Camarillo Ranch House
By Adam Nuñez
Photos courtesy Camarillo Ranch House.
Do you have a real memory or story about the Ranch from long ago? Consider participating in the Camarillo Legacy Project! It’s a project started by the Camarillo Ranch Foundation with the goal of connecting people with a “shared local history, preserving the legacy of innovation, leadership, philanthropy, and education that Adolfo left behind.” For details on how to share, check out camarilloranchfoundation.com
Walking up to the Camarillo Ranch House for the first time, your attention will be drawn to the dazzling white wood exterior and red slanted roof. Your gaze will naturally move upward, as everything seems to veer skyward here. It’s grand, elegant, and homey all at the same time. It’s also an important historical monument in Ventura County. In 2003 it was successfully registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1892, Adolfo Camarillo hired architects Herman Anlauf and Franklin Ward to design this Queen Anne Victorian mansion. The sprawling house includes 15 rooms with two dining rooms, a study, and a large outdoor patio. The interior woodwork showcases beautiful craftsmanship, and the 12-foot-high ceiling is simply splendid to behold. Throughout the house are numerous items of historical interest such photographs, models, and furnishings from the era.
In the late 1800s when Adolfo’s father Juan Camarillo passed away, the property was bequeathed to 16-year-old Adolfo and his younger brother, Juan Camarillo Jr. Originally known as Rancho Calleguas, their 10,000 acres stretched from the top of the Conejo Grade westward to Lewis Road and parts of the Santa Rosa Valley. The property was used mostly for growing crops and raising Adolfo’s iconic white horses, which you can still see on the city’s official seal. In 1997, the City of Camarillo obtained the remaining property of 4.5 acres.
For many visitors, what makes the Camarillo Ranch House so appealing are the fun events held year-round here. It can also be rented for private celebrations. Filmmakers utilize the space as well; an episode of the popular TV show The Bachelor was filmed here. Being such a symbolic part of Ventura County history, it is impressive how accessible this property really is.
No wedding, special event, concert, or food truck event would be possible without the Camarillo Ranch Foundation. The nonprofit public corporation maintains the property upkeep and provides training for dedicated volunteers. For three years starting in 1999, the Foundation’s board of directors completely restored the buildings and grounds through several projects funded by grants, fundraisers, and annual memberships. Their mission statement focuses on fostering its place in the history of California, transforming it into a focal point of community life, and exhibiting the diverse history and culture surrounding the Ranch.
There are many ways to experience the Ranch House. One is through a docent-led tour. Tours are held every Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm. Tickets are $5 (cash only; children under 12 are free), and tours last from 45 to 60 minutes. Bring your questions — the knowledgeable docents are ready — and get up-close views of the interior and exterior of the house. You can also explore the beautiful gardens surrounding the property. Pay attention to the three enormous trees on the front lawn, one of which is a famous (and massive) Moreton Bay Fig. Another one of these trees is located at Plaza Park in downtown Ventura.
You can also celebrate the birthday of Adolfo Camarillo at an event on Oct. 30 from noon to 4 pm. This event includes mariachi music, cultural dance performances, games for kids, and food trucks. Sometimes a rare Adolfo White Horse will also be showcased.
The Ranch House comes alive during Christmas, too, with festivities for the whole family. During this annual event you can listen to Victorian Carolers, sip festive beverages, tour the house decorated for the holidays, and visit Santa in his workshop. His workshop is located in the Red Barn (aka Mule Barn) which is adjacent to the main house. In 1999, the entire barn was painstakingly moved from its original location near Calleguas Creek. Today it’s used to showcase historical photos, plus is host to weddings and a range of other events.
Adolfo served on the Pleasant Valley School District Board of Trustees for 37 years. So in honor of this, the Ranch House hosts school tours for students from across the county. Each year, school tour docents lead more than 30 schools and 1,500 students through the property. Tours are complementary for 3rd grade students and teachers. In years past, students have learned to make butter, rope cattle, and plant lima beans (one of the staple crops grown on the original ranch).
The house is located at 201 Camarillo Ranch Rd, Camarillo, CA 93012. Whether you are a Ventura County local or just passing through, the Camarillo Ranch House is a culturally rich and exciting place to visit. For more, visit camarilloranchfoundation.com