“This is where I would have liked to have been raised if I had had a choice…I figured this would be the place…It kind of gets into your blood, this countryside and the people. So to me it represents my family. And it just represents a quieter life. That is why I guess I bought the Mission Ranch to begin with, because I wanted to preserve the history here.” (Clint Eastwood)(1)
If you happen to walk south from Ocean Avenue on Dolores all the way to the end (about nine blocks) you will be inexplicably drawn by the serene beauty, right – into the driveway of the Mission Ranch, a historic inn, restaurant and lounge.
While stationed at Fort Ord in the 1950’s, current Mission Ranch owner, Clint Eastwood would experience this same mesmerizing attraction.
If you happen upon the Mission Ranch around 4:00PM, have a seat on the patio, order your beverage of choice, enjoy the sheep who peacefully graze the open meadow land,
while I expound on the
of Mission Ranch.
In August of 1771, Blessed Father Junipero Serra moved the location of his mission in Monterey to a site at the mouth of the Carmel River. The acres surrounding the newly founded Carmel Mission would become a ranch used for farming, grazing and housing.
In 1834 the Mexican government secularized the missions and divided the mission lands into land grants. Juan Romero would come to own the 160 acres surrounding Carmel Mission.
In 1852 Romero deeded the acres to William Curtis, a Monterey store owner, for $300. The deed was signed by Romero with an “X” and his name written by someone else.
This land encompassed the Carmel Mission, the old pear orchard which is now the Carmel Youth Baseball Field, a lean-to house directly below the mission, land up to Santa Lucia Avenue, half of the Carmel Point area and across the Carmel River to land bordering the old Odello artichoke field.
In 1856, Mr. Curtis sold the property to one of his clerks, Mr. Loveland.
News of gold in California, enticed 60+ year old William Martin (originally from Scotland, via Canada) to immigrate to the United States. He brought along his wife and six children.
“They took a boat down the Mississippi River to New Orleans; another ship across to Central America. Then across the Isthmus, and still another boat up the Pacific Coast. They were on “Captain Josselyn’s Schooner”, in the month of March, 1856 when it stopped in Monterey for a half day, to unload some cargo. The Martins went ashore, past the adobe buildings that comprised the village of Monterey, up the hill, and spread a picnic lunch under the oaks and pines. They felt the power of the”circle of enchantment”, and they liked the land. They stayed!” (2) William Martin purchased land at the mouth of the Pajaro, and Salinas Rivers.
In 1859, William Martin’s son John purchased the property surrounding the Carmel Mission from the Loveland’s.
Due to neglect, the Mission lay in ruins, but John found a small adobe still habitable on the property. The structure consisted of a kitchen with cook stove and lean-to living room. This adobe was most likely the lean-to built in 1812 to house the Carmel Mission orchardist and caretaker.
Later in 1859 John and his brother Robert purchased their father’s land interest near the Pajaro and Salinas river to raise stock for dairy.
In 1871 while visiting Canada, John met Elizabeth Stewart, a 31 year old widow with three sons, and convinced her to marry him and come to California.
In the 1880’s John and Elizabeth built a one story farmhouse on their property.
As the Martin family grew to nine members, a second floor was added to the farmhouse.
The picture above, taken by Marcia De Voe, shows the Martin Farmhouse in 1969. The picture below shows the farmhouse in 2014.
Current owner of Mission Ranch, Clint Eastwood restored the Martin Farmhouse to its former glory…
with six quaint bedrooms, a delightful common living area with fire place and…
baby grand for
spontaneous sing alongs.
The Farmhouse is perfect for family reunions or wedding parties. My niece and her groom rented the charming Martin Family Homestead for their wedding party.
Improper recording of the Pajaro deed, caused the Martin Brothers to lose the land they were using to raise their dairy stock. To avoid this happening with the Martin Ranch John had the property recorded with the U.S. government in 1874.
The dairy stock was moved to the Martin Ranch and shortly thereafter, the industrious Martin Brothers opened one of California’s first dairies.
They built barns for milking. The original cow barn is now the Patio Barn.
The Martin family worked this land for 60 years. In 1918 they sold their now 216 acre ranch to Mr. and Mrs. Willis J. Walker for $150,000. The Walker’s earned their money in lumber and were prominent San Francisco socialites.
The 216 acres were bordered on the north side by Santa Lucia, the east by Hatton Fields, and the south by Carmel River. The Walkers subdivided the land into what was called the Walker Track, and sold many of the lots.
The Walker’s who had no interest in farming, turned the ranch into a private riding and recreation club. They built the large barn, now used as the Mission Ranch Office, for Muriel Vanderbilt Phelps to board her riding horses.
Carmelites did not take to the private recreation club idea, and Mrs. Phelps moved her horses to Carmel Valley.
But as the saying goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” In 1936 Mrs. Walker converted the ranch into an informal country club with swimming, tennis and badminton.
The old ranch house became the clubhouse. And with the addition of a stage and dance floor, the old milking barn became a swingin’ dance hall.
In 1937 Allen Knight (Carmel mayor from 1950 – 1952) and his orchestra were the first to open on the new stage at what was then called, the Valley Ranch Club and Dance Hall.
Today this is the Patio Barn, with stage, dance floor and rustic full cocktail service bar.
The historical milking barn has been fully restored and makes a lovely venue for wedding receptions, cocktail parties or corporate events.
A wall of glass doors on the south side opens to a brick patio with views of the meadow.
See You At The Ranch
In 1940 Margaret and Bert Dienelt bought the ranch from the Walker’s estate for $40,000. The track of land now only 100 acres was in a state of disrepair.
The Dienelt’s decided to keep the property as a club. After some refurbishments they were ready to open to the public.
“It was great – even we teenagers could afford the dues of $1 a year. The big barn was turned into badminton courts, the small barn was used for roller skating, there was also an archery court, and the swimming pool was a real gift to us kids.” (3)
The Dienelt’s sold about 20,000 $1 memberships and operated the property for about 40 years. Charles “Skip” Heebner, Mrs. Dienelt’s son managed the cottage ranch and dinner-house until 1976.
“For years it was a place of enjoyable memories for many, with a homey restaurant and piano bar, with nights of dancing in the bar – the place Carmelites and Valleyites meant when they said, “See you at the Ranch.” (4)
During World War II and the Korean War, the big barn was used as an Officer’s Club for the Army and Navy. With its bar, stage and dance floor, it proved quite a popular night spot for off duty service men and women.
In 1950, off duty from Fort Ord, twenty-one year old Clint Eastwood made his way to the Mission Ranch and it was love at first sight.
“The first time I saw the place I thought it was terrific,” he says. “Visually it was something else, and I thought it was the place I’d like to call home. So I kind of adopted Carmel.”(5)
100 Acres to 20 Acres
Around 1980 the State of California acquired by eminent domain, the land and lagoon rights to the beach. Carmel School District purchased the property to the west of Mission Ranch where River School resides. The Dienelt’s sold four acres south of the mission for the Carmel Youth Baseball Field, and gave the Carmel Mission four acres.
The Dienelt Family sold the remaining 20 acres to the Mission Ranch Corporation, a group of professionals, most living in the San Francisco Bay Area, for $3 million.
Mission Ranch Corporation
The City Of Carmel
Early in 1984 Mission Ranch Corporation won a decision to rezone the Mission Ranch property for the building of a 61 plus unit residential development on 8.24 of the 20 acres.
In the spring of that year, the city of Carmel filed a lawsuit to block development of the wetlands and entered into talks with Mission Ranch Corporation to purchase the property.
City Manager Douglas Schmitz said Mission Ranch Corporation originally asked for $8 million but lowered the price to $6.5.
In October of 1984, Monterey Superior Court Judge Maurice Jourdane ruled in favor of the city and overturned the rezoning decision for Mission Ranch. The Mission Ranch Corporation immediately filed an appeal.
On May 13, 1985, the Carmel City Council secretly offered to buy Mission Ranch for $3.75 million. Mission Ranch Corporation president Doug Tuck counted with $5 million.
A number of private and public entities felt that the purchase of Mission Ranch would be a good acquisition for the city of Carmel.
The city could keep the tennis courts and some property for recreational use. The Coastal Conservancy would buy the wetlands area so the environmentally sensitive habitat remained open space.The Frohman Academy, a musical theater education organization, would use the facilities for rehearsals, and shows. And the Carmel Heritage Society was interested in using some of the space for a museum.
Even after petitioning concerned citizens to contribute to the fund to purchase Mission Ranch, the price of $5 to $6.5 million was just too much for the city to come up with.
Carmel Heritage Society
Save The Ranch
“About 1983 rumor had it that the property was going to be sold and condominiums would be built there. All that history gone! This is a project for Carmel Heritage – Save the Mission Ranch.
Helen Wilson and Marjorie Lloyd, who were on the Carmel Heritage Board at the time, invited Clint Eastwood to attend a meeting regarding the Mission Ranch. He was asked if perhaps he could get some of his friends together to form a group that would purchase the Mission Ranch so that it could be preserved.
At the next meeting Clint reported that he was not able to get anyone to invest – a big groan went up – and then Clint said, “But I will buy the Ranch and it will be preserved.” What a cheer then went up. And Clint did, he made improvements…”(6)
Mayor Clint Eastwood
In December 1986, Mayor Clint Eastwood purchased Mission Ranch under the umbrella of one of his production companies, Tehama Productions, Inc. Eastwood vowed to keep the buildings and grounds as they were, except for the upgrading of plumbing and electrical and the eviction of the termite population. Which, according to Eastwood, were keeping some “buildings standing by holding hands.”
“I think the majority of people in Carmel would like it (Mission Ranch) to remain the same,” said Eastwood. “Hopefully it can be a place where people can come back in 20 years and it will still be here.” (7)
“Doug Tuck called Eastwood’s offer an ‘altruistic’ one. “We had never dealt with anyone who was more of a gentleman, more sincere, more easier to get along with than the mayor,” Tuck said.” (8)
“Locked In Time”
Clint Eastwood and Carmel Development Co., virtually rebuilt the white clapboard dairy ranch, reserving the flavor and facades dating back to the 1850’s, keeping the historic ranch, “locked in time.”
The renovation, which began in 1989, took three and one-half years to complete. The Martin farmhouse, the Dance Barn, bunkhouse and restaurant were restored.
Those that were too dilapidated to be saved such as the cottages behind the bunkhouse were replaced with new housing units that look like the original structures.
In 1992, Alan Williams and Michael Waxer of Carmel Development Co., won an award for excellence in architecture from the American Institute of Architects Monterey Chapter, for their work on the renovation and restoration of Mission Ranch.
On September 20, 1992, the Carmel Heritage Society presented Clint Eastwood with the Historic Preservation Award for saving the Mission Ranch, and preserving it for future generations to enjoy.
And that is the history of Mission Ranch.
See you at the Ranch!!
All Photos by L. A. Momboisse unless except those noted below:
– Black and White photo of land around Carmel Mission c. 1877. (Morgado, Martin. “Junipero Serra’s Legacy.” Mount Carmel, Pacific Grove, 1987, pg 115.– Black and White photo of Martin farmhouse with Elizabeth Martin (sitting). (De Voe, Marcia. “The Martins and The Hattons.” Carmel-by-the-Sea, 1979, pg 14)
– Black and White photo of Martin farmhouse taken in 1969 by Marcia De Voe. (Courtesy of Harrison Memorial History Library)
– Black and White photo Mission Ranch Cottages behind the bunkhouse in 1986. (Pine Cone, December 11, 1986. Photo Holly McFarland.)
(1) Ed Broyhill. “Ed Boyhill and Clint Eastwood Team Up: Mission Ranch Collection.” Online Video Clip. You Tube. You Tube October 5, 2009, April 11, 2014.
(2) De Voe, Marcia. “The Martins and The Hattons.” Carmel-by-the-Sea, 1979, pg 9.
(3) Prine, Kay. “Mission Ranch.” (Memories of Kay Prine on a plaque on the wall in the office of Mission Ranch)
(4) Hale, Sharon Lee. “A Tribute to Yesterday.” Valley Publishers, 1980, pg 120)
(5) Cheever, Susan. “Architectural Digest Visits: Clint Eastwood.” Architectural Digest July 1993: 84 – 91. Print.
(6)Prine, Kay. “Mission Ranch.” (Memories of Kay Prine on a plaque on the wall in the office of Mission Ranch)
(7)Leland, David. “Eastwood Intends to Preserve the property as it is now.” Pine Cone, December 11, 1986.
Wilson, Helen. “The Mission Ranch – A Brief History.” The Herald Weekend Magazine, April 20, 1986.
Barron, Betty. “The Mission Ranch Story.” The Big Sur Gazette, July 1980.
Gardner, Michael. “City of Carmel made $3.75 Million Secret Offer to buy Mission Ranch.” Carmel Pine Cone, November 28, 1985.Gardner, Michael. “City’s Mission Ranch Offer: Folly or Genius?. Carmel Pine Cone, November 1985.
Gardner, Michael. “Want to Develop Property Say Mission Ranch Owners.” Carmel Pine Cone, January 16, 1986.