Melrose Ranch (aka Hidden Valley Ranch) (1925)

Historic Site: 16757 Old Guejito Grade Road, Valley Center 

In 1925, Lord Somerville, a member of Britain’s landed gentry, moved from Scotland to the Bear Valley district of Valley Center and purchased 640 acres from the Mendenhall’s, a pioneer ranching family who had raised cattle on the site from the late 1800’s.

By 1927, Somerville had completed construction of a 6,000 square foot, 18-room Mediterranean villa called Melrose Manor. The estate also had guest houses, servants’ quarters, formal gardens, and grape vineyards. It was stocked with blooded Hereford cattle.

Lord Somerville, whose given name was C. Stuart Somerville, was a descendant of a wealthy and powerful British family which dates its history to the 12th Century. The Somerville’s made their home in a baronial castle in Scotland. Melrose Ranch was named after Melrose Abbey of his native Scotland.

For many years, Melrose Ranch was said to be the most expensive residential property in San Diego County. Newspapers of the era described the ranch as “a Southern California showplace” and “one of the greatest showplaces in the entire west”. In 1944, Warner Bros, filmed scenes from “Uncertain Glory” starring Errol Flynn on the site. With its lush vineyards, the estate was a stand-in for war-torn France.

In 1933, Lord Somerville hosted Edward, Prince of Wales, who reportedly courted the American divorcee Mrs. Wallis Simpson while visiting the Valley Center estate. In 1936, Edward ruled for 11 months as King Edward VIII until he abdicated the throne to marry Mrs. Simpson. The couple then became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Somerville sold Melrose Ranch about 1938 to U.S. Commodore Causey and his wife Adelaide Fairbanks. She was the daughter of multi-millionaire Charles Fairbanks, Vice President of the United States under Theodore Roosevelt.

In the early 1940’s, the property was sold to Swedish industrialist Alex Strom, owner of US Ball Bearing Mfg. Co. (later renamed Strom Ball Bearing). A change of ownership in 1947 brought the property into the hands of John F. Vogel and Clyde R. Johnson, Orange County real estate developers. It was stocked with an exhibition herd of registered Hereford cattle.

The following year, Vogel sold 400 acres of the split property, now called Hidden Valley Ranch, to John T. and Cecil Hedrick. The Hedrick’s made their home at the ranch until the mid-1950’s when they sold the property to Bernard Jensen who ran Dr. Jensen’s Hidden Valley Health Ranch. The estate was later acquired by Hugh Goode who operated a dairy.

In 1997, Melrose Ranch , at 115 acres, was acquired by local businessman Arie de Jong and his wife Anneke. The de Jong’s restored the name Melrose Ranch and began a restoration project, including the manor house and historic barns, and the planting of new vineyards.