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Gage Mansion - Oldest Remaining Home in Los Angeles County

Gage Mansion, Gage Avenue, Bell Gardens

Historical marker sign on Gage Avenue for the Gage Mansion. Los Angeles Almanac Photo.

The oldest remaining house in Los Angeles is the Avila Adobe located on Olvera Street (built 1818). It is not, however, the oldest remaining house in Los Angeles County. Shane Kimbler, a Bell Gardens history enthusiast, wrote to point out that early colonist Francisco Salvador Lugo and son Antonio María Lugo began construction in 1795 on what is now known as Casa de Rancho San Antonio or the Henry Gage Mansion. The house is located at 7000 East Gage Avenue in Bell Gardens. It was built to qualify the younger Lugo, a former Spanish colonial soldier, for a land grant from the Spanish crown. In 1810, Antonio María Lugo completed the house and received the grant, naming his new grant Rancho San Antonio. The ranch eventually grew to encompass 29,513 acres, including what are now the cities of Bell Gardens, Commerce, and parts of Bell, Cudahy, Lynwood, Montebello, South Gate, Vernon and East Los Angeles. When California became part of the U.S. in 1850, Lugo, as did all recipients of Spanish/Mexican land grants, began losing portions of his land to the growing population of Yankee newcomers. The ranch adobe, however, continued to be owned and used by the Lugo family.

Antonio María Lugo

Don Antonio María Lugo, 19th century. Wikipedia Commons and Seaver Center for Western History Research, L.A. County Museum of Natural History Museum.

Don Antonio María Lugo died at the age of 85 in 1860. According to Dr. Roy Whitehead in his book Lugo, "Don Antonio Maria Lugo…rode around Los Angeles and his Rancho San Antonio in great splendor. He never adopted American dress, culture or language and still spoke only Spanish. He rode magnificent horses, sitting in his $1,500 silver trimmed saddle erect and stately, with his sword strapped to the saddle beneath his left leg…People knew him far and wide, and even the Indians sometimes named their children after him, as he was one Spanish Don that they admired."

By 1865, most of the Lugo ranch, divided among five sons and three daughters, had been sold off for as little as a dollar per acre. The original adobe ranch home, however, remained in the family. In 1880, attorney Henry T. Gage, a transplant from Michigan, married one of Lugo’s great granddaughters, Francisca "Fanny" Rains. The original adobe ranch home was gifted to Gage as a wedding dowry and it became known as the Gage Mansion. In 1898, Gage was elected Governor of California. He served in that office from 1899 to 1903. In 1910, he was appointed by President William Howard Taft to serve as U.S. Minister to Portugal. He resigned after only one year due to his wife’s health problems. Gage lived in the abode ranch house until his death in 1924.

Henry and Francisca Gage

20th Governor of California, Henry T. Gage (1899) and his wife Francisca. Courtesy California State Capitol Museum & A.K. Smiley Library.

A century later, the Gage Mansion was all that remained of the once great Rancho San Antonio. In 1983, the Casa Mobile Home Co-Op, a cooperative of mobile home owners renting lots on the property, purchased the land and house from their ailing landlord. Although they were aware of the historical significance of the old house, they had no means of maintaining it. In 1987, then Bell Gardens City Councilwoman Letha Wiles began working to get the house listed on the state historical registry, making it eligible for maintenance grants. It is now listed as California Historical Site Number 984. Sadly, being that the site is currently private property, it is not open or viewable to the general public.

Gage Mansion, Bell Gardens

Case Mobile Home Co-Op entrance to Gage Mansion location. It is private property. Los Angeles Almanac Image.

Gage Mansion, Bell Gardens

Hidden behind mobile homes, the roof the Gage Mansion is the only portion visible from Gage Avenue. Los Angeles Almanac Image.

Gage Mansion, Bell Gardens

Bird's-eye view of Gage Mansion, looking east. © 2017 Photometry International Corp. & Microsoft Corp. Microsoft product (Bing.com/maps) screen shot reprinted with permission from Microsoft Corp.