The Reagan Ranch
Visitors to the ranch house are stunned by how rustic, and in many ways primitive, it is.
They are also struck by how much of the ranch was built and maintained, personally, by President Reagan.
It was my pleasure to visit the ranch again this April.
We are fortunate that a private organization, the Young Americas Foundation (YAF), was able to purchase the ranch, and maintain it for posterity. While the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, is a marvelous repository of the President’s papers with a museum highlighting the events of his presidency, the Reagan Ranch is a testament to the man as a humble human being.
Rancho del Cielo, or Ranch in the Sky1, was Reagan’s way of getting back to his roots, and away from the clamor of Washington DC.
The ranch house is small, 1,600 sq feet including the enclosed porch area. The original adobe structure, built in 1872, remains, and is where the bedroom and family room are located. The entrance door, beyond the patio, table and chairs, opens to the front living area which was originally a screened-in porch.
Reagan, working with a few friends, enclosed the screened-in porch to create the sitting area and dining room, as shown in this picture.
After laying the linoleum flooring, Reagan remarked how much it looked like real brick. While President, he and his family would eat Thanksgiving dinner at the table shown in the distance. He ate Christmas dinner at the Whitehouse so his secret service detail could remain at home over Christmas.
The small lake behind the house, Lake Lucky, was also relined and, essentially, built by Reagan.
Much of the fencing was built by Reagan, using an old-fashioned post-hole digger rather than a mechanically powered auger.
Everywhere one turns, from the Tack Room to the trails on which the Reagan’s rode, one sees the hand of Reagan, the man.
Access to the ranch is up a 7-mile, dirt, narrow, winding road. There have been many historic figures who have visited the ranch while Reagan was president: Queen Elizabeth, who was driven up the narrow road, Soviet Premier Gorbachev, Prime Minister Thatcher and numerous Senators and Congressmen and women.
The view from the ranch is spectacular.
The YAF was able to purchase the ranch as the result of a bequest by John Engalitcheff, a Russian immigrant who escaped from the Bolsheviks and started a business in Maryland. His was the story of many immigrants who lived the American dream.
In 1984 he was honored to attend a Whitehouse reception where he was to receive the Presidential Eagle pin. As Engalitchaff approached President Reagan, he collapsed at the president’s feet. “Cradled in the president’s arms, he apologized for disrupting the event.” 2 Engalitchaff died a few days later.
Inside the ranch house, there is the bookcase in the closed-in porch, just to the left of the picture, with a few of the many books read by Reagan. In the family room, there is a pair of Jackalopes mounted over the doorway. In the bedroom, there is the bench at the foot of the bed where Reagan’s feet rested as they extended, beyond the end of the bed, with his 6’ 2” frame.
I visited the secret service building, located on the hillside above the ranch house, and also explored the barn and Tack-Room.
While the ranch is privately owned, I hope all Americans will someday be able to visit the ranch, if not in person, then by video.
Reagan believed in free enterprise, free markets and freedom. The ranch epitomizes the humble and hard working men and women who built America.
- Map of ranch is at http://www.yaf.org/VirtualTour.aspx#TheRanchHome
- Libertas, the publication of the Young America’s Foundation, Spring, 2008.
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