For seventy-five years Emelda Lugo Rozas occupied the house at 31 Polk Street in San Juan Bautista.
There, with husband Ambrosio, she raised 12 children and lived to be 104 years old.
The wooden structure, now called Rozas House, is an example of post-adobe construction, and was originally built in 1856 by Chilean Bartolome Samit. At that time the single-level structure was used as a boarding house with multiple rooms.
When the Rozas took it over in 1891, the house became their primary residence.
It was not until nearly 100 years later that the house came under the possession of a non-Rozas family member and on Sunday, that family threw open the doors of the historic house to celebrate the structure’s 161th birthday.
“We are the first non-family members to own it,” said Shawna Freels, whose parents bought the house in 1977. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
“The house has always been a residence but there have been other occupants,” said Freels during the Sunday tour. “There was a real estate agency, little shops, artists. We had a hairdresser when I moved here as a kid.”
The house is filled with history, from the warped floors to its wood panelled ceilings.
“There is no foundation,” said Freels. “The house was built directly on the dirt and without any flooring. There was just packed dirt.”
Except for the addition of a bedroom, everything at the house is in its original state.
“There used to be a fireplace, which was removed before we bought the place. Everything is original, nothing has been restored yet,” she said.
To help fund the restoration of the house in future and to support other historic preservation activities in San Juan Bautista, a nonprofit, Rozas House org., Inc. has been established.
“The nonprofit is all about historic preservation and early California history. We will have musicians that will be playing early California music here a bit later,” said Freels. “We are trying to increase preservation in the area.”
One of the organization’s first projects is a historic walking tour of San Juan Bautista.
“We will have site plaques at each of the historic sites with QR coding linked to web pages that tell the history behind it.”
So far, funding and support have come from a variety of sources, including the City of San Juan Bautista and the Community Foundation for San Benito County.
Donations are currently being accepted.
The organization also aims to help other local parties preserve their piece of San Juan Bautista history.
“We are hoping to help the Native Daughters of the Golden West get their adobe house on Fourth Street put on the National Register of Historic Places,” said Freels.
For Freels and her family, the caretakers of the historic Rozas House, helping protect local history is a city trait.
“We all cherish our history and want to protect it,” she said.