Association to complete roof rehab on historic Osuna Adobe

The Rancho Santa Fe Association-owned Osuna Adobe dates back to the 1930s with a wood shingle roof.

The Rancho Santa Fe Association’s Osuna Adobe will undergo a roof remodel, replacing the clay barrel roof with the more historically significant wood shingle. The Association board approved a $50,000 expenditure for the roof at its Nov. 7 meeting, subject to approval by the Covenant Design Review Committee which is set to meet on Nov. 19.

RSF Association Assistant Manager Arnold Keene said the abobe on the Osuna Ranch on Via de Santa Fe represents “an amazing piece of history” in the Covenant—in 1836 the adobe was the home of Juan Maria Osuna, the first mayor of the pueblo of San Diego. In 2017, the adobe was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the oldest historic adobes in California.

Over the years, the Association’s Osuna Committee has done a great deal of research to uncover how the adobe evolved since being built in 1831 as a one-room home with a long front porch and thatched roof. In the late 1800s, a living room and another room were added.

After the adobe fell into disrepair, Rancho Santa Fe architect Lilian Rice completed a renovation in 1924, adding a kitchen, bathroom, fireplace, an enclosed porch and a tile roof. The long porch in the front was demolished, adding just a small porch to the front door.

The Osuna Committee has planned a restoration for the adobe that reflects the various layers of history important to the Osuna— the restoration will bring back the long porch but leave some Rice elements, such as the fireplace and living room. The plan is to remove the non-historic kitchen and bathrooms and while the Rice-era tile floors will remain in the living room, the rest of the adobe will be restored to wood floors. The Amigos de Osuna, a non-profit organization that seeks to preserve and restore the Osuna Adobe, continues to fundraise for that work.

The Osuna Adobe's clay tile will be replaced with wood.
(Caitlin Kreutz)

The committee’s restoration plans to also bring the roof back to the 1830s by replacing the tile with wood shingles.

“In the interest of preserving the historical aspect of the building, both the historical society and the Osuna Committee recommended the shake because it was the original roof,” said Director Sharon Ruhnau.

Director Bill Strong said he was indifferent about the roof, however, he did prefer the tile due to concerns about the ongoing maintenance of the wood roof versus the clay. Keene said that while it was true that clay barrel tiles have a long life, the shingle would have a life expectancy of about 25 to 30 years.

Keene said the plan will be to remove the clay tile, make some needed structural repairs and replace the roof with the lighter, fire-resistant cedar wood shingle. There is also a fire-resistant “backer board” under the shingles that provides further protection. Keene said the Association plans to save the clay tiles to use in other projects on the ranch, such as shade structures.

The Osuna Ranch has been owned by the Rancho Santa Fe Association since 2006.

Back in 2005, the property was being eyed for an eight lot subdivision that provided no protection for the historic adobe. In an effort to preserve the open space and the adobe, the Association purchased the property for $12 million. A lot split was completed for the property and the single-family home on the site was sold for $1.6 million.

In addition to the adobe, Osuna Ranch is home to the equestrian stables, trails and gathering spaces—it is open to Association members for picnics, tours or to host special events.

In 2012, the Association spent about $79,000 on adobe upkeep including stucco removal, adobe resurfacing and structural repairs, sharing the cost for some repairs with the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation. The Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club has also provided grant funding to improve the landscaping around the adobe and on the Osuna Ranch property. The Amigos De Osuna continues to fundraise to rehabilitate, maintain and carry out the master plan for the adobe and ranch through an established fund at the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation. To donate or learn more, visit

On Saturday, Nov. 16, the Association is hosting a Fall Fest at the Osuna Ranch featuring pony rides, outdoor games, family activities, live music and food. The event will be open to members from 1-3 p.m.