The 1855 Surveyor General's Plan Map places an adobe belonging to Juan Avila, on Aliso Creek, just west of El Camino Real, what is now the 1-5 freeway. This adobe was the only one built by Juan Avila on his property titled Rancho Niguel.
Stories remain of lavish fiestas given by the Avila family members; community leaders with the means to observe their family celebrations in a way that reflected the success of Rancho Niguel. Their adobe became a center for such affairs as well as a place where those in need could rely on the generosity of its owners. The Ranchero period of California history reflects that of generous hospitality. The Avila Adobe, located just a few feet from El Camino Real, the main thoroughfare from San Diego to Los Angeles (now the 5 freeway), was very accessible to travelers. At the Avila adobe, travelers were welcomed, fed well, and comfortably slept.
The Avila adobe also served as a historical meeting place. Avila, concerned with American vs. Mexican rule and the results of his land grant should California become a U.S. territory, hosted Commodore Stockton and General Keaney's men who arrived at Avila's adobe ill fed in January, 1847. Avila invited them to camp at his Rancho Niguel hacienda near Aliso Creek where he fed them. Avila proceeded then to Los Angeles to convince his brothers to abandon the Mexican side. Thus, Avila was present at the Battle of La Mesa, which confirmed an American victory in California with the reoccupation of Los Angeles.
Rancho Niguel Ownership
Juan Avila continued as the "don " of Rancho Niguel until 1865 when he sold the property to his friend Juan Forster. The Forsters had moved out of the San Juan Capistrano Mission grounds in 1864 just prior to the return of all the California missions to the Catholic Church by a patent signed by President Lincoln. The land, Rancho Niguel, eventually became owned by Lewis F. Moulton.
Avila, a popular, well-liked man, died in San Juan Capistrano in 1889 at the age of 77. Avila's life spanned the period from the Spanish Franciscans to Mexican dons and American settlers. Juan Avila was a man of the 19th century, well remembered for his generosity, hospitality, honesty, and prosperous ownership of Rancho Niguel.
Mission Viejo Historical Society
In 1995, members of the Mission Viejo Historical Society, researching the Serrano adobes, visited the site of the Avila adobe. At that time, the adobe foundation was visible and pottery remains were collected and deposited at Heritage Hill Historical Society. Although the actual site of the Avila adobe resides within the City boundaries, it is owned and maintained by Orange County Parks.
The location of Juan Avila Adobe is on Aliso Creek between the 5 Freeway and Paseo de Valencia.