Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tour of Neverland - the first encounter


"The peaceful Chumash Indians welcomed the Spanish upon their arrival in the vally in 1542. In 1804, when the Mission Santa Ines was established on a bluff overlooking the Santa Ynez River, the hunter/gatherer tribe yielded their old way of life to agiculture and Catholicism. Decendants of the Chumash still live on the Santa Ynez Indian reservation.

The Spanish government rewarded and colonized through a system of land grants. The Mexicans continued the system after their rule was established in 1822 and divided up the Valley with sixteen such grants. It was the beginning of California's much romanticized era of Dons and Caballeros, which the Santa Ynez Valley experienced fully. Fiestas, which lasted for days if not for weeks, attracted Californians, who rode great distances astride silver saddles to dance day and night.

Spanish influence remains, but has long been superseded by American settlement. The Valley offered land for agriculture, cattle, horses and sheep. A mini-gold rush brought no profit, but some quicksilver mining did. Townships sprang into existence. But the history of the Valley was dramatically affected by the railroad that never came.

In 1876, the Southern Pacific completed the Los Angeles to Santa Barbara leg of a proposed coastal route to san Francisco. Travelers continuing north from Santa Barbara took the stage up though Gaviota Pass and the Valley. In 1887, the tiny Pacific Coast Railroad ran a narrow gauge line some sixty miles south to Los Olivos in the Valley where it connected to the Santa Barbara Stage. It was assumed that the Southern Pacific would close the gap over the stage route. Instead it chose a more coastal path, by-passing both the Pacific Coast Railway and the Santa Ynez Valley. The result left the Valley outside the stream of onrushing "progress" and, fortuitously for today's residents who cherish those qualities, left a tranquil and unspoiled enclave.

Today the Valley serves host to some of the most respected wine growing environments. Wineries such as Zaca Mesa, Firestone, J. Carey and numerous others have produced more than their share of award winning vintages.

Prestigious arabian and thoroughbred farm dot the valley, another facet to the present day richness of the Valley..."

Located in the middle of these tranquil settings was also the Sycamore Valley Ranch and what you have just read was in fact the first few paragraphs in the real estate brochure from1988 when a very certain Mr. Jackson bought the property.

It was not his first encounter with the ranch. In fact he had visited it years earlier - in 1983 to be precise -  when he shot parts of the music video for the song "Say, Say, Say" with Paul McCartney.
The shooting of the video did not go completely as planned. They got thrown off the property since Paul McCartney's team had not obtained the owner's permission in advance. Still, Michael had fond memories of the place so when he began searching for a home of his own five years down the line, he wanted "something just like that."

And this takes us right back to the real estate brochure...
Let's take a closer look at some of the pictures inside!


The mansion
When William Bone owned the house, it fronted a flower-filled garden
by landscape architect Thomas A. Stone.



The living room
An antique Heriz rug, a pair of circa 1865 French brass chandeliers, a late-18th-century French walnut tall case clock and a concert-grand Bösendorfer piano set the stage in the living room.



Kitchen "breakfast room"
The breakfast room featured a late-17th-century drop-leaf table made of yew wood. Among the many objects on display were pieces from Bone’s vast pewter collection.



The master bedroom
In the master bedroom, white linen covered the walls, and the fireplace had a white-painted mantel and columns and blue-and-white Portuguese tiles. The mahogany four-poster bed was made for the house.



The master bathroom
The master bedroom’s baths had skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows.



The office
Does anyone know the exact location of this room?



The dining room
Michael kept the family portrait of the former owners and You Tube footage shows
that this room did not change much after Michael bought the property.



Guest room - "The English Room"
Description in the real estate brochure:
"The Empire building English were once the worlds greatest collectors which allows this more clectic room to be called the English Room. It contains a number of styles, but none so diverse as to not mix gracefully with the others. It shows a rough-hewn timber beam ceiling and a post and beam bay. The English desk is mahogany; the chair before it is a mahogany Queen Anne. The lamp on the desk is fashioned from a Chinese cloisonné vase. The two armchairs are French Bergere. The table between them is an English tilt-top. The rug is custom-made in Thailand as a Portuguese needlepoint. Not seen in the picture are some striking pieces - a Queen Anne lowboy and two very rare Chinese-Chippendale bed boards. The floors are all oak peg and groove, and the walls are upholstered in yellow silk."


The main foyer
I am sure many of you have seen the many marble statues and
the huge white marble clock, which later came to occupy this room.
Michael had the floor reinforced because of the massive weight of the clock.
Description in the real estate brochure:
"The rustic and sophisticated mix in the foyer, setting a tone for the entire house. A hand-hewn structural beam spans overhead alongside the elegant and graceful Dutch 18th century chandelier. The rich, light-to-dark patina of the oak bannisters reflects the red cast of the Persian carpets. The ranch logo, a Sycamore, is carved in the stairway newel posts. The larger of the two rugs is a Heritz, dates 1810, the smaller, an 1810 Caucasian flat weave. On the left a 1680 French convent table supports a pair of antique Chinese jardinieres. A Queen Anne style English settle sits against the wall beneath two Gainsborough paintings. Pillows on the settle are covered in old tapestries. Old American samplers hang on the wall of the upstairs gallery."



The library
Description in the real estate brochure:
"In the library, the warmth in the richly hued oak ceiling and walls is particularly evident, while accents of green marble, bronze and leather blend their complementary qualities. Standing on the Heritz Persian rug is an 18th century drop-leaf table. Om the right is an ellm and beechwood English Windsor chair, circa 1840. A leather upholstered English Gainsborough chair sits on the left. Flanking a pair of English coaching scenes are a pair of French bronze horses signed by Moignier. Hidden from view in this classic setting is an electrically-powered movie screen that drops from the ceiling at the touch of a switch and converts the library to a screening room."



Barbeque area
Description in the sales material:
"Entertaining outdoors is a feature of California's lifestyle, admirably served by the Ranch's barbeque area - a complete outdoor kitchen facility that can suit 2 or 200. It is situated between the Terrace and Autumn Gardens and shielded under a canopy structure of rough-sawn Douglas Fir. The long counter has recessed trays for salad, a sink and a gas grill. There is dishwasher, two food warming drawers, icemaker and trash compactor and two Corning cook tops. There are cabinets for linen, silverware and dishes; there is a refrigerator, electrical outlets, taps for instant cold and instant hot water and a telephone. The floors and walls are the familiar Bouquet Canyon Stone.  


Sources:
Gloria Rhoads Berlin, "In Search of Neverland", Gloria Rhoads Publications, 2010
(A sweet and very interesting little read - highly recommendable.)

Text and pictures from the 47-page real estate brochure made for marketing the property to a select group of people showing interest in purchasing the ranch - amongst them Michael Jackson.
(There are still some for sale on ebay.)

Architectural Digest web page: http://www.architecturaldigest.com/celebrity-homes/2009/neverland-ranch-article (Article plus slideshow including 2 floor plans.)

14 comments:

  1. I lost my first comment... so frustrating!

    What a wonderful endeavor. I love the photos, especially the bathroom and the less -structured garden in front of the main house. This is quite an energetic undertaking and showcases your deep love for Michael's remarkable and magical home. I can't wait for more. Bravo Enola!

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  2. Twice I've tried to post a comment. The 2nd time I actually saw it posted - now it's gone. If this works, I'll post it a 3rd time.

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  3. Yay... I closed and came back and it's still there. So here goes again with another version of what my full comment was:

    What a wonderful endeavor E, a very energetic undertaking, showcasing your deep affection for the wonder that Michael created at his Neverland.
    I love the photos, my favorites are the less-formal gardens in front of the main house, the master bath, the main foyer, and the barbeque area.

    I can't wait for more... again, Bravo Enola!

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  4. Weird, blogspot... now my 2nd comment is there in front of today's attempts. There were no comments shown at first today.

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  5. Thanks for trying so hard to leave a comment, Helen! I appreciate it!
    Thank you also for being so gracious towards my new endeavor here on this site.
    It means a lot to me.

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  6. I love it,love the history piece in the beginning of this article , yes , Michael's ranch is magical , I would love to quietly wander through the property and the house.
    Did you consult Frank Cascio's book on the location of the office ? he states it is on the ground floor , there is a picture in his book.
    Can you post the blue prints of the house sometime please ?, I have only seen a real tiny version of it , would love to see a blown up version of it :)

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    1. Hi there K!
      Almost back on your home turf!

      Yes, I know what Frank's book says. As far as I can see, it places his office at the staff quarters. Maybe Michael had found another room for them.
      Hmmm...
      I can tell from the floor plans on Architectural Digest that the staff quarters were equipped with a bed (amongst other things) when the former owner lived there - maybe Michael did not need anyone from the staff to sleep over? Although I would expect a nanny to do exactly that...

      About the blown up floor plan...
      Only the tiny versions exists, but I have been toying around with the idea to draw them from scratch, which would enable me to blow them up to mega size afterwards.
      You know what?
      I will do it for you. It will be a gigantuous task, but I am sure a lot of people would love to take a look at them.

      So - next up on this blog: The Neverland floor plans.

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    2. That would be awesome , and I think, deep down you would LOVE to undertake that task of drawing the floorplans from scratch , it would be a work of love :).
      And ...thank you :)

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  7. Thank you, thank you for putting this all together. I'm sure we all wish we had had the chance to visit Neverland. Now, we can feel like we have.
    The most remarkable point about this whole thing is your tremendous amount to research. I admire your dedication :)

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    1. Thank you, Trish.
      I did not do a lot of research. Or when I come to think of it - maybe I did... It is just that I am so hopelessly in love with Neverland that every minute spent researching it feels like Heaven. :)

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  8. I have seen this brochure.. NO wonder Michael fell in love with this place. It was a place he could truly be quiet and serene without the media... Thanks for taking the time to research and share it with us Enola!

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  9. Thank you for reading and commenting, Nancy!

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  10. Beautiful site! beautiful property. Thanks for doing this!

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    1. You are welcome, Sherri!
      It is a labor of love.

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