ornaments from the 1930s and 1940s have been donated, Hershfeld said.

Last Sunday, the house’s foundation threw a Membership Drive & Holiday Party, inviting current members to renew and new members to join, as well as a chance for members to socialize, see the house decorated for the holidays and enjoy appetizers. Memberships cost $25/individual or $50/family with perks that include free tours. Membership director Robby Mazza said there are about 200 members.

Special, docent-led holiday tours of the Adamson House are scheduled for Dec. 18–22, Dec. 24 and Dec. 26–Dec. 31. Tour hours are 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Admission is $25 per adult, $10 per child and free for children ages five years or under. For reservations, call 310.456.9378 or go to adamsonhouse.org. The house is located at 23200 Pacific Coast Highway.