Holman Ranch History

The story of Holman Ranch is truly unique. The story 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, and that is where the story of Holman Ranch truely begins.

The Story Began in 1928 ...

Holman Ranch is Established. In 1928 Gordon Armsby, a businessman from San Francisco, purchased 600 acres of the Valley that included what would be Holman Ranch.

Armsby hired Clarence Tantau – the architect responsible for many of the famed Del Monte properties in Monterey – 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. The estate served as an exclusive hideaway for many Hollywood celebrities including Charlie Chaplin and Theda Bara. The original stone walls are still an integral feature of Holman Ranch to this day.


Holman’s Take the Reigns. 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 a guest ranch with the only rodeo arena in the town. The Holmans remodeled and expanded the facilities, building guest bungalows and stables, as well as one of the first pools in Carmel Valley, which is now a historical landmark.

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.


Vivian’s Reign. Clarence Holman died in 1962, but his wife Vivian kept Holman Ranch going, determining that the Ranch would never be subdivided and continuing participation in a multitude of social and community activities.

Rodeos, horse shows, 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 friends and patrons who found their way to Holman Ranch.


Renovation and Restoration. 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 restored the hacienda, rekindled overnight accommodations in guest cottages, founded the stables, planted the lower vineyard, and had aspirations of opening a winery. She continued the Holman’s passion for community involvement and old-fashioned hospitality until her death in 2005.


Lowders take the LeadAfter living in Carmel-by-the-Sea for several years, Tom and Jarman Lowder fell for the charms of Holman Ranch and purchased the property in 2006 with the dream of crafting estate-grown wine and olive oil. After two years of renovating the property, sowing the land, and planting the vineyard, the Lowder’s produced their first vintage of wine in 2009, a small production of Estate Pinot Noir. It was an exciting time for the Lowder family, but unfortunately, it would also prove to be an extremely difficult time. Jarman had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. She passed away shortly after.


New Beginnings. In 2012, Tom met Susan Carrington. Like Tom, Susan had faced the tragedy of losing a spouse fifteen years prior, when her husband succumbed to ALS. Tom and Susan shared an instant bond full of nostalgia for the past and enhanced appreciation for life and what the future may bring.

The two were soon married at Holman Ranch. Their shared love of wine and gathering friends together has brought a new energy and renewed spirit of hospitality to the Ranch. They continue to remodel and improve Holman Ranch to honor the incredible history of this special place. They embody the idea that… at Holman Ranch, the past is always present.


More on the Lowder Family Coming Soon...