Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tour of Neverland - The Sycamore Valley Ranch real estate brochure - Part 1

In his early twenties, William Bone had a dream of what was to become Sycamore Valley Ranch. In the years between the first dream and its realization, he acquired the expertise and financial resources through the real estate development business to pursue his vision without compromise. Sycamore Valley Ranch stands as that vision realized.

Of the ranch, William Bone says, “The quality in everything you see – the home, the grounds, the streams, lakes, waterfalls – is a result of what I learned in my business. I achieved here all the things I wanted to do in my business but could not; I had a desire to express everything I had learned in fifteen years of homebuilding. The residence and grounds are too custom, too labor intensive with too much quality to make commercial sense.  It made personal sense. I built it for my family and myself.”

The site in the Santa Ynez Valley was chosen after a wide-ranging five year search covering all of California, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. The Valley offers a gentle landscape of soft rolling hills against the backdrop of the San Rafael and Santa Ynez Mountains. It is the southernmost reach of California’s statuesque Live Oak. It is a quiet Valley of ranches and unspoiled small towns cooled by ocean breezes. It is an area with a sense of history and local pride. It offers clean air and pastoral seclusion, and is less than two hours by car from Los Angeles.


Heading westerly along Route 101 out of Santa Barbara, the highway runs along the ocean front then turns north through the Nojoqui Pass in the Santa Ynez Mountains. There it enters the western edge of the Santa Ynez Valley where the town of Buellton hugs the highway for its life’s blood. Buellton is the youngest of the Valley towns. Though its beginnings as a post office on the Buell Ranch go back to 1883, it was not established as a township until 1920.

Turning east at Buellton leads the visitor to the Danish community of Solvang, established in 1911 and noted for its re-creation of old-world Danish atmosphere. Beyond Solvang are perhaps the more typical, older, western-style towns, still clinging to the rustic; Ballard, the first Valley town, founded in 1881, Santa Ynez in 1882, and Los Olivos in 1887.

The Santa Ynez River winds its way through the Valley. Upstream, at the eastern end of the Valley, the River has been dammed to provide the abundant waters of Lake Cachuma, a popular recreational resource. Throughout the Valley, especially along the River, there is a definite change of seasons. In the fall, the rains bring a green lushness following the orange and yellow of fields stacked with hay, pumpkin and squash. In the spring, the wild flowers abound with orange California Poppy, purple Lupin, brilliant red Indian Paint Brush, yellow and white Goldfields, white Popcorn Flower, and crimson Fuchsia-Flowering Gooseberry.

Changes occur, but the Valley still exudes a sense of more peaceful times past. Its country quietness, gracefully rolling terrain and pristine air make the Valley a rarely-found refuge from the hectic pace of the city.

The peaceful Chumash Indians welcomed the Spanish upon their arrival in the Valley 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 agriculture and Catholicism. Descendants 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.


In 1977, William Bone purchased the 2700 acre Zaca Laderas Ranch from the estate of Robert Easton, a founder of Crocker Bank. He then renamed it Sycamore Valley Ranch in appreciation of the abundance of Sycamores which line Sycamore Creek running through the central part of the Ranch. The Ranch slopes downward from very near Lookout Mountain and Zaca Ridge onto the gentler, rolling hills to the valley of the Alamo Pintado Creek. Zaca Laderas was once part of the more than 48,000 acre land grant, La Laguna Rancho, awarded one Octavio Guttierez of Santa Barbara during Mexican rule in California.

An important reason for selecting Sycamore Valley Ranch was the fact that surrounding land holdings are in strong hands and are protected by the Agricultural Preserve. The Preserve guards against the future development of the area, prohibiting its subdivision into dense residential developments as has occurs in many once peaceful areas.

Sycamore Valley Ranch is surrounded by five other large properties whose ownership has not changed since the 1930s. To the south is the 8,000 acre Chamberlain Ranch, Los Potreros, which runs for 3 ½ miles along both sides of Figueroa Mountain Road towards nearby Los Olivos and is noted for its Polled Herefords. To the west are the 1,500 acre Rancho Coral de Quati and the 1,000 acre Fleming Ranch. To the east is the 5,000 acre Midland School Ranch which was granted to the school in 1932 by the Squibb family. To the North are the 12,000 acre Rancho San Juan and the 2,000,000 acre Los Padres National Forest which, because of the rugged terrain, prevents access and creates a very secure and picturesque environment.

Prior to 1977, the Sycamore Valley Ranch had been largely underdeveloped, being used for farming dry oats and running cattle. The old ranch house was “fixed up” and the Bone family moved t the Ranch. There, amidst the natural beauty of the Live Oaks and Sycamores, William Bone began the plans that would become the culmination of his dream. For the next five years he devoted three days of each week to the planning, construction and interior decorating of the residence.


Architect Robert Altevers was presented with ten pages of criteria by William Bone detailing the size and functions of each room in the residence and surrounding buildings. Bone deliberately held back his thoughts on architectural style. “I didn’t want to limit Bob,” Bone says. “I wanted his full and unconstrained thinking.” Altevers presented his client with plans and renderings for a home in the “European Country” style. Even though Bone’s original architectural thoughts had leaned toward “California Ranch,” he embraced Altevers’ vision at once. “It belonged,” he says simply.

“The design was my gut reaction to the site and a sense for Bill’s lifestyle,” Altevers says. “On the one hand, here was a young active family with three children, and on the other, a sophisticated couple with expectations of a considerable amount of entertaining both large and small gatherings. Something had to be created that would be both formal and informal at the same time.”

The site offered two main and differing vistas. The view north to the mountains was dramatic, the view south overlooking pastures, tranquil. In discussions which resulted in retaining about eighty percent of the original Bone floor plan, a layout was created offering large rooms flowing into one another with expanses of glass on the north side of the house. On the south side windows framed more formal views.

“There was no purist drive for total authenticity,” Bob Altevers says. “We wanted modern construction methods. But in style, details and arrangements of architectural features, there is the European Country ambiance.” The details and the means of crafting them to perfection were to necessitate two-and-a-half years devoted almost totally to research. William Bone entered into the task with characteristic passion. He recalls the time-consuming effort: “We accumulated a library of books and spent days driving through estate areas taking pictures of the old mansions and making notes of architectural detailing. Unfortunately, the people who created these masterpieces were all deceased…it has become a lost art.”

When building started, craftsmen were collected from all over the country. For nearly two years, an average of forty craftsmen were housed in a nearby motel. The building site became a training school. “They would work on a technique until they got it right,” Bone says, “then they’d go into the residence and implement it.” About his own experience Bone says, “I became an expert in the highest possible quality construction materials, craftsmanship and traditional architectural detailing. In the end, I realized my dream.”

Today Sycamore Valley Ranch is an informal estate designed to fit comfortably within the confines of a cattle ranch. The European Country home sits appropriately in a beautiful  and expansive English garden which in turn blends subtly into the natural beauty of the countryside – a place magically enhanced in the golden light of late afternoon when the deer come down from  the mountains to graze and drink from the garden lake. It is an informal but elegant home where graceful periods furnishings soften the vigorous masculine expression of its builder. There is no corner where anything has been ‘let go’, no detail that has not been consummately realized. Meticulously crafted, generous in size and spirit, it means to be enjoyed by a family and their many friends.
(Please note that a full-size PDF brochure will be available at the end of part four.)



(Not included in the brochure)

Saturday, September 22, 2012