Valdez Alley echoes Ventura’s history

by Richard Senate

Perhaps a simple instructive sign should be installed on Main Street to let visitors and local residents know the importance of this small walkway, Just down from the Old Mission, it dates back long before the coming of the Spanish Padres. It was used by the Chumash people. It is named for Ramon Valdez, a Spanish soldier who built an adobe home here for his young Chumash bride in 1820. Remarkably the structure stood for many years and served many purposes. It was a livery stable and for some time a Mexican Restaurant called “El Viejo Adobe,”

Here Santiago Olivas, the son of Raymundo Olivas, worked as a cook. Before that it was our first polling place where, in the historic election of 1860, all nine eligible voters cast their ballots for Abraham Lincoln (he didn’t carry the county because all of Santa Barbara went for his rival Stephen  Douglas).  At that time Ventura was part of Santa Barbara, a union that mixed like oil and water. Then the alley went to a small brick building built by the Spanish to purify the local water and repurposed by the Americans into our  first jail. It served as the local lock-up from 1866 to 1869.  Perhaps a few signs could tell of the unique history of this narrow walkway in Ventura’s early years.

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