Rohr Park lies within the unincorporated city of Bonita. Picnic areas, playgrounds, softball fields, walking trails and the Chula Vista Golf course make for a great Saturday afternoon here. This park also has a hidden gem: two historic homes that probably have ghosts inside.
Professor Emeritus Steven Schoenherr tells us more:
The Old Adobe Home
Before the Americans came to California in the 1850s, all the homes of the Spanish and Mexican settlers were made from adobe. Unfortunately, the mud and straw bricks were easily washed away by rain unless protected by plaster. The Mexican land grants required the owners to build at least one structure on the ranchos, but none of these have survived in the South Bay.
The oldest adobe still around is found in Rohr Park next to the golf course in the Sweetwater Valley. The Old Adobe, as it it called, was placed there by the man who built Rohr Manor in 1938.
Rube Harrison was a real estate developer in San Diego who developed Harrison Park north of Lake Cuyamaca in the early 1920s. After developing Lincoln Park near National City in the mid-1920s, he invested in oil wells in Maricopa County in the early 1930s and then retired to Bonita where he built Rohr Manor in 1938. He was an avid collector of Indian artifacts, but his wife would not allow him to keep them in the new house. He found an old adobe building in the Cuyamacas and moved it to his Bonita property to store his artifacts. It is not known how old the adobe was when Harrison found it, but it remains today in basically the same condition when it was moved.
This was not the same adobe found by E. F. Wells when he started his Interlaken ranch on 40 acres of valley bottom land in 1883. This adobe may have been one built by Juan Forster when he was granted Rancho de la Nacion in 1843.
Frank Kimball recorded in his diary in April 1878 that an “Adobe House” was near a crossing of the Sweetwater River. However, this adobe was gone by the time Dr. Frank A. Dunbar built his sanitarium on the site of the Wells ranch in 1903.
Rube Harrison died in 1941 and the Rohr Manor with its Old Adobe was sold to the Campbell family (of Campbell Shipyard) who kept horse and cows on the property, calling the adobe the “dog house.” Doug Fessler (of Lilac Hills Ranch north of Escondido) bought the manor from the Campbells to use as a horse farm.
In 1955 Fred Rohr purchased all 55 acres of the Fessler ranch and turned it into the Rohr Recreational Club for his 6,500 employees. The house and adobe, along with ten new cottages, were used for a variety of club activities, including an Inventor’s Club, Model Railroaders, Art Guild, and a ceramics club known at the Mud Daubers.
In 1961 the Manor house was used as the temporary clubhouse for the Bonita Valley Country Club golf course built nearby.
In 1966 the Rohr Manor and the golf course were sold to the city of Chula Vista and were annexed as part of the 161-acre Rohr Park.
The Old Adobe became the Young Historian Museum and Cultural Center until 1969 when it became storage for the city parks department.
In 1987 Rohr Manor was designated an Historic Site. Today, the Manor and Old Adobe stand empty, awaiting renovation by the city.
Address: 4548 Sweetwater Road, Bonita, CA 91902-1530
Call (619) 397-6197 for birthday reservations
And by the way:
The City of Chula Vista made August 3-7 “Rohr Week” in Chula Vista. Here’s the skinny: