Volunteer docents


The Olivas Adobe Historical Interpreters (OAHI)

Click here to print flyer at left.

Be part of  “history with a future” by training as a docent for the all-volunteer Olivas Adobe Historical Interpreters (OAHI) dedicated to preserving the only Monterey Style adobe home in California from the Gold Rush era, a California Historical Landmark built by the Mexican Olivas family in the 1840s. Docents make the history of the Olivas Adobe come to life by celebrating its Chumash, Old West, Rancho and Latino heritage through weekend tours, gift shop, seasonal school education outreach programs, summer concerts, and year round special events. All proceeds from docent events go towards the maintenance of the Olivas Adobe.

As a docent you may choose your level of involvement. Select from weekend activities and share your love of history with visitors as a costumed historical park tour guide or gift shop manager. Or choose to participate in annual events such as the year round Family Sundays cultural activities,  summer Music under the Stars concert series or fall’s Living History Day and Halloween events or winter’s Holiday Candlelight Tour—all filled with workshops or presentations on the crafts, cultural observances and life skills of yesteryear. Docents may also choose to work on long-term projects through various standing committees on cultural education, historic acquisitions and restoration and are invited to visit other historical sites as a group, getting VIP “behind the scenes” treatment not available to the regular public. Call 805.658.4728 for more information and to join our short and fun docent training activities—just three successive Sundays for two hours each, at the Olivas Adobe, 4200 Olivas Park Drive. (MAP)


 What is an historical interpreter?

“An interpreter's task is to reveal meaning and relationships through the use of original objects, by first hand experiences and by illustrative media, rather than simply to communicate factual information."  - F. Tilden

The OAHI Organization

Organized as an association under bylaws in 1980, OAHI operates in collaboration with the City of Ventura to provide volunteer docent service to Olivas Park.

Our Mission

To interpret and preserve the history and heritage of the Olivas family and Rancho San Miguel as part of the Rancho Period of California History.

Some of Our Activities

Provide interpretive tours of the park

Maintain the displays in the adobe home, exhibit hall and herb garden

Staff and maintain the gift shop and research library

Conduct school outreach programs

Participate in events held at the Adobe

The Benefits of Being an OAHI Interpreter

Participate in interesting activities

Learn the history of California

Meet new people and make new friends

Have a great time doing something good for everyone

Gain satisfaction from contributing your time

Take field trips to other museums and historic site

Be(come) an Olivas Adobe Historical Interpreter

As an (1) Active Member, (2) Associate Member or Friend of the Adobe

OAHI Training Program for New Docents

  • Training consists of reading assignments, video, lecture and hands-on activities during three consecutive Sundays, 1- 3 pm, at Olivas Park.
  • Call 805/658-4728 or e-mail greyes@cityofventura.net to schedule an interview
  • Cost: $25 for training materials and annual dues. Docents also must acquire a Rancho Period costume at his/her own expense.
  • Training Topics:
    History of the Adobe House and Park Grounds
    History of the OAHI Organization
    History of the Chumash, Mission and Rancho periods of California
    History of the Olivas Family
  • OAHI Activities:
    House Tours
    Gift Shop
    Herb Garden
    School Outreach 

School Outreach

Olivas Adobe Historic Interpreters bring the Rancho Period of California history to life as part of the Olivas Adobe School Outreach program produced by the City of Ventura Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Partnerships Interpretive Outreach Division. This hands-on program is offered to fourth grade classes Monday through Friday during the school year. If you are a fourth grade teacher and would like to bring your class to this two hour and fifteen minute program, contact 805/677-3961.
Students learn how adobe houses are built from the ground on up
Brick making
Learning the history of the Olivas family and touring their house
Learning how to turn the raw materials into tortillas - Making tortillas
Living life by lamplight
Roping Bernardo the Bad

OAHI Olivas Gift Shop

The Olivas Adobe Gift Shop

Located in the Richard Senate Exhibit Hall across from the Olivas Adobe Courtyard, the gift shop hours are: Saturday and Sundays, 10 am - 4 pm

Books – Pictures – Toys - Cards – Stationary – Clothing – Dishes - Handicrafts
Unique gifts inspired by Rancho Period of California History

To order books, mail a check in the amount of the list price, payable to the City of Ventura to: Olivas Adobe Historical Park, 4200 Olivas Park Drive, Ventura, CA 93003

The House of Olivas: A Family History by Meredith Stevens
Paperback 157 pages 8.5" x 5.5" $18.95 (includes mailing and handling)
From the Forward by Richard Senate: "The story of the Olivas family is the story of California ... a story of real people who played a part in the history of this great state. It is the record of a single Hispanic family - how they faced the problems of colonization, conquest and, finally, absorption into the predominately Anglo United States of America. With each challenge, members of this family rose above adversity to make a place for themselves and their children.”

Historic Adobes of Ventura County by Richard Senate
Paperback 55 pages 8.5" x 5.5" $11.95 (includes mailing and handling)
In earlier times, adobe was a primary building material of the vast southwest. Churches, government buildings, as well as the dwellings of the rich and poor were made of these humble sun-dried earthen bricks. This book describes the heritage of this area's remaining early adobes. These homes were at the heart of a time when rancheros measured their wealth in land and livestock. Mr. Senate takes the reader back to the days of fiestas, fandangos, and the echoes of an earlier time.

Legends of Ventura County by Cherie Brant
Paperback 63 pages 8.5" x 5.5" $11.95 (includes mailing and handling)
What do a floating lighthouse and a captured grizzly bear have in common? Not much, except that they both happened in Ventura County. They are just two of the unusual events, places and people that form the history of this area. This book invites you to take a short trip through time and learn about a few of the strange things that have happened here from pre-history to the present day.

Historic Railroads of Ventura County by Cherie Brant
Paperback 83 pages 8.5" x 5.5" $11.95 (includes mailing and handling)
Rail service was the greatest invention of its time, the modern equivalent of passenger jets, the Internet and overnight package delivery rolled into one. The vision, daring and drive that propelled rail was resident in Ventura County. Writer Cherie Brant courses through three centuries of rail, the people behind its rise and fall and resurgence, and the local revolution that was powered by the locomotive.

Erle Stanley Gardner's Ventura by Richard Senate
Paperback 96 pages 8.5" x 5.5" $19.00 (includes mailing and handling)
Author, lawyer, adventurer, defender of the underdog, all of these descriptions would fit the remarkable Erle Stanley Gardner. And yet, they would leave out so much that made up this unique resident of Ventura County. This book is a study of Ventura's literary gift to the world. It explores how he affected Ventura as a community and how the city affected him as a lawyer and author of the Perry Mason novels.

Keys to the County by Cherie Brant
Paperback 176 pages 8.5" x 5.5" $16.00 (includes mailing and handling)
The purpose of this book is to take the reader firsthand to places that reveal the rich history of Ventura County. Self-directed walking and driving tours guide you to historic locations in every community in the county. As you follow the tours, let your imagination take you back to a time of different sights, sounds, smells and pace of life. Using this book as a guide, you will follow in the footsteps of the natives, settlers, rogues, heroes, visionaries and solid citizens who lived here in earlier times.

Docent Scrapbook

Click on newsletter links above or Scrapbook links below for stories and pictures of past events at the Adobe


 Leif Engeswick of Ventura restored this vintage 1912 band organ. The machine's workings include 113 pipes.
To the casual observer, Leif Engeswick might resemble a shy college professor, but the Ventura man's many interests and works speak volumes for him. You might say they are music to his ears. Engeswick's interests include silent films and their restoration, Thomas Alva Edison in general (Engeswick offers a school program in which he demonstrates Edison's phonograph and early motion pictures) and, not least, the restoration of antique mechanical music makers. The music makers include music boxes, player pianos, barrel and reed organs, and band organs.
Engeswick's passion for mechanical music machines began when he was 5 and his family visited Santa Claus Lane near Carpinteria.

"I saw a coin-operated player piano with eight slots for coins," he recalled. The machine captivated him. He began to learn all he could about music-making machines. He attended Balboa Middle School, where his mother worked in the office and his father was a teacher. (His dad would go on to teach at Ventura High School, also Engeswick's alma mater) While he was in high school, Engeswick said, his church obtained a new pipe organ. His interest in the project drew him to spend a lot of his free time helping the men from the organ company and asking questions.
The crew was so impressed with him that the company offered him a job when he graduated.

That job put him in contact with other mechanical music makers, from band organs to player pianos.
A neighbor in Ventura had a badly damaged player piano. The outside was restored but the inner workings were, as Engeswick says, "fried." He asked if he might try to restore the piece. The neighbor let him try and he "lucked out," he said.His interests spread to music boxes but, finding them to be beyond his price range, he started to purchase old and broken ones and restore them.

He expanded his collection to include barrel organs, built originally as sidewalk instruments. He could only afford to buy a piece in such a deplorable state that "no one in their right mind would try to restore it," he said.
He found just such a barrel organ, badly deteriorated and missing pieces. It took years to lovingly put it back together. Once more the instrument plays music. His collection includes a reed organ that uses paper rolls that may have a link to 19-century Mormon prophet Brigham Young.

His newest project, a band organ that fills one wall of his Ventura living room, is almost complete. The machine is one of only two in the United States that can play a special paper piano roll called a "43-key Bruder."
Developed in Germany, these compositions are considered the best musical arrangements for band organs ever produced. They are deemed superior to similar ones made in America at that time. "They (the 43-key Bruder) use the full range of the instrument," he said.

The band organ is lacking only its decorative case, now under construction. Engeswick hopes to have it finished by Thanksgiving When the band organ comes to life with its rows of pipes, reeds, drums and triangle, it fills the room with music of another era. Once again the complex musical arrangements, formed on punched paper rolls, bring forth their magic to enthrall and fascinate a new generation.