In the 1920s, Malibu Pottery along with other local pottery makers like Catalina Clay, Taylor Tilery, Brayton Laguna Pottery, etc. put California on the map of innovative tile makers. But it was Frederick Ringe who began it all when in 1892, he bought a ranch that stretched from Santa Monica to Oxnard and established Port Los Angeles Railroad to keep the Santa Fe Railroad from taking his property. His daughter Rhoda Agatha married Merritt Huntley Adamson and overtime build a home in Serra Retreat using tile craftsmen and from their work together began the Malibu Tile Works. That was 1926 and today the Adamson House has been preserved and opened for public view at the Malibu Lagoon State Beach.
Directly across the street and up the hill is the Serra Retreat now owned by the Franciscans Friars. The property was originally part of Frederick Ringe’s initial acquisition and after his death his wife May spent part of the fortune on litigation costs to keep the privacy her husband wanted, but her efforts were unsuccessful when in 1923 the Pacific Coast Highway was begun.
Undeterred, May began building the mansion using tile from the Malibu Pottery. The house was considered an unrivaled jewel that was never inhabited as the tile company caught fire and a year later, when her funds ran out, the Marblehead Land Company offered the bankrupt property for sale.
The tiled jewel sitting on 26 acres was placed under the patronage of Junipero Serra and the Franciscan Friars of the Province of Santa Barbara opened a Catholic retreat center. This center ran until the 1970 fire destroyed the original mansion. After decades of rebuilding, the grounds are now open daily.