History in the Wild at Hollister Ranch

House with Plenty of Room to Roam

Credit: Will McGowan

Address: 71 Hollister Ranch Road
Status: Soon to be on the market
Price: $15,950,000

Mary Montgomery Howard passed away last year at the age of 101. She grew up as the youngest daughter of a doctor who moved his family from their homestead in Winifred, Montana, to a remote mining town in Mexico when Mary was 5 years old. The family lived there for 12 years, and Mary often recalled that period of time, and playing with her siblings in the wide-open countryside, as some of her favorite memories. 

In more recent years, Mary Howard owned the estate currently for sale at 71 Hollister Ranch Road. Visiting this property today, sitting in the sheltered front courtyard or on Mary’s favorite garden bench and looking out over Bulito Canyon toward the ocean, it is easy to see the appeal that this remote natural wilderness held for Mary. 

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Anyone who visits Hollister Ranch will be mesmerized by this special place. After living in Santa Barbara almost 40 years, I jumped at the rare opportunity to visit last week. 71 Hollister Ranch Road is a spectacular 105-acre parcel that is part of the original Hollister family holdings, established by W.W. Hollister in 1868, and then settled by his son Jim and his wife, Lottie, in the early 1900s. The original Hollister House, built in 1910, still stands nearby. 

The main house at 71 Hollister Ranch Road was built in 1938 by Jim’s nephew Graham and his wife Janet. Known as “the Ritz,” the house was used by the Hollisters over the years as an entertainment hub for visiting friends and family. Lore has it that the Ritz was often the main center of ranch activity, with gatherings that included movies and parties with visiting celebrities.

After the Hollister family sold the ranch in the late 1960s, rancher Dick LaRue owned this property from 1970 until 2000, when he sold to the Howards. LaRue was instrumental in formulating the preservation guidelines for the ranch that are still in place today. Hollister Ranch is a wildlife preserve and working cattle ranch, composed of 136 properties with 100 acres each, and over eight miles of pristine coastline. Each of the owners agrees to bylaws designed to protect the serenity and natural habitat of the entire ranch.

The house sits on a protected knoll at the base of the foothills and has a blend of topography including meadows, canyons, and 800 feet of ocean bluff. There are stands of majestic oak trees and a horse pasture that extends down to the beach.

The main house itself is a five-bedroom, four-bath Monterey-style two-story with a red-tile roof built around a central courtyard. The upstairs bedrooms open onto a long, sheltered balcony with views over horse pastures to the iconic Bulito Point headlands and all the way to the islands. Downstairs, a paneled living room is open to the updated kitchen and cozy den with fireplace. Gorgeous hardwood floors in most of the house are interspersed with Saltillo tile pavers, adding to the comfortably elegant ambience throughout.

In addition to avocados and a lemon orchard, the property features a 47-acre protea flower farm. The red, silver, and pink blooms of the protea bushes make an exotic patchwork over the hillsides and are an income-producing crop, with a large barn for flower processing. A three-bedroom, two-bath guesthouse overlooks the flower operation and is currently the home of the ranch foreman and his family.

I drove the long way out of the ranch, first visiting the original Hollister house and then stopping by one of the idyllic beach coves before heading back down Highway 101. Having spent only a few hours at the ranch, I was still able to feel the magic that must have attracted Mary Howard to this vast, wild countryside. When I got home, I promptly put my protea flower souvenir in a favorite vase — relishing the tangible reminder of this dream-like location so close and yet worlds away. 

71 Hollister Ranch Road is listed for sale in Hollister Ranch by Dan Johnson of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. Reach Dan at (805) 895-5150 or danjohnson@bhhscal.com.

Historic details provided by Hollister Ranch: Its History, Preservation and People by Nancy W. Ward, and the obituary notice of Mary Montgomery Howard via legacy.com.


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