THE STORY OF HOLMAN RANCH
The story of Holman Ranch is truly unique; a special story about a wonderful place that 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—6,625 acres that included what is now Holman Ranch. Their ranch passed through many hands until the Pacific Improvements Company acquired it in 1882.
In 1928, a San Francisco businessman, Gordon Armsby, was attracted to the rich farmland and leisurely pace of Carmel Valley, and purchased 600 acres in the Los Laureles area of the Valley, including what would be Holman Ranch.
Armsby hired Clarence Tantau (of Del Monte Hotel fame) to design the home that would reside on his new property. Tantau and Armsby chose a classic Spanish-style hacienda, which proffered impressive stone walls—all built from local Carmel stone. They installed handmade Mexican terracotta roofing and hand-carved oak-beamed ceilings. Nestled in a stand of mature oaks, nicknamed “Casa Escondida”, or “Hidden House”, the estate served as an exclusive hideaway for many Hollywood celebrities including Charlie Chaplin and Theda Bara.
The Holmans Take the Reins
In the 1940s, financial troubles hit Armsby, forcing him to sell his Carmel Valley property. Clarence Holman, the eldest son of the Holman’s Department Store (in Pacific Grove) family purchased the ranch and transformed it into Holman’s Guest Ranch.
Over the years, Holman cared for the estate, converting it from a “gentlemen’s retreat” into a brilliant tribute to Carmel Valley’s unique architecture and natural beauty. He grazed prized white-faced Hereford cattle and joined his neighbors on cattle drives to Salinas. The Ranch had the only rodeo arena in the town and was used for many years by the Carmel Valley Horsemen’s Association. Along with his wife Vivian, Clarence began remodeling and expanding the facilities, using native stone and oak from the ranch’s grounds. They built guest bungalows and stables, as well as one of the first pools in Carmel Valley.
For many years, visitors who came to experience the peace and tranquility of famed Holman Ranch would eat and imbibe at a restaurant/bar on the property. Local “celebrity” chef, Bert Cutino (of the Sardine Factory on Cannery Row), received his start in that very kitchen. The story goes: During the summer of 1952, Cutino needed money to help provide for his family. He worked at the restaurant, washing dishes for 30 cents an hour. One day, underwhelmed at the preparation and execution of the staff’s spaghetti lunch, he refused to eat. Insulted and exasperated, the chef challenged Cutino to do a better job. He had no formal training—only the experience of cooking for a large family.
But he accepted the challenge, and the following day when he served lunch to the staff and Clarence Holman himself, the dish became an instant hit. “Spaghetti a la Cutino” was a success and became a permanent item on the menu!
Holman Ranch quickly became the center of social life in Carmel Valley, hosting a plethora of “Who’s Who” parties and community events. In the tradition of their predecessors, the Holman’s had the pleasure of hosting Hollywood’s finest: Clark Gable, Vincent Price, Joan Crawford and Marlon Brando to name a few.
It was a sad day when Clarence Holman died in 1962, but his wife Vivian kept going, participating in a multitude of social and community activities. She determined that the ranch would never be subdivided, and that it would always remain the heart of Carmel Valley life.
Rodeos and horse shows, daily trail rides, barbecues, and fiestas filled the calendar. The popular 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 an equally gracious hostess to her famous and less-celebrated, but no-less-welcome, friends and patrons who found their way onto Holman Ranch.
In 1989, Dorothy McEwen stepped in to preserve the Ranch’s historic past as a private estate and event facility, and took it to the next level by not only restoring, but also outfitting the house to accommodate celebrations of all kinds.
Dorothy brought the beloved traditions of ranch life and gracious hospitality back to Holman Ranch. She restored the hacienda and hosted all kinds of events. She rekindled overnight accommodations in guest cottages, founded The Stables, planted vineyards, and had aspirations of opening a 25,000-case winery. She continued Vivian Holman’s passion for community involvement and old-fashioned hospitality until her death in 2005.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Again, the ranch was left to an uncertain fate, but not for long. Thomas and Jarman Lowder learned of the property, fell for its charms, and purchased Holman Ranch in 2006. Recently retired, Thomas and Jarman decided to fulfill a lifelong dream to make estate grown wine and olive oil. What could be better?
2009, the Lowders finished restoring and completely refurbishing the property to its original grandeur. They have maintained the Ranch’s old-world charm, while providing every modern convenience including heat, air conditioning, Wi-Fi access, flat-screen TVs, abundant indoor and outdoor electricity, and an integrated sound system.
Holman Ranch has always been a unique location, not only for breathtaking views and natural beauty, but also as a private estate that opens its doors to the public for their special events.
A Place to Celebrate
Holman Ranch is full of romance and history. It is beauty. It is rustic and sophisticated, secluded and special. It offers the charm of its native gardens, the wonder of its orchards, the magic of its vineyards as well as the serenity and privacy of the estate itself. A world away yet close enough to everything guests could need or desire, Holman Ranch offers unlimited possibilities for weddings, engagements, anniversaries, family reunions, and any other occasion. Holman Ranch…a place for togetherness, celebration, good friends, family, and good times. Truly a special place to create memories.
We hope you’ll spend your next special occasion at Holman Ranch and become part of our long and illustrious history.