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History is Brand New at the Long Beach Ranchos

By June 7, 2012

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The two historic ranchos in Long Beach have been under restoration for the last couple years, but both of them are all polished and new for this summer. Rancho Los Cerritos celebrated its grand reopening in May and Rancho Los Alamitos will welcome visitors to its grand reopening this Sunday, June 10, noon to 5 pm.

Ranch Center at Rancho Los AlamitosFor Rancho Los Alamitos, this is the next step in the Master Plan which has been 26 years in the making. It will be the Grand Opening of the Rancho Center, which houses exhibits and a documentary film on the Rancho's role in California history from the Gabrieleno-Tongva Indians to the Bixby Family who last farmed the Rancho and handed it over to the city of Long Beach in 1968. The "new" Ranch Center is a re-purposed barn built on the property in the 1950s. Its north porch has been enclosed to form the new lobby, keeping to the original style, and the building was relocated with a new sub-level for offices below the galleries.

Executive Director Pamela Seager, Special Projects Director Claudia Jurmain, Architect Stephen Farneth and Exhibition Designer Bill Wells have been working together since 1985 on making this dream a reality.

"Usually my job is to come in and organize the artifacts into an exhibit," says exhibit designer, Bill Wells. "Here I realized that the place was the artifact and we wanted to maintain its integrity."

Rancho Los Alamitos"Fred Bixby's method was to drill a hole and put up a board and we tried to stick to that." He explains of the process that went into putting together the exhibit. "When there was a challenge, I'd put it to the team and they'd come back with a Fred solution - elegant, practical an functional."

The new blends seamlessly with the old. If you've been to the Rancho before, you'll remember the barns in a different arrangement and looking worse for wear, but the overall look and feel of the new and improved old Rancho is the same, including the animals in the stables and the shells in the hidden shell garden.

Rancho Los AlamitosClaudia Jurmain worked closely with the former residents and laborers to make sure their stories were told, and it was from the memories of children who grew up on the Rancho, now in their 80s, that the team was able to bring back some of the elements that existed when it was a working ranch. "

Those stories are told in photos and anecdotes on the walls of the Ranch Center and told by those who hold the memories in their own voices in the documentary film. The Master Plan is ongoing, with the staff offices to be relocated from the Ranch House to the new Ranch Center over the summer and additional restoration to be completed on the Ranch House.

Rancho Los AlamitosSunday will also be a first look at the restored historic barns area, ranch house and gardens and the completely new gift shop. There will be tours, music, storytelling by former residents who grew up on the Rancho, crafts and activities for families. Admission is free with parking at CSULB, Lot #11 off Palo Verde Avenue, with free, handicapped-accessible shuttles to the Rancho. There will be a limited number of people able to visit the Ranch Center, so make your reservation as soon as you arrive.

Reservations will be required to visit Rancho Los Alamitos during normal public hours from June 13 to July 5, 2012. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday afternoons 1-5 p.m. Call the Rancho at 562.431.3541 for reservations. Visit www.rancholosalamitos.org for more information.

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