Historic Brown family residence saved from bulldozers, will house community’s history

The future looked bleak for the 120-year-old Brown family residence a year ago. The childhood home of a local middle school namesake and pioneer family’s ranch faced certain destruction when the Riverside County Planning Commission approved a developer’s plans to build 108 homes on the 35-acre property.

But, with the determination of the Wildomar Historical Society and support of a couple of developers and county officials, the Brown family homestead was hosting a party last Thursday instead of facing a wrecking crew.

Well-wishers including First District Supervisor Bob Buster, members of the local historical societies, the Wildomar Chamber of Commerce and other supporters gathered to celebrate the preservation of the historic home and a water tower. The two structures will be hoisted in a midnight move to another Wildomar site in a couple of weeks to await renovation and permanent placement as the historical society museum in Wildomar.

The contributions of the Brown family date back to the agricultural roots of the Wildomar community when eucalyptus trees were planted to provide shade for livestock and houses and serve as windbreaks for crops and orchards. The residence was home to rancher and farmer Rudolph Brown and his wife, Vita, who raised crops and cattle on land surrounding the house on the small hill including present-day Windsong Valley neighborhoods. They were also involved in the Wildomar school district.

One of their sons, David A. Brown, became very involved in the community. He was one of the founders of the Wildomar Interests League, a precursor to the current Wildomar Municipal Advisory Council, and served as county flood control commissioner, said Bob Cashman, president of the Wildomar Historical Society. David passed away in 1993.

“He was a very special man,” said Wildomar resident and Animal Friends of the Valleys treasurer Dixie Schleiger. “He was very interesting to talk to because he was the historian for the area.” David safeguarded records dating back to the 1800s and kept track of the annual rainfall, she said.

His widow, Nancy Jane Brown, 84, was in attendance at the bon voyage party and still lives in Wildomar. She came to Wildomar in 1947 and recalls the ranching days when they had to get up at 3:30 a.m. “to mow the alfalfa when the dew was right.” The closest grocery store was in Sun City and agricultural acreage stretched out for miles, she said.

One of the more memorable stories she recalls is when her husband and the local sheriff decided to hunt for melted silver coins from the San Francisco earthquake and fire. The artifacts were rumored to be discarded on the property but things didn’t go as planned. “Well, they got about three feet down, I guess, and a rattlesnake came out of the hole, so did the two guys and they never finished,” she chuckled.

With the coordination of efforts, two developers will be swapping the Brown residence and water tower. Representatives from Beazer Homes plan to develop the Brown property on Grand Avenue and the Bergmann Companies plan to build mixed-use retail and residential neighborhood off the I-15 and Central. The Brown House and water tower will serve as the focal point to the gateway into the community.

Citing the accomplishment as a credit to the landowners, developers and community volunteers, Buster said the restoration of the Brown house is important for the future of Wildomar while representing its past. “People can get a sense of what it was like to live here,” he said.

“It’s great the way that we were able to work with the Wildomar Historical Society to protect the legacy of what is Wildomar,” said Dennis Thorton of Bergmann Companies. “We’re grateful to be able to give back to the community and provide a final place for the Brown house.”

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