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Left, a University of Michigan student takes in the view at the entrance of Rancho del Cielo.

The gate to the ranch is at an elevation of 2240 feet above sea level. The land, in the Santa Ynez Mountains, was once part of a Spanish land concession given to a soldier named Jose Francisco de Ortega, who settled here in 1794.

For Ronald and Nancy Reagan, it was love at first sight -- for the ranch, that is. The president said, "From the first day we saw it, Rancho del Cielo cast a spell over us. No place before or since has given Nancy and me the joy and serenity it does."

On November 13, 1974, Ronald and Nancy Reagan bought the 688-acre Tip Top Ranch and renamed it Rancho del Cielo, which in Spanish means "Sky Ranch." Reagan was serving out his last weeks as governor of California, a position he had held for eight years. It was his refuge as he prepared to run for president in 1976 and 1980.


Photos and text © Gleaves Whitney 2004