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A house on Alamo Pintado Road at its junction with Roblar Avenue south of Los Olivos looks like any other pretty Santa Ynez Valley family home.

It is all that — and more. Under the facade, it masks the original Ballard Adobe stagecoach stop, the first American structure in the valley.

The story began in 1860 when William Ballard built the adobe on the San Francisco to Yuma stagecoach run.

“Mr. Ballard called it Alamo Pintado Station,” Dale Rossi, who has lived in the house on the west side of Alamo Pintado with her husband Alexander since 1981 and has been active in local history groups, said in 2008. “Everyone else called it Ballard Station.”

Passengers stopped for lunch — perhaps fish and fresh garden vegetables.

“Food was raised here on the property,” Rossi said. “The creeks were running then. There were all kinds of fish. The soil is so rich. It’s all bottomland.”

A second adobe was built in 1866, close to the first.

Ballard married but died soon after. His widow married his friend George Lewis, and they ran the station for 10 years. Moving to Lewis’ property just to the south, they platted a town they named “Ballard.”

The adobes went to other owners. But in 1947 Rossi’s parents, Wesley and Bernice Rhodehamel of Santa Barbara, third-generation

Californians with a love of history, chanced on the abandoned adobes. They bought them and set to work.

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“They came up here every vacation, every holiday,” Rossi said. “My parents took off seven layers of wallpaper.” They joined the adobes and added a fireplace. Board and batten protected the mud walls. The old stagecoach dining room is the Rossi living room. The one-time stage office is a front entry.

Pointing out trees, she said, “Locust trees are always found near stagecoach stops. Seeds go along and are carried on to the next station.”

The adobe, which remained a stage station for 26 years, seems to have found ideal caretakers.

Roadside Attractions is a weekly chronicle of sights along the Central Coast’s main commuter routes. This feature originally ran Feb. 12, 2008. Sally Cappon can be reached at