Magazine article Sunset

More Than Just Our Home

Magazine article Sunset

More Than Just Our Home

Article excerpt

There's more traffic on State 126 than there used to be. But turn off the highway east of Piru, California, and walk down the gravel path, past the black walnut so ancient its limbs are propped up with metal crutches. There's the old house with its parchment white adobe walls and, above it, the hills greened from the first December rains. The highway is a century away now. And on a clear winter day, this may be the most beautiful place in the world.

"Oh, it was a wonderful experience," Shirley Lorenz says of growing up at Rancho Camulos.

Rancho Camulos is about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, along the Santa Clara River in Ventura County. The ranch has occupied this corner of California since 1853, when Ygnacio del Valle built an adobe house on land once owned by Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana.


"The del Valles were a prominent family," says Karen Roswell, director of what is now Rancho Camulos Museum. Ygnacio was an early mayor of Los Angeles.

There are other historic adobes in Southern California, but most lost their lands to newer houses and on-ramps. Rancho Camulos remains a working ranch--as it has been for 150 years--and a window onto what California was like when it was young.

The del Valles were enterprising and prosperous. Del Valle vineyards produced famous wine, and del Valle orchards nurtured apricots and citrus and even roses, whose petals were shipped to Europe to be made into perfume. Camulos became an essential stop for prominent artists and writers traveling between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Journalist Charles Lummis wrote rhapsodically about life on the ranch and courted (unsuccessfully) a del Valle granddaughter. Novelist Helen Hunt Jackson used Rancho Camulos as the setting for her 1884 romance, Ramona: A Story, the best-seller that helped lure Easterners by the thousands to settle in Southern California. …

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