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Adobe Architecture

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The origin of the word adobe can be traced to the Egyptian hieroglyph representing brick, which translated into the word at-tob. At-tob evolved into the Spanish word adobar, which means to plaster. Adobe construction in the Southwest United States became a dominant method of construction as a result of the Spanish influence in the region. Many rancho homes were made from adobe bricks; compressed sand, clay and (usually) straw shaped into bricks by wooden frames. Adobe walls helped maintain stable temperatures inside a dwelling--ideal for hot, dry climates. The thick walls kept the house cool inside in the summer and warm in the winter.

In most rancho homes, the walls were painted inside and out with a water and lime mixture made with crushed seashells. This was called whitewashing. Iron grates or bars covered the window openings. Only the wealthier people had glass in their windows. The Reyes Adobe Museum displays adobe brick molds, detailed information and photos on how adobe bricks are made. In addition, there are samples of manufactured and "home made" adobe bricks.

Historic American Building Survey (HABS):
In 1935 Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) to document significant American architecture. In the Southwest, particular attention was paid to the adobe structures. Though their conditions varied, an enormous number was surveyed. The Reyes Adobe is recorded in the HABS collection as the Reyes House with the alternate title of "Los Virgenes Rancho". It is numbered CA-329 and consists of three measured drawings, three black & white photos, two data pages and one page of supplemental material. 


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