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The Adamson House

Apr 15th, 2009 | By | Category: 90210 & Beverly Hills, 90210 Filming Locations

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I spent all last week on the hunt for a location from my fave 90s TV show Beverly Hills, 90210.  The spot I was looking for was the location that stood in for Baja, Mexico in the Season 2 episode entitled “Mexican Standoff”.  In the episode, Brenda sneaks off to a Mexican resort town for the weekend with Dylan without telling her parents.  I knew from this amazing website that the “Mexico” scenes were actually shot near the beach in Malibu, so I started my hunt there.   And it wasn’t long before I found the right spot!

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While watching the “Mexican Standoff” episode, I noticed an abundance of intricate Spanish tile in the background of pretty much every scene.  (You can see an example of that tile behind Dylan in the above screen capture.)  The tiles were my big tip-off, as there is actually a famous house in Malibu that is known for its exquisite tile work.  In fact, the house has been deemed the “Taj Mahal of tile”.  I had done some research on the home a few years back when I was working and immediately thought of it when I watched the “Mexican Standoff” episode this past week.  The home, which is named the Adamson House, is owned by the State of California and has been open to the public as a museum since 1983.  So, I, of course, dragged my boyfriend right out there this weekend for a tour.

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In 1891, a man named Frederick Hastings Rindge purchased what is now known as the city of Malibu for the bargain price of $10 per acre.  Rindge’s wife, May, was fiercely protective of her family’s privacy and did everything she could to keep outsiders out, including fencing off the 17,000 acre property and hiring armed guards who patrolled the area day and night.   For close to forty years the Rindges were Malibu’s only occupants. But in the 30s, May ran into some financial trouble and had to sell off parcels of her property.  Not wanting to sell to just anyone, May made sure she sold her land to wealthy, distinguished individuals who understood the need for privacy.  Most of those individuals were movie stars.  And thus, the city of Malibu, celebrity haven, was born.  It was Frederick and May’s daughter, Rhoda Agatha Rindge, and her husband Merritt Adamson who in 1930 built the 4,000 square foot Mediterranean style home that is now known as the Adamson House.

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Rhoda and Merritt’s custom home, which was designed by Stiles O. Clements, took a year and a half to build and is situated directly above the Malibu Lagoon.  May Rindge, who was a tile connoisseur and owned her own tile company named Malibu Potteries, commissioned all of the custom, handmade tile that eventually made her daughter’s home so famous and, in the end, saved it from demolition.  In 1966, four years after Rhoda’s death, the State of California was granted eminent domain on the Adamson House and its surrounding property.  The state purchased the home from Rhoda’s heirs for $2.6 million and set about razing the property to build a beach parking lot.  Unbelievable!!   Thankfully, the Malibu Historical Society and the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation stepped in and fought to stop the demolition of the home.  That fight turned into a ten year battle.  During that time, the chancellor of Pepperdine University leased and lived in the property.  In 1976, thanks to the home’s unique tile work and its historical significance to the city of Malibu, the house was saved from the wrecking ball.  In 1983, after a lengthy renovation process, the home was opened to the public as a museum.  The Adamson House is currently both a California Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.

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And, let me tell you, it is an absolutely incredible place to visit.  The tile work in the home is nothing short of A-MA-ZING!  I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life and doubt I ever will again.  I was shocked when I heard that construction on the home took only a year and a half to complete, as the detailing is so incredibly intricate and elaborate that I would have expected it to have taken much longer.  Everything from the clock in the kitchen to the heater grates in the ceiling are made from hand-painted tiles!   The house could not be more exquisite and I HIGHLY recommend taking the tour to see it for yourself.

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That being said, I have to say that the actual tour was one of the most BIZARRE experiences of my life.  There are simply no words to accurately describe our tour – or our docent for that matter.  I’m not quite sure what was wrong with her, but I think it is safe to say she was a few bricks shy of a load.   A sample bit of her dialog from the tour:  “Now we are in the upstairs . . . the ceiling . . . has . . . and you can see . . . and there are . . . this piece of .  . . . . . . . . . . . . string . . . during World War II . . . there were bombs . . . who can guess why there are no lights?”  And I’m pretty much QUOTING her!  LOL   When I asked why the Rindge family sold the Adamson House to the State of California she told me it was because “they were tired of it”.  LOL LOL LOL  At one point during the tour, my boyfriend turned to me and said “Please don’t ask if 90210 was filmed here – that might just make her head explode!”  Within the first five minutes I became convinced we were on a hidden camera show – I was hoping it was I Get That A Lot – and at any moment a camera crew was going to jump out at us from behind a wall. I was actually laughing so hard on more than one occasion that I had to completely turn away from the group and stare at the wall.  LOL  I haven’t laughed that hard in a really long time, so I guess the tour wasn’t a total bust!   In fact, as I sit here writing about it, I’m STILL laughing.  :)  We even made friends with another couple, who were just as bewildered over our docent’s behavior as we were.   At the end, one of them said to us, “I realize that they are all volunteers, but isn’t there some sort of screening process???”  LOL  But I must say that despite our nimrod of a tour guide, seeing the house in person is still an experience I’d recommend.

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Oddly enough, only a very small section of the Adamson House was used in the “Mexican Standoff” episode of Beverly Hills, 90210.   Of course our docent had no clue whatsoever where, or even if, 90210 had filmed on the property back in 1992 and I had a surprisingly difficult time locating the exact spot used on my own.  After the tour on Saturday, I went home and watched the “Mexican Standoff” episode once again and finally figured out where it had been filmed.  Unfortunately, I had only taken one photograph of that spot while on the tour.  LOL  So, I actually had to drag my boyfriend BACK to the house the following day to take some more pictures.  Thank the lord our docent was nowhere to be found.  :)  The area featured on Beverly Hills, 90210 was the little porch and driveway located to the side of Adamson House garage.

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In the scene, Brenda and Dylan get into an argument over a girl that Dylan dated the previous summer.  Brenda is in quite the little snit until a mariachi band strolls over and serenades them with a Spanish version of the Morris Albert song “Feelings”.   The two make up and then dance the night away under the Mexican sky.  GOD I LOVE THAT SHOW!  :)  The new one doesn’t even compare!!!  You can watch the scene filmed at the Adamson House here.

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The “Baja” beach where Brenda and Dylan surf the following morning is very obviously the Malibu Lagoon State Beach, which is located directly in front of the Adamson House.

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The location where Brenda and Dylan run into Jake Hanson in the beginning of that same episode is the beach parking lot located just south of the Adamson House. It is actually the place where you must park your car if you are going on an Adamson House tour.  That’s the Malibu Pier in the background behind Dylan.

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  :)

Stalk It: The Adamson House is located at 23200 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.  The grounds are open daily to the public from sunrise to sunset.  You do not need to be part of a tour to walk around the grounds.  The interior of the house is only made available to the public via docent led tours.  Tours are held Wednesday through Saturday from 11am to 3pm, with the last tour beginning at 2pm.  Tours cost $5 per adult and $2 per child under the age of 16.  Kids 5 and under are free.  You can visit the Adamson House website here.

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2 comments

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  1. Sue Ellen Ewing says:

    True tmp00! It was also used in the episode called “Deeds and Misdeeds” of “Dallas”.

  2. tmp00 says:

    Ir was also used for a couple of seasons on Knots Landing as the beach house that Abby Ewing lived it. It’s a gorgeous place.


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