Cooper Molera AdobeA Distinctive Destination
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In downtown Monterey, California, Cooper Molera Adobe is bringing history back to life.
Wander through the orchard and Cooper Adobe, free of charge, to see changing exhibits on the stories of this remarkable property—and of historic Monterey—from the time when Monterey was the capital of Mexico’s largest province through today. Stroll from the Tuesday night Farmer’s Market on Alvarado Street to Cooper Molera’s welcoming grounds and gardens. See the only historic barns within the city limits of Monterey, and start planning your own event in the Barns at Cooper Molera. And, coming soon, enjoy creative, seasonally inspired cuisine at the Alta Bakery and Cafe, as well as at Cella Restaurant, both successful examples of adaptive reuse projects for historic adobe structures.
Cooper Molera Adobe, originally dating from 1827, is a National Trust Historic Site in Monterey’s Old Town Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. Cooper Molera represents the layered history of the families who lived in and built Monterey, from its early years as the political and commercial capital of Mexican Alta California, through the development of the State of California.
Later, as Monterey became the center of a region known for both agricultural innovation and commerce, Cooper Molera’s diverse occupants—Mexican-American, Anglo-American, French-American, and Native American—all contributed to a thriving cultural landscape. The property has, from its earliest history, represented a classic tale of shared use: an intersection of individuals and families with different origins, carrying out different occupations and businesses, each contributing to a common vision that is clearly evident in today’s Monterey.
Cooper Molera includes two adjacent adobe homes, a corner store, an adobe warehouse, a barn complex, and beautiful gardens and grounds, all on roughly 2.5 acres surrounded by a historic adobe wall in downtown Monterey. In recent years, a lack of resources for public programming and historic interpretation, as well as a serious backlog of restoration needs, resulted in minimal public visitation and a questionable future for the property. However, after extensive engagement with local stakeholders, the National Trust worked with local developer Foothill Partners, Inc. to develop a concept that is bringing new life to Cooper Molera. A revived “shared use” model for the property now includes an active program of historic interpretation by the National Trust centered on the Cooper and Diaz Adobes, along with compatible commercial uses appropriate to the historic setting. This new version of shared use is an especially fitting model, since the site has combined commercial and residential uses for most of its history.
Today, Cooper Molera represents a new vision for an operating historic site, sharing museum uses with commercial operations, and with historic interpretation weaved throughout. The Cooper and Diaz Adobes, together with the gardens and grounds, are open to the public with self-guided tours and special exhibits. Regular visitation to the museum is free, thanks to generous support from the City of Monterey.
The Barns at Cooper Molera
Cooper Molera’s historic barn complex, red-tagged for seismic risks for more than a decade, has been fully retrofitted and re-clad in new redwood siding (with the original siding preserved in the interior). The Barns at Cooper Molera have been transformed into a state-of-the-art event center, while retaining their historic finishes and original character. Our commercial partner, Events by Classic, has a long and successful history of hosting public and private events in Monterey—and now offer the Cooper Molera barn complex as one of the premier event sites in the area.
Alta Bakery and CafeThe Corner Store at Cooper Molera, soon to be occupied by the Alta Bakery and Cafe, is a Monterey tradition. First operated as a general store by Captain John Rogers Cooper, later operated by Nathaniel Spear, then Manuel Diaz, Honore Escolle, and Augustine Manuel, this adobe structure has seen many commercial uses. But one of its most memorable uses was as the original location of Monterey’s first commercial bakery, the Pioneer Bakery. It was established by Honore Escolle and continued in different locations in Monterey until well into the 20th century. That tradition continues today with the Alta Bakery and Cafe, which will provide the same quality of hand-crafted baked goods and accompaniments as has been enjoyed by generations in Monterey.
The historic Spear Warehouse and its adjacent outdoor courtyard at Cooper Molera will soon open as Cella Restaurant (pronounced “Chella”—Latin for warehouse). This building was Nathan Spear’s warehouse in the 1830s, but it has served many functions over the years, from a Boy Scout meeting space to a dance studio, and (quite appropriately) in its early years as a fonda or public inn. Retrofitted in the 1980s as an audio-visual exhibit space and collections storage area, it is now restored to an open warehouse configuration, which will perfectly accommodate Monterey’s newest restaurant. Cella will focus on locally-sourced produce and California cooking that reflects Cooper Molera's multicultural influences. The adjacent outdoor courtyard will accommodate more diners in a beautiful garden setting.
The National Trust and its partners are pleased to present a renewed and revitalized Cooper Molera Adobe—a historic site that honors and interprets its diverse history while providing new opportunities for the public to experience this unique cultural setting.
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