Donations Sought to Restore Historic Adobe Wall

Members of the Marquez family in the historic cemetery in Santa Monica Canyon, the adobe wall surrounds the cemetery.

This winter’s rains led to the collapse of an 18-ft. section of the adobe wall that was built around the historic Marquez family cemetery on San Lorenzo Street in 1926. Sharon Kilbride, a member of the Marquez family, said the estimated cost to repair and stabilize the adobe wall is $15,000.

“We hope to fix the wall before our fall elementary school trips this year,” Kilbride said. “Please donate and be a part of preserving this historic monument and also receive a tax donation.”

The adobe wall that surrounds the cemetery was partially destroyed this year with the heavy rains.

The adobe wall was the idea of Dorothy Gillis Loomis, daughter of Robert Gillis, the owner of the Santa Monica Land and Water Company, which helped subdivide the land in 1926. As a worker was laying out the area where the cemetery is today, the original adobe casa built by Franciso Marquez was destroyed.

Pascual Marquez, Ernest Marquez’s grandfather, was born there in 1844 and grew up in the Santa Monica Canyon. He loved it so much he requested to be buried at the exact spot where he had been born. His coffin was placed at the same angle as his childhood bed. He died in 1916.

Lomis commissioned John Byers, a renowned architect to design Spanish Revival style adobe wall to be built around the perimeter of the Cemetery located off San Lorenzo Street. She also purchased a wooden stature of San Lorenzo, carved from an old tree trunk from Mexico, and place it in a niche in the wall.

In 1944, the Santa Monica Land and Water Company deeded the cemetery land back to Pedro Marquez and the Marquez family.

The Sana Monica Conservancy writes “One of the last remnants of the Boca de Santa Monica land grant, this sacred ground is home to the patrimony of a pioneering Mexican family that continues to represent the enduring spirit of California’s Rancho period.

“While there was a 4-foot-wide easement running down the center of the front lot to the cemetery entrance, the front lot itself was threatened with the construction of a new house in 2009. Concern that this front property might contain more buried remains prompted a call to action.”

Neighbors and supporters raised funds for legal action and the cemetery was designated by the City of Los Angeles as Historic Cultural Monument #685 in 2000.

The fight wasn’t over. In 2011, the north portion of the surrounding lot, the garden, came under dispute with the construction of the new house on the south portion of the lot.

That year, the owners of the “garden” property, Fred Marcus and architect Davida Rochlin, sold the land (then said to be valued at $127,500) for $35,000, so that the cemetery would always be accessible to Marquez descendants and students of history

Annually, fourth graders from Canyon School, make a trip to the cemetery, learn about the history of the area and see the hand-crafted crosses, made by Ernest Marquez, the grandson of Pascual Marquez.

It is thought that there are about 50 burials in the 1/3-acre space, which is where Ernest will also be interred.

Ernest was a self-taught historian who chronicled the history of this area in numerous books. He passed away in January at the age of 99.

Checks to help replace the wall can be made payable to La Senora Research Institute-Cemetery Account, a 501(c)3 account, and mailed to Sharon Kilbride at 245 Entrada Dr., Santa Monica, CA 90402.

The late Ernie Marquez (seated) in the family cemetery with fourth grade students from Canyon Elementary as they hear about the history of this land.

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