By Mark Pomeroy
Photos JIM BARTSCH
Originally the famous NEVERLAND RANCH, this magnificent property would make an amazing equestrian estate.
With its sweeping vistas, dramatic mountain ranges, and pastoral farm lands, Santa Ynez Valley has long been the refuge for many of California’s most illustrious families. Famous names from finance, film, and sport have chosen to call this peaceful valley home. Set in a quintessential California landscape of flaxen-colored fields watched over by century-old live oaks is Sycamore Valley Ranch, an oasis that offers the utmost in privacy, serenity, and beauty. With the San Rafael and Santa Ynez mountains as backdrops, this 2,700 acre-property extends as far as the eye can see.
The ranch was acquired in 1977 from the estate of one of the founders of Crocker Bank. The owner’s inspired vision for the property was to design and construct a sophisticated European home for formal entertaining, yet would also lend itself to the casual lifestyle that suits the valley setting. To achieve his ambitious plans, he entrusted the architectural design to Robert Altevers. Sycamore Valley Ranch pays tribute to the grand manor homes of France, with unique ceiling details in every room and seven different parquet floor patterns. It took five years to complete the design and construction of the approximately 12,000-square-foot home.
Landscape architect Thomas Stone developed the original 32-acre conceptual site plan and envisioned all the landscape and hardscape elements in the gardens. The focus of the landscape was a central four-acre lake with a waterfall and bridge.
A dominant feature in the north garden is a European-style hunting lodge that serves as the prime viewing location for competitive tennis matches played on the sunken championship court. The lodge features a soaring cathedral ceiling and carved wooden bar—an ideal location for billiard and ping pong tables. Upstairs is a spacious loft area. From the main floor, a staircase descends to a subterranean wine cellar built entirely of local stone. The cool, constant temperature of the rooms is ideal for the cellaring of fine Burgundies and Bordeaux.
The undulating contours of the French, gray-bottom pool resemble a peaceful mountain pond and blend seamlessly into the garden environment.
A nearby spa nestled among a grouping of stone boulders appears to be a quiet pool along the course of a gentle stream. Beyond the pool and terrace areas is a marvelous green meadow that stretches out to the horizon and is crisscrossed by walking paths and a meandering stream. The stream is fed by the northern lake; it flows down from the garden and under a stone bridge, where it cascades into the larger lake. A walking path encircles this lake and passes near a sandy beach and a charming viewing pavilion.
A leisurely walk from the main residence leads to the spectacular movie theater and dance center, designed by architect Evans Jones. Double entry doors open to a central lobby replete with candy counter and popcorn machine. Immediately to the left is an extraordinary dance studio. The theater’s proportions are grand, with seating for 50 guests. The wide screen rivals any public theater, and the stage floor includes hidden trap doors for magical acts. There are two private, ground-floor viewing suites, as well as a private owner’s suite located on the second level.
The continued privacy and natural beauty of the land surrounding the ranch are assured, as the property borders the Los Padres National Forest to the north. This preserve is comprised of over 2 million acres of unspoiled wilderness terrain.