The historic Lara-Soto Adobe has occupied a place of honor at the heart of the Middlebury Institute campus for decades—and recently completed restoration work ensures that it will continue to do so for generations to come. Thanks to grants from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and the Community Foundation for Monterey County totaling $180,000, the historic building’s masonry structure was reinforced to withstand earthquakes while other minor changes were made to comply with Americans with Disabilities (ADA) requirements.
The adobe is the Institute’s official mailing address and housed the Admissions office for many years, up until 2015. It also was the home of famed author John Steinbeck and his family, who lived there for an eventful year from 1944-45, when Cannery Row was published and he was busy writing The Pearl. After that, the Steinbecks left for Mexico, never to return. Still, Steinbeck loved the adobe, calling it “a house I have wanted since I was a little kid.” After Steinbeck sold the house, it was used as a doctor’s office before being given to the Institute in 1987, at which point it underwent interior remodeling that maintained the original historic style of the façade.
In recent years, concerns grew about the building’s structural integrity in the event of an earthquake, specifically its unreinforced masonry, which has posed issues for similar historic buildings throughout California. Grants from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and the Robert and Virginia Stanton Endowment and Thomas Doud, Sr. and Anita Doud funds of the Community Foundation of Monterey County provided funding to help with project expenses, which included architectural services, retrofitting for seismic safety and structural integrity, and ADA compliance.
Work began in the summer of 2017 and finished in November, just in time for the adobe to be showcased in the City of Monterey’s popular annual Christmas at the Adobes event. Since reopening, the adobe has been used for campus meetings, faculty collaboration, and events with alumni, guest speakers and visitors. With the completion of the seismic retrofit and ADA improvements, the adobe is expected to be open to a range of events with public benefit, vastly increasing the number of people who will experience its historic charm.
“The seismic retrofit project protects the Lara-Soto Adobe at the center of our community for generations to come,” said Meghan Rasmussen, director of foundation relations and institutional grants. “This project is an extremely proud moment for the Middlebury Institute and a rare opportunity to preserve a building with such a rich history in this community. This project serves to further strengthen the deep connection between the history of the Institute and the history of Monterey.”