The House familiarly known as the House of the Blue Gate, Casa Soberanes is an impressive two-story adobe in the Mexican colonial style, with cantilevered balcony and walls 38″ thick on the lower story. Set on a rise that is now terraced with gardens, the second floor still enjoys impressive views of the Monterey Bay and mountains to the east. Built in 1842 by Rafael Estrada, the property was sold to his cousin Ezequiel Soberanes in 1860 and eventually passed on to the first-born son.
The senior Soberanes removed the rear balcony and added the framed, shed-roofed addition to accommodate an indoor kitchen once vented wood cooking stoves became locally available. Ezequiel Soberanes Jr., gardener at the Carmel Mission, retained the property until 1922, when it was purchased by Jean Booth Serrano, who restored both house and grounds with great sensitivity. Local historian Mayo Hayes O’Donnell and her husband occupied the house from 1941. In 1954, she gifted the property to the State of California, continuing to live there under a life tenancy agreement until her death in 1977. Two years later, with additional furnishings provided by the State and a fine collection of artwork associated with previous owners, Casa Soberanes opened to the public.
The somewhat formal design of the terraced grounds dates from the 1920s, when the “chalk rock” walls and walks were added and the cypress hedge was planted for privacy. In both front and back gardens, contoured beds are edged with abalone shells (a common local practice when abalone was abundant), upended crocks and wine bottles, and even whale ribs. The pepper tree near the front entrance and the grape vine at the rear can be traced to Ezequiel Jr. Front and back beds display a charmingly eclectic collection of plants in a cottage-garden style. The four teak chairs in the rear garden were a gift from the Historic Garden League.