THE RANCH AT LAGUNA BEACH
The first settlers in the lower Aliso Creek area were the Salter Family. Eugene Salter moved his family across the country from Utah in 1870. Along the journey his 3 year old daughter was abducted by Indians and never found. They took advantage of the homestead law passed by Abraham Lincoln which allowed families to claim 152 acre parcels that they would gain title to after 5 years with proof of building out and improving the land. Under provisions of the law, those taking advantage of the Homestead Act were required to plant crops and build a 12 foot x 14 foot dwelling. This pre-dated the Timber Act in 1873 which required those claiming lands under the Homestead Act in Laguna Beach to plant 40 acres of trees to gain title to the land. This is how the Australian Eucalyptus Tree was introduced to North and South Laguna Beach and how this popular tree became a part of the charm of this coastal wonderland.
The Salter Family didn’t stay long. They abandoned their homestead property in 1871 and it was claimed by the Thurston Family. You may recognize this family with a park and middle school within Laguna Beach honoring the family name. The Thurston Family built a home and planted fruits and vegetables using fresh water from Aliso Creek to irrigate their crops. The family used what it needed and then sold at markets in San Diego, Santa Ana and Los Angeles with the journey by horse and buggy taking as long as 5 days to arrive.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE RANCH AT LAGUNA BEACH HISTORY?
It is important because it gives you a history of the property that is recently purchased and renovated The Ranch At Laguna Beach. Their is a history to tell dating back to Native American Settlers to the homesteaders that first developed the lower end of Aliso Creek, the land that now houses this amazing property.
In the late 1940’s Bill Bryan bought an 83 acre parcel in lower end of Aliso Creek and built a nine hole public golf course. South Laguna Beach seems like an odd place to have a public golf course . Laguna Beach has always attracted affluence so for golf to be anything but exclusive or membership based is a little strange. The property was sold to Ben Brown in 1956 and he brought an entrepreneurial vision of a high end destination resort and Laguna Beach Country Club. The dream included 80 luxurious rooms, a clubhouse, events pavilion, swimming pools, tennis courts and restaurant. The economy tanked before he could get his development plans and build out completed as approved by the County of Orange. Mr. Brown settled on a 62 unit hotel with a penthouse that his family lived in. It went by the Laguna Beach Country Club and Village name despite the need to re-think the build with the economic woes. In 1967, Ben Brown’s Restaurant and Golf Shop were added to the amenities of the Laguna Beach Country Club and Village.
In 1970, Ben Brown passed away and his wife Violet took over the business and changed the property to Ben Brown’s Motel and Golf Course. While I can’t pretend to understand what Violet was thinking, there is no part of me that believes a hotel property on these grounds should ever be associated with a motel! In 1978 the name was again changed to Aliso Creek Inn and Golf Course and in 1998 Ben Brown’s Restaurant was remodeled and given the name Canyon Lodge American Grill. I have yet to see when this happened but at some point they added Ben Brown’s 10th Hole which is a cafre overlooking the golf course offering light breakfasts and grilled foods. The patio includes big screen televisions that allow guests to enjoy football games and sporting events while enjoying the scenery.
In 2003, the property was purchased by Aliso Creek Properties and the Canyon Lodge American Grill was converted to an exclusive special events and business conference venue. I will take a leap and guess that Ben Brown’s 10th Hole was a product of this shift from the grill to special events and the need to still service golfers and inn patrons with a place to eat.
Nestled in the majestic Aliso and Wood Canyons in the heart of Laguna Beach is The Ranch at Laguna Beach. A local icon for the last 50 years, the hidden treasure purchased by Laguna Beach Golf & Bungalow Village LLC in 2013 is being re-envisioned and renovated to reopen as the premier boutique Southern California coastal ranch resort that will perfectly reflect the rich history of these storied canyons and the artistry that is Laguna Beach.
Loosely scattered about the park-like grounds with the incomparable setting of Mother Nature’s own magnum opus, the spacious rooms, studio suites, one bedroom suites, and cottages enjoy a seamless dance between casual elegance and the breathtaking 360-degree vistas. A select number of preview rooms are available while the construction team finishes—Final Opening Early 2016. The pristine 87-acre canyon oasis is just a short walk from one of Southern California’s finest beaches, bringing the best of coast and canyon together in one uniquely Laguna experience.
The Ranch at Laguna Beach is home to the only golf course in LB! The Gary Roger Baird designed 9-hole, Par 32 Ben Brown’s Golf Course is situated in what’s arguably the most serene and natural setting in Orange County. The course is carved into the naturally dramatic and lush walls of Aliso and Wood Canyons, creating an ultra-private playing experience with stunning views and elevation changes on every fairway.
Still to come in early 2016 is the Harvest Restaurant, Sycamore Spa, Canyon Camp Activity Center and The Ranger’s Station Kid’s Camp.