Pío Pico State Historic Park was the final home of Pio Pico, the last Governor of Alta California under Mexican sovereignty and a major player in early California history. It is California Historical Landmark No. 127, identified as “Casa de Governor Po Pico,” and is located at 6003 Pioneer Blvd., near Whittier Blvd. and Interstate 605. The San Gabriel River flows just west of the park. The city that bears his name, Pico Rivera, is located across the river. The adobe and three acres of surrounding land make up the park.
Po Pico began acquiring the 10,000-acre (4,000 ha) Rancho Paso de Bartolo following the Mexican-American War in 1848, and built a mansion in 1853. The house was damaged by the flooding of 1867, which changed the flow of the San Gabriel River, and was nearly destroyed by flooding in 1882. The structure was totally rebuilt in its current shape, incorporating features of American architecture into the classic California design. Bernard Cohn, an American lawyer, ousted Pio Pico from the land in 1892. Pico, who could not read or write English, had ceded the deed for the land while accepting what he thought was a loan from Cohn in 1883, and courts decided in favor of Cohn. Pico died two years later as a pauper at his daughter’s house.
By 1898, the City of Whittier had begun purchasing portions of the site in order to build a water pumping system. Local Whittier residents, led by Harriet Williams Russell Strong, were successful in having the site designated as a historic monument in 1907. Strong, who had known Pico since 1867, bought the home in 1909 and had it repaired. The land was donated to the state of California in 1917, and it was recognized as one of the state’s first State Historic Parks in 1927. In 1944, the state of California completed additional improvements. The Adobe was severely damaged in the Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987, necessitating its closure. The 1994 Northridge earthquake caused additional damage while money were being gathered for reconstruction. Finally, a Los Angeles County vote in 1996 set aside US$2.5 million for the park’s repair. The structure was restored in 2000, and the historic landscape in 2002, with the park reopening on September 20, 2003.
The Battle of Rio San Gabriel, which took place nearby during the Mexican-American War, was re-enacted at the re-opening ceremony.
Pio Pico State Historic Park was one of 48 California state parks slated for closure by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in January 2008 as part of a deficit reduction program.
While none of the proposed closures occurred at the time, Governor Jerry Brown targeted the park, along with seventy other state parks, for closure again in 2011.
To keep the park open, the Friends of Pio Pico and the City of Whittier donated $80,000 jointly.
Next Point of Interest: Whittier Museum