Adamson House Partially Reopens, but Problems Remain

The Adamson House closed March 3 and is now reopened with limited hours.

The Adamson House may have reopened this past weekend, but the problems that led the historic landmark to shut down for over six weeks continue to plague State Parks, The Malibu Adamson House Foundation (MAHF) and the Docent Council.

The historic Adamson House, one of the highest-grossing and most popular state park historic sites in Southern California, closed its doors on March 3, when a small army of docents tasked with the day-to-day affairs including tours, event preparations and gift shop operation walked off work.

Though the house is now open with limited hours, according to State Parks Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap, none of the issues between the MAHF and Docent Council have been resolved.

“The suspension of tours was because many of those people were scheduled -— that resigned — and it’s just redoing the schedule with those people who are still remaining,” Sap explained.

The historic house, completed in 1930, is owned by California State Parks and its operation is overseen by the stewardship of a 10-person Board of Directors. Much of the work is done by dozens of volunteer docents who, according to Sap, are “for all intents and purposes employees, despite the fact that they’re volunteers and at-will.”

Currently, according to the site’s recorded information menu on the phone, tours are offered Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the last tour embarking at 2 p.m.

The information also states that a special garden tour is available on Fridays at 10 a.m.

The schedule is limited compared to what has been offered in the past.

Lynette Brody, the State Parks Malibu Sector Superintendent and the CAL (liaison from State Parks to the MAHF), did not respond to questions posed Tuesday before The Malibu Times deadline.

The reason for why a reported 35 docents resigned from volunteering at the Adamson House is one mired in controversy, but an internal letter written by Michael Vignieri, Senior Member of the MAHF Board of Directors, to Sap on April 7, points to an ongoing internal conflict.

Vignieri’s letter references an internal MAHF “Repairing Relationship” Committee, made up of other Board of Directors members Jules Hershfeld and Jefferson Wagner.

Vignieri, Hershfeld and Wagner came to the agreement that the standing president of the board, Ceci Wigen, be asked to voluntarily resign.

“I spoke with Ms. Wigen at length and informed her of our meeting and the Committee’s decision and request for her resignation as President. She chose not to resign but rather, have the matter decided upon by the MAHF Board,” Vignieri wrote.

According to the letter, Sap had recommended Wigen be forced to resign, based on issues including Sap’s reported ordering that Wigen not enter the Adamson House property.

Sap said the letter mischaracterized his statements regarding Wigen.

“I didn’t tell them to remove Ceci; I haven’t recommended that,” Sap said. “I just made it clear … that Ceci was part of the disruption, or potential disruption, of the volunteer program should she remain, and I just made that clear to the Board.” 

Sap also mentioned why he asked Wigen to not enter the house grounds.

“She had been a volunteer and because of some things that were going on, she had to be removed as a volunteer,” Sap said. When asked to elaborate, he added, “there were issues going on between her and the volunteers.”

The letter goes on to lay out suggestions the MAHF Board of Directors had as a way to heal the relationship between the board and docents and get the house reopened, listed as “Consensus of the Board.”

“Ceci Wigen shall resign and no longer be a President of the MAHF Board but remain on the Board should she so choose, provided that Lisa Otis Kisor, should she return to the Docent Council, shall agree that she shall no longer be a Chair of the Docent Council but remain on the Docent Council if she so chooses,” the letter reads.

It goes on to say, “Additionally, the Board recommends and requests that … Brody yield her position to [Head Ranger] Lindsey Templeton to take over as the acting CAL for MAHF Board business and interactions.”

Sap said that though Lisa Otis Kisor voluntarily stepped down in March, none of the other demands have been met, and furthermore, the board was outside of its bounds to ask.

“It’s not appropriate for them to make that recommendation, or the recommendation of the removal of Lynette Brody, the CAL,” Sap said. “This is independent of anything that’s going on between the Foundation and State Parks.”

Former Malibu Mayor Jefferson Wagner, an eight-year member of the Board of Directors of the MAHF, told The Malibu Times the fault for the ongoing closure rests with all parties.

“I’m willing to say, we’re all failing,” Wagner said. “I’ve seen a dilapidation of effort on the parts of all three.”

As for how many docents are currently volunteering during the house’s limited reopening period and how much revenue State Parks anticipates they lost during the six-week closure, Sap said Brody would be the one to ask. Brody did not immediately provide answers to these questions.