I WENT TO SEABISCUIT’S MONUMENT AT RIDGEWOOD RANCH…






And I gotta tell you, it made me very sad…

THE RANCH WAS CLOSED

To be fair, the ranch was closed and not expecting us…

Hubby and I were in the area and we decided to drive to the Ridgewood Ranch.

The gates were open so we drove in. But, officially, the ranch was not open and they weren’t accepting visitors.

So, perhaps if they knew people were coming, it would have looked/felt better.  Dunno.

Still, I came away with a heavy heart.

Charles Howard and The Biscuit.

Charles Howard and The Biscuit.

SEABISCUIT HERITAGE FOUNDATION

Now, I know the SEABISCUIT HERITAGE FOUNDATION has done quite a bit to preserve the estate.

I cut and pasted this from their website

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I cut and pasted this from the Heritage website

And, I know that after the Howards left the property, it was sold to a logging family and then to Christ’s Curch of the Golden Rule…

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Click image to go to Heritage Foundation website.

MY IMPRESSION

I know nothing about running a Heritage Foundation or what it takes to restore buildings…

All I know is that I wished it looked better.

My first impression – as we drove down past the entrance through the majestic landscape towards the valley that housed what was once the gorgeous Howard’s Ridgewood Ranch – was that this piece of land was glorious!

It had trees (redwoods, even!), water, hills, valleys… it was absolutely gorgeous.  I could imagine the awe this view inspired in the lively years.  Incredible piece of California…

But, as we got closer to the actual buildings, my awe turned to confusion.

The mare barns and equine buildings were not in great shape, at all.

I kind-of shook that off and expected great things as we drove closer to the Monument and the Howard residence.

Except… it didn’t get better…

For reasons that make sense I’m sure to the Church that owns the property – the land by the original house has been turned into a mobile trailer home park.  And I guess that is fine except it is not a pristine development that one would expect on a historical landmark.

Hubby and I thought that maybe we had made a wrong turn or that we had suddenly been launched into another residence… but no, as we rounded a corner to meet more buildings in disrepair, we did see the red barn that was SeaBiscuit’s stud barn.

We were in the right place.

The view of the mare barns from the entrance gate.

The view of the mare barns from the entrance gate.

THE STUD BARN

Yes, the Stud Barn had been re-done for tours.  It was locked today, of course, but I shot photos through the windows.

And, for a moment, I felt good.  I tried to put myself 90 years back and feel what was happening at Ridgewood Ranch at that time…

However, it was still a bit sad.  I got the impression that they’d ‘fixed it up’ as best they could with the money they had.

It wasn’t how I wished it would have been.

This was the Stud Barn... SeaBiscuit's barn.  This is where they had concentrated their efforts.  It was locked, but I shot through the windows.

This was the Stud Barn… SeaBiscuit’s barn. This is where they had concentrated their efforts. It was locked, but I shot through the windows.

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I couldn’t get in, but I could see that the bars in front of the stalls were curved. I thought that was interesting for the horses.

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Taken through a window…Modest but clean and nice.

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There were shavings in the stalls. I don’t know which one was his but I think it might have been this one because there were plaques outside of the doors.

BUT WHERE WAS THE STATUE?

Previously, I had written about the SeaBiscuit statue dedication ceremony and the fact that the SeaBiscuit Heritage Foundation/Church had saved the Ranch from becoming a golf course.  (linked here)

So, I knew the Monument was here – somewhere.

We drove a little farther through this odd little mobile home park and then… there it was.

So sad. The beautiful bronze statue was sitting in front of a house that looked fairly run down itself.  I gathered, heavily, that this was the original ranch house.

My heart sunk a little more…

I mean, I guess it was better than being a golf course, but I felt very heavy as I took it all in.  I felt like I wanted to apologize to Mr. Howard.  I felt like we all had let him down.

We found the monument in front of the Howard residence.

We found the monument in front of the Howard residence.  Right behind us was the mobile park.

MINI DOCENT TALK

At that time, a man in a small white truck came up to us.

I asked if this house was the Howard residence and he said that it was.

Confirmation.

I asked what they did with this house and he said that the Ranch wasn’t open… but if it was, they would have tours through some of the house.  It has been preserved with all the furniture from 1905.

That was comforting.

This nice man went on to tell me a bit about the buildings… I had asked if the mare barn renovation was finished (as I had read and written about it) and he said that it wasn’t.

He pointed to the nearby buildings and stated that they were original buildings.

All I could think about was how these structures must have looked in their glory days.  I could feel the pride the Howard family must have felt with this incredible spread.

…What drove that “forgotten pride” point home the most for me was the ‘Bath House’, as the docent called it.   The Bath House was located next to the Howard residence.

I had seen the pool there, and it did look like it was in keeping with the barn buildings, but it was so rundown and the pool was so sorry, I couldn’t believe that this was an original Howard site.

But, it was.

Another ouch.  It had a cyclone fence around it – to keep kids safe, I assume – and it was dilapidated.

However, if I closed my eyes and went back 80 years, I could imagine the thrill of this swimming pool.  I’m sure it was grand.

The Bath House.

The Bath House.

AT SOME POINT, THERE WAS NO ADVOCATE…

I have no idea how all these buildings were left to fall away… but clearly someone along the way either ran out of money or didn’t care.

So sad.

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.54.17 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.54.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.55.07 PM

HERITAGE FOUNDATION AND THE CHURCH

So, I guess the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation (The Mendocino Land Trust and the Golden Rule Church Association) are doing what they can to preserve the Ranch.

But, it sure didn’t feel that way.

And, I know it takes a lot of money to fix and restore…

But, it sure didn’t look like much was spent.

For me, who knows nothing of the politics behind this area or what any of these people are going through or have accomplished to restore Ridgewood Ranch, and am probably being totally unfair to give this one-sided opinion, but… it looks like they all could be doing a better job of it.

For the life of me, I do not understand…

Why not save the buildings which give the first impressions when entering the estate.

The Buildings carry the history.  The Buildings have the emotion.  The Buildings hold the torch.

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LOTS OF MONEY?  Is that the problem?

With the notoriety from the film, the book and the industry big’uns who got behind SeaBiscuit, I’m at a loss as to why his final resting ground is so sad.

I really don’t understand this.

I don’t understand how the buzz of Seabiscuit couldn’t have opened the doors to renovation which could have furthered the cause through tours and education – as well as saving the rivers and the land…

I guess I can only hope that I just don’t understand the big picture here…

And, I supposed any restoration is better than Ridgewood Ranch being developed into a golf course.  You know… Seabiscuit is buried under a secret tree (only the Howard family knows where he lies) which would have probably been torn down – his grave marker lost forever.

So, I guess … this is OK…

But, I had to tell you this… and that I wish I had all the money it needed to make Ridgewood the Glorious Ranch of the Howard days.

If only…

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

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7 comments have been posted...

  1. Ray cannistra

    Wouldn’t it just be better to locate the exact grave site. To put everyones mine at ease And make the proper changes to make it right and give this Champion the forever Monument that he so righteously desirves Because me for one when I think about it. It breaks my heart……………

  2. RC

    I have no ides who the heck you are, but certainly you have no clue how difficult it is to save and restore historic buildings. I have personally give hundreds of hours helping to bring the Seabiscuit buildings up to a place where folks like you can come and revisit the past. For you to be so darn negative and not be able to visualize how it was in the 1940s is sad.
    If you care so much why don’t you donate the money to bring every building back to new. Oh wait this is history and the wear and tear of 70 years is part of the beauty. But that obviously escapes people with no vision.

  3. Paul Yazolino

    Hello-

    Thank you for the information. I am interested to know why the Howard family sold the property shortly after the death of Charles Howard. Is it true that Charles Howard asked that the ranch not ever be sold?

    thank you,

    Paul

  4. dawndi Post author

    Randy: If you read the article, it has photos of Seabiscuit’s memorial. As far as I know, he isn’t buried under a parking lot.

  5. Randy

    I truly, truly hope that this story about Seabiscuit being buried underneath a parking lot is not true. The Biscuit has been a fascination for me my entire life, as I’ve always loved horses. My Grandparents were from the depression era, my grandmother watched Seabiscuit as a child. I keep him near and dear to my heart, he serves as a reminder to my horse that even the smallest of things can have the biggest of dreams.

  6. Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation

    Hi everyone! Thank you for your interest in Ridgewood Ranch, the home of Seabiscuit. Ridgewood is a privately owned, working ranch and the current owners (Golden Rule Church Association) have graciously agreed to work with Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation (a 501(c)3 formed in 2004, in terms of historic preservation and land conservation. The good news is 1,700 acres have already been protected forever in a conservation easement. Owners have opened their home to limited public access during seasonal docent-led walking tours (June-October) and guided nature hikes free of charge (March/April), thereby inviting friends and fans of Seabiscuit to enjoy the oakwoodlands and historic buildings, many are in a state of urgent preservation. (Sorry self-guided tours are not available.) The owners are currently working with the foundation on a historic management plan. The entire ranch was named among 11 most endangered historical sites by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2004 and Seabiscuit’s stud barn was lovingly rehabilitated/restored with local support by Willits Rotary Club. Because the current owners lack wherewithal to restore the 30 historic buildings remaining from the Howard and Seabiscuit era, the foundation is actively seeking/receiving public support, as well as historic preservation grant funding. In addition, Seabiscuit’s stud barn was recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the Secretary of Interior. We hope this information has been encouraging to you and hope to welcome you for a docent-led ranch tour during our summer-fall season sometime in the future. For tour information and reservations please, visit http://www.seabiscuitheritage.org. Thank you. We appreciate your support!

  7. Marge

    Thanks Dawn for the update. I have been a fan of Sea Biscuit for years. His book is one of my all time favorite reads.

    He raced at our now closed Narragansett Race Track in Rhode Island. He was a cultural icon, a world-class athlete, a champion who triumphed over terrible handicaps to become a legend.

    His jockey Red Pollard is buried here in Rhode Island close to the track.

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