Holman Ranch History

The story of Holman Ranch is truly unique. It began when California was still part of Mexico. Under the Crown of Spain, the ranch was part of the lands bestowed to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo. When the Mexican government secularized the mission lands, one of the first ranchers in Carmel Valley, Don Jose Manuel Boronda, was granted the Los Laureles Rancho. This enormous 6,625 acre parcel of land occupied a huge area of Carmel Valley, including the land where Holman Ranch now sits. After Boronda’s death, the land passed through many hands, until the Pacific Improvements Company acquired it in 1882. Pacific Improvements eventually sold a section of this land to the man who began the official story of Holman Ranch.

The Story Began in 1928 ...

Holman Ranch is Established. In 1928 Gordon Armsby, a businessman from San Francisco, purchased 600 acres of land in Carmel Valley and kicked off the modern story of Holman Ranch.

Armsby hired Clarence Tantau – the architect responsible for many of the famed Del Monte properties in Monterey – to design a home that would reside on his new property. Tantau and Armsby chose a classic Spanish-style hacienda, with impressive stone walls built from local Carmel Stone. The Ranch, along with its newly-constructed Hacienda, became Armsby’s secluded home-away-from-home. He liked it so much that he decided to rent it out to other people looking for a similar escape. The Hacienda at the ranch became an exclusive hideaway for many celebrities from Hollywood’s Golden Age, including Charlie Chaplin and Theda Bara.


The Holman’s Take the Reigns. In the 1940s, financial troubles hit Armsby, forcing him to sell the property. Clarence Holman, the eldest son of the storied Holman family of Pacific Grove, purchased the ranch. Clarence transformed the property into a guest ranch with the only rodeo arena in town. The Holmanls remodeled and expanded the facilities. They built guest bungalows and stables, along with the first inground pool in Carmel Valley, which is now a historical landmark.

Holman Ranch quickly became the center of social life in Carmel Valley. For years, a plethora of “Who’s Who” parties and community events were held there. And continuing the tradition of their predecessor, the Holman family even hosted some of Hollywood’s finest, included Clark Gable, Vincent Price, Joan Crawford, and Marlon Brando.


Vivian’s Reign. When Clarence Holman died in 1962, his wife Vivian carried on the legacy of Holman Ranch. She dedicated herself to ensuring that the Ranch would never become subdivided, and that it would continue to be the center of social and community activities.

Rodeos, horse shows, trail rides, barbecues, and fiestas filled the calendar. The Fiesta de los Amigos (the Ranch’s birthday celebration), was an annual highlight, often attracting more than 2,000 guests. Until her death in 1981, Vivian was Holman Ranch’s greatest representative and a truly gracious host to all who found their way there.


Renovation and Restoration. In 1989, Dorothy McEwen stepped in with a commitment to preserving the Ranch’s historic past as a private estate and event facility. She not only took steps to restore the ranch, but went a step further in outfitting the property to accommodate a wider variety of celebrations and activities.

Dorothy made efforts to restore the Hacienda and guest cottages. She expanded the horse stables. She event planted Holman Ranch’s first acre of grape vines. She admirably continued the Holman family’s passion for community involvement and old-fashioned hospitality until her death in 2005.


The Lowders Take the LeadCheck back soon for the story of our current owners!