Pierre Hypolite Dallidet (1822-1909) is celebrated as the first commercial winemaker in San Luis Obispo County, and he became even more famous when he also became the first licensed commercial distiller in the county. His legend is one of adventure, upheaval, service to his country, viticulture, and adventurous travels abroad—from his village in southwestern France to the Island of Tahiti to an outpost named Hangtown in Gold Rush Country and finally to San Luis Obispo, California.
From the 1860s to the 1890s, Pierre Dallidet was well known for his pioneering commercial wine and brandy making, sourcing his fruit from his own vineyards and orchards. He was famous for assisting the French government in saving the premium French grape varietals decimated by the Phylloxera epidemic that destroyed historic vineyards in France in the 1870s.
Subdividing his Vineyards
Pierre Dallidet arrived in San Luis Obispo in the 1850s. He married, had children, acquired property where he built his adobe home over a wine cellar, planted orchards and vineyards. He sourced his fruit from his own vineyards. He designed a commercial winery adjacent to his home in the 1860s and later added a bonded distillery in 1891 when he realized it would be much more profitable than the winery. His real estate empire began to grow and is estimated to have been approximately 150 acres at its peak. By the mid-1880s Pierre Dallidet was the largest landowner in the city of San Luis Obispo.
Pierre originally focused on viticulture and his land included the mission-era vineyards adjacent to Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. He planted over 200 grape varieties, sharing his experience and knowledge with other vineyardists and winemakers. He was the first winemaker in the county to make blended wines that were known for their quality and he was famous for the quality of his wine made with Mission grapes.
And what happened to his vineyards? Pierre began to look at the potential for subdividing his land to create housing tracts. He had always been a wise and careful investor but he allowed his eldest son to borrow against the properties to buy more land and buildings. So – the simple answer is that the vineyards were lost – lost to the Commercial Bank which foreclosed when Pierre Dalliet and his son could not make the payments on their debt.
In 1903 a detailed map was prepared that shows the placement of nearly every commercial building, home and barn in San Luis Obispo. The section below shows the Dallidet Adobe and adjacent winery. The distillery was located near the corner of Pacific and Toro.
The subdivision known as La Vina Homestead Tract was carved out of the historic Dallidet vineyard. It was first mapped in 1903 according to the records of Title Insurance and Trust Company. La Vina is now a neighborhood bounded by the streets of Pismo, Toro, Buchon and Santa Rosa. According to newspaper articles in the local Tribune, the bank sold the tract to Mark Elberg for residential development in 1905. In this era, there were no zoning regulations, no hearings before a planning commission, no design review board, and no concerns about heritage trees or open space.
However, there were unwritten cultural standards which were enforced with “deed restrictions”. The bank wanted the housing to be attractive and built with high-quality materials so the deed issued to Mr. Elberg contained a two-year restriction on the quality of housing that could be built in the La Vina Homestead Tract. The deed restrictions stated that all dwellings on lots facing Santa Rosa were to cost no less than $3,000. The building costs on Buchon were a minimum of $2,000 and on Pismo, the bank set a minimum of $1,500 dollars for constructing each home. The tract was limited to residential dwellings and the “necessary outhouses.”
The Dallidet family was able to retain the property that we know today as the “hidden jewel of San Luis Obispo.” Pierre Dallidet died in 1909. The Dallidet Adobe and Gardens are located at 1185 Pacific Street and is now a California Historical Landmark, number 720. The last living Dallidet, Paul, transferred the property to the San Luis Obispo County Historical Society in 1953.
This valuable map was printed in an article by Elliot Curry on August 12, 1972. Elliot was known as a community. He was the managing editor of the San Luis Obispo County Telegram-Tribune from 1944 to 1962 but continued working on general assignments until he retired on March 30, 1973.
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