Joined: 27 Nov 2007
Location: Monterey County, California
|Posted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:12 pm Post subject: Larkin House
|A HANDSOME young Yankee, Thomas Oliver Larkin, casting his lot in California, landed in Monterey in 1832. He had come there to trade with the padres, the haciendados, and the settlers. In possession of a keen intellect and the shrewdness characteristic of his native New England, he soon became a key man in the Old Capital for the United States. His appointment as U. S. Consul to Mexican California—1844-46—thrust him into a conspicuous position on the coast. The only other U. S. consul was at Mazatlan. And when war was imminent between Mexico and the United States, it was Larkin from his consulate in Monterey who kept the government at Washington informed on the political situation in coveted California.
When Commodore Sloat sailed into the harbor, July 2, 1846, Consul Larkin was the first American to greet him. And for three or four successive nights, Larkin was closeted with the Commodore, framing the Proclamation that would be read to the populace, following the raising of the flag of the conquerors.
His residence had become the headquarters for all Americans—foreigners then—and so classified by the Californians. When the situation between the paisanos and the Yankees was growing taut through rumors of annexation, the consul was one day captured by the angry Castro forces, and treated rather roughly. However, he was spared the indignity of being lassoed, as Alcalde Washington Bartlett had been in San Francisco at the same time.
When General Kearny had disposed of Fremont's claims to governorship of California, and arrived in the Capital to administer his office, it was to the Larkin House that he went, at the invitation of the consul. As stated in another chapter, Lieutenant Sherman, serving as adjutant-general, occupied the small adobe at the back of the old garden, taking his meals at the home of Dona Angustias. All government business was trans¬acted in the consulate for a short time.
Thus, the Larkin House was in fact California's First Yankee Capitol—if de facto. It was not until the arrival of Colonel Mason, superseding General Kearny, that the Capitol was established in El Cuartel.
After the Gold Rush, when San Francisco became the busiest port on the Pacific, Larkin entered into an agreement with Jacob P. Leese to trade properties, Leese (a brother-in-law of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo) taking over the Larkin House and other Monterey properties, and Larkin the San Francisco holdings of Leese.
The Leese family occupied the now famous adobe for many years, from whom it passed into the hands of Robert Johnson, once mayor of Monterey. With rare feeling for the old place, the new owner restored the house and replanned the old garden, building the stone wall that runs so picturesquely along Main Street (Calle Principal), covered with showers of pink roses. In order to rebuild the garden, a frame house had to be moved. It stands now on Tyler Street, near Pearl.
When the time came that the Johnsons desired to relinquish ownership, someone cabled Mrs. Harry S. Toulmin, granddaughter of Consul Larkin, then in England, that the house was on the market.
Thus the house came back to a direct descendant of the most prominent American in the transition period of California history. On rare days of fiesta—Monterey's Birthday, for instance—the gardens are open to the public.
The hospitality of Old California.