The 80-year-old Depression-era Adobe House in Hart Park is not much to look at. Yet.

Last year, the aging structure was placed on a fast track for transformation as hopes soared and plans formed to transform the modest building once slated for demolition into an attractive visitor and interpretive center operated by volunteers.

Unfortunately, the fast track has slowed.

"At our last meeting, county staff indicated the county did not have a timeline to finish the project. That's a concern," said Eddy Laine, acting secretary for the Hart Park Working Group, an organization that advocates for the continual improvement of the 370-acre county park.

"Without some sort of goal post, we're all in limbo," Laine said.

The change comes in stark contrast with the confidence expressed last fall that construction on the project would begin this spring.

At a Nov. 15 meeting of the Working Group, county staff indicated that construction work could begin after the end of February. The work had become possible thanks to a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant secured by Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard.

Just two weeks previously, Maggard had thrown his political capital and his passion for Hart Park behind the plan to save the Adobe House, while at the same time, making it a shining gem in the crown jewel of Kern's park system. 

It wouldn't have happened, Maggard said in October, without the energy and vision of the Hart Park Working Group, the Kern River Parkway Foundation and other organizations and individuals.

"Bidding will start in March 2020, construction will begin in April 2020," Maggard said at the time. "Our goal is to have it completed by June 2020."

On Tuesday, Maggard acknowledged his vision was "aggressive and hard-charging" — and maybe a little overly ambitious. But with the complexity that comes with a public-private partnership, the preservation of a historic structure, and an unpredictable pandemic, he remains confident that the project will come to fruition.

"It is true the project has fallen behind from where I hoped it would be by this time," Maggard said Tuesday. But he said the county's General Services Department understands the project is a priority.

"And they are honoring that," he said.

Indeed, Chattel, Inc., historic preservation consultants based in Los Angeles, have been contracted by the county to prepare plans for the restoration of the Adobe House, also known as the Peacock House due to the presence of peacocks near the building.

"The organization and management of the Interpretive Center will be a collaborative effort," Craig Smith, the president of the Kern River Parkway Foundation, told The Californian late last year. The complex partnership will include the county of Kern, Cal State Bakersfield, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, local nonprofit organizations, and numerous individuals who will volunteer their expertise and talent as docents.

But if the end-product is anything like the proposed design for the house and the grounds that surround it, it could become transformative.

At Tuesday's meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, Maggard said, he learned the county is facing a fiscal shortfall of $40 million to $80 million caused by the unprecedented coronavirus lockdown.

The county will be "on the hunt" to make up for that shortfall, Maggard said. "They'll be looking at every nickel."

But the Adobe House project has already begun. Funds have been spent. And Maggard is committed to completing it.

"I want this thing done," he said.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

(1) comment

Stephen

With the economy collapsed employment looks more like it did at the depth of the Great Depression. That speaks directly to the history of the adobe. It was a Works Progress Administration project as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s efforts to get people back to work engaged in productive activities.

The results of this are still with us today in not only the surviving Kern County adobes but the main fire station, and the Father Garces statue in the Garces circle among others, all of which qualify registration as local historic assets.

As this relates to today’s economic conditions, referring to the original construction drawings, note the client for this building project was identified as; “County of Kern Work Relief Department.” We may need similar programs today to help restore our economy perhaps as some of the labor needed to bring this project to fruition.

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