The San Ysidro Ranch, a Historical Sanctuary
Updated: Aug 7
San Ysidro Ranch has provided a tranquil vacation destination for discriminating travelers for over a century. This Santa Barbara hideaway has drawn many notable guests over the years with a flawless blend of natural beauty, romantic heritage and classic luxury. Myth and history mingle in the lush gardens as hummingbirds and honeybees offer a gentle score of serenity.
Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains, San Ysidro Ranch provides an oasis of tranquility and relaxation overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands. The entrance to the Ranch’s 500 acre property is lined with 400 year old olive trees surrounded by fields of fragrant lavender. Intimate cottages wind around gardens filled with lavender, rosemary, wild roses, vines of night blooming jasmine, all canopied by eucalyptus and sycamore trees. Lemon and orange trees abound while hummingbirds buzz throughout the sweet-smelling grounds.
Originally part of a land grant in 1769 by the King of Spain, the property was fully deeded with the Presidio in 1780, serving as a sanctuary for Franciscan monks through the late 1700s. The San Ysidro Ranch was thus named by the monks who first occupied the land to pay homage to Saint Isidore. This name was deemed fitting, as Saint Isidore is the patron saint of farmers and agriculture. In 1825, the Mission Padres built the Old Adobe and began to farm the land, until it passed through the hands of the Mission to become part of the municipal land of the state of California in 1864.
After exchanging hands, the San Ysidro Ranch was sold to Harleigh Johnston and Taylor Goodrich in 1883, from Col. Bradbury Dinsmore. The San Ysidro Citrus Ranch, then the home of the Johnston Fruit Company, harvested an average of 300,000 oranges and 100,000 lemons annually. In 1889, a large sandstone packing house was built to handle the citrus production, later to become the Stonehouse restaurant. In 1892, a ranch house was built that would become the Hacienda, and architectural plans were drawn up for a small hotel that would then open in 1893.
By 1912, the Ranch had become well known enough to host Winston Churchill and his family for the winter months, making such an impression upon Churchill that he boasted of his experience, stating that "It is difficult for one used to our Eastern Climate to imagine a more delightful situation."
Due to the depletion of resources and means during the great depression, the Johnston’s sold the hotel to Hollywood actor Ronald Colman and hotelier and former Senator Alvin Carl Weingand. They quickly transformed it into a hospitality haven for celebrities, known for its idyllic setting, service and guarding of guest privacy. The famous guests over the years range from Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby and Groucho Marx to Winston Churchill, John Galsworthy, Somerset Maugham and Sinclair Lewis. Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier were married at the Ranch, John and Jacqueline Kennedy honeymooned in the cottage now known as ‘Kennedy Cottage’, and John Huston completed the script for African Queen during a three-month stay.
Entrepreneur Ty Warner acquired the Ranch in 2000 and made it part of the exclusive collection of Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts. Under Warner's guidance, the Ranch has undergone major restoration and today stands as one of the most beautiful retreats in the world.
This historic property has been restored with hand-selected furniture and décor, including one-of-a-kind antiques collected by owner Ty Warner on his global travels.
Article & photos coustesy of The San Ysidro Ranch