Malibu History Page: August

May Rindge walks along her railroad tracks in an undated photograph.

Seven Malibu pioneers honored at Serra Retreat 

It couldn’t have been a more fitting day for Malibu residents to honor seven renowned patriots, all of whom filled an important chapter of the story of the unexpected town that grew up on the shores of the Pacific.

As guests ascended the windy road to the Serra Retreat that occupies an unparalleled view of the sea, it could very well have been 125 years ago, when Frederick and May Rindge homesteaded the 13,330-acre Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit Spanish land grant and found the top of the hill in Serra Retreat area ideal to build their home.

On this day -— July 10, 2016 — the summer was potent: The chaparral pungent, the air almost transparent and the sea startlingly blue. But it was Serra Retreat that provided a perfect setting for a special memorial to these men and women.

While the original Rindge home succumbed to fire in 1903 — an ever-present reality throughout Malibu history — May started a new construction in 1928, a grand 50-room Spanish Colonial hacienda on Laudamus Hill. At the same time, she founded Malibu Potteries to make tiles to decorate the home, and also built a second home for her only daughter Rhoda Rindge Adamson on the site of today’s Malibu Lagoon Museum.

We can fast forward with strong visual records to today, as May’s unfinished “castle” along with 26 acres were sold to the Franciscan Order of priests in 1942 and became the Serra Retreat and Conference Center.

Rhoda Adamson’s house was acquired by the California Department of Parks and Recreation in 1968 — the Adamson House.

The Rindge family created a lasting legacy for Malibu and has continued to be a valued contributor to the community.

Some 85 guests, many descendants of the Rindge and Adamson families, assembled in the sanctuary of the Serra Retreat to receive a greeting from Father Warren Rouse and Father Mel Jurisich, who generously assisted in organizing the ceremony and helped to choose the appropriate locations for the memorial benches and rocks for the seven honored citizens.

Tom Anderson of Serra Retreat also helped to organize the event.

Father Warren provided a map for visitors to use while circulating the property to locate each monument.


Those honored:

John Rindge, grandson of Frederick and May Rindge, who coauthored two books about Malibu Potteries and wrote a book with his brother Ronald about their childhood history in Malibu.

Self-taught in ceramics, tile design and painting, some of his works are installed at the Serra Retreat including a portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe that anchors one wall in the breezeway.

Sylvia Adamson Neville, the daughter of Rhoda Agatha Rindge Adamson and Merritt Huntley Adamson, who worked in the family business Adohr Creamery (Rhoda spelled backwards).

Under her direction, the family gave Pepperdine University the land it needed to build its campus, and Sylvia was directly involved in the effort to prevent a nuclear power plant from being built in Malibu.

When the Adamson House opened as a museum, Sylvia trained as a docent and was able to contribute her memories about life at the house in the late 1920s, the Great Depression and through the 1960s.

Grant Adamson was the great grandson of Frederick and May Rindge, who lived with his family in the Serra Retreat neighborhood. He was a founding member of Pepperdine’s Crest Advisory Board, a community support group, and was a beloved community member and Malibu historian.

Rhoda May Adamson Dallas was the granddaughter of Frederick and May Rindge who grew up in the Adamson House. Along with her siblings, Merritt and Sylvia, she ran the Adamson Company and managed their real estate holdings.

Romaine Andaloro was a longtime resident of Point Dume and served over 20 years as a docent and board member, and on the tile committee at The Adamson House.

Beverly Gosnell moved to the Serra Retreat area in 1978 and worked at the Surfside News for decades. She was active in the Malibu Historical Society and volunteered at the Adamson House for 29 years. She helped secure landmark designation for the house on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jane Sullivan Hemenez lived in Malibu for more than half of her 100 years. A high school teacher and administrator for over 50 years, Jane began her Malibu residency in 1948, when she and her mother purchased a cottage on Las Flores beach adjacent to Duke’s Restaurant. When Jane was in her 50s, she married Lou Hemenez, a longtime Malibu resident, and the couple lived in a house in the hills of Serra Retreat neighborhood with a view of the sea. Jane was an active Malibu resident and at her church, Our Lady of Malibu. A docent at the Adamson House, Jane was honored by California State Parks for her more than 1,500 volunteer hours at the house and at the Malibu Lagoon Museum. A board member of the Malibu Historical Society, Jane was instrumental in establishing the Malibu Lagoon Museum. Jane lived a long, happy life in Malibu and died just two months before her 100th birthday, July 10 — the day of the memorial celebration.

The Serra Retreat memorial event was a collaborative effort that included many volunteers and donors who underwrote the cost of the benches and the decorative tiles.

Dianna Mausser of Native Tile provided the design and manufacture of the tiles.

Other donors included Joan and Richard Page; Julie May; Hayden and Joni Sohm; Diana Mausser; Robert Iida; Cristi Walden; Jane Miller; Terry, Lauren and Megan Adamson; Rhoda Neville; Anne Ridge; Deborah Miller; Linnette Centolella; Sandy Mitchell; Anneliese Knur; Charlotte Laubach; Dana Perkins; Ann and John Payne; and Raja Gosnell.

Sandy Mitchell, Uta Jeron, Anne Payne, Anneliese Knur, Stephanie Ruiz, Charlotte Laubach and Martie Juede planned the tea and made all of the food.

Funds are being raised by the group to honor Ceci Wigen with a bench. Ceci was a docent at The Adamson House for 13 years and served as both President and Vice President on the foundation’s Board of Directors.