CARLSBAD — Preserving its oldest park has been a priority for the city since it took ownership.
The efforts haven’t gone unnoticed as the Leo Carrillo Ranch Park was recently awarded a 2019 preservation design award for rehabilitation by the California Preservation Foundation. The city contracted with Tovey Shultz Construction and Page & Turnbull, Inc. (architect) for the project, which took nearly two years to complete.
Now, the stable — once belonging to Leo Carrillo, an actor in the 1930s — and a chicken coop, which has been repurposed into restrooms, are available for the public.
“We know it was used in many different ways over the years,” Mick Calarco, historic sites manager at Leo Carrillo Ranch said of the stable. “Like the other buildings, it’s constructed of adobe bricks that comprise the front and back wall.”
Carrillo purchased the land in 1937 and the city took control in 1977 with the city opening the park to the public in 2003. Carrillo, though, built the property up including the stable, which housed six horses and several cowboys.
The chicken coop was discovered in an old photo, so the city opted to include it in the restoration; albeit with a twist as a restroom to accommodate the needs of the public.
The stable, Calarco said, was mostly built around the slope of the natural terrain out of adobe, thus making the renovation project challenging. Drew Gorski, an architect with Page & Turnbull who worked on the project, said the building was retrofitted to ensure it was up to code, allowing the public inside for the first time since the city took control.
Gorksi said his firm almost exclusively works on historic preservation projects, which present several challenges including updating those structures to current codes, manipulating the old material with steel or metal and wood reinforcements, to name a few.
“It’s always little bit tricky because you’re dealing with the construction type and how they built things,” Gorski said. “I would call it cowboy construction. They threw rubble against a slope and called it a retaining wall. One of the big challenges with the stable was the way it was constructed on the site.”
Another obstacle is that when Carrillo built the stable in 1937, San Diego County had no building codes. It’s one reason Carrillo moved to Carlsbad and purchased the property, Calarco said.
A ramp was installed to accommodate disable persons, while other upgrades included the cowboys’ bunkroom, an office for Carrillo, walls, the ceiling, wireless internet, a projector and audio system and the foundation.
Over the years, though, Calarco said the city had been doing some restoration work, but more was needed. The City Council approved the $2.5 million project in 2015, but some delays pushed back the work. Construction began in November 2017 and finished one year later.
“We weren’t doing anything in there,” Calarco said. “The restoration was much more than a fresh coat of paint. It really brought the building to life for the public.”
Now, the stable is being used for children’s camps, exhibits, weddings and other activities such as the 15th annual Leo Carrillo Film Festival, which begins Aug. 23. The festival shows the movies from the 1930s starring Carrillo with a showing of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” on Sept. 6.
Photo Caption: The west side of the rehabilitated stable at the Leo Carillo Ranch Historic Park in Carlsbad. New public restrooms (background) were designed to mimic the style of a former chicken coop. Photo courtesy Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park