Friday, March 15, 2013

Camarillo Ranch

This beautiful old Queen Anne Victorian no longer sits in the middle of Nowhere's Land, but rather next to the busy 101 Freeway just before climbing the Conejo Grade into the Los Angeles megalopolis.  It used to be surrounded by cattle and rich farm land planted with lima beans, barley, corn and rows upon rows of citrus trees.  Now, strip malls and office buildings are a stone's throw away.

Even so, I have to applaud the City of Camarillo for maintaining the house, the stables and the beautiful (but significantly shrunken gardens) for the public to enjoy.  The three-story house is a beauty!  It has a grand staircase, seven bedrooms and polished hardwood floors throughout.  Tours are available Wednesday afternoons and during the weekend.  (But call first!  This is a popular venue for weddings.)

The original 10,000 acre property was one of the last of the Mexican land grants.  It was given to Gabriel Ruiz by the Mexican Governor in 1837 and purchased by Juan Camarillo in 1875.  Juan's son, Adolfo, built the house in 1892.  He is often called "The Last Spanish Don."  The city, of course, is named after him.  He was active in community affairs and a very generous man.  He was on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors and on the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce.  He gave 50 acres of his land to Camarillo in order for the city to build its first high school, and it is his land which paved the way for the 101.

 The famous Camarillo White horses, of course, are long gone, but anyone who grew up in this area knows about them.  They pranced in all the local parades, even the Big One--the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, and often were the main attraction at our own Spanish Fiesta in August.

Adolfo Camarillo bought a white horse in 1911 at the Sacramento State Fair and bred this "flagship stud" with his Morgan mares to create a new breed.  His daughter, Carmen, kept the horses until her death in 1987.  The Camarillo White Horse Association, located near Ojai, is trying to keep the breed alive.

The bright red stables were built to house these lovely creatures.  On the day I toured the ranch, a wedding reception with loud country music was going on inside so I couldn't enter, but I did get a glimpse of the bride.  She wore a long white dress with red cowboy boots!
The surrounding garden is well-maintained.  I especially loved the East Garden Gazebo and the mosaic shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was erected to honor the memory of Isabella Menchaca (1861-1936), wife of Adolfo.  A massive Moreton Bay Fig anchors the garden's end.  It is here that the bride in her red cowboy boots said, "I do," only an hour earlier.  Clearly, the Camarillo Ranch continues to be a place filled with love.

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