If you’re looking for a surreal stay-cation day trip with a hefty dollop of California history, consider trekking to Long Beach to see the newly restored splendor of Rancho Los Alamitos. And don’t be alarmed that you have to go through a gated housing development (just up the street from Cal State Long Beach) to get there. That’s part of the story, really.
I got a sneak preview a few weeks ago of this gem-you’ve-probably-never-heard-of with two key members of the passionate team in charge of the sprucing up. Here’s a bit of what I learned: the site dates back to 500 AD and is considered sacred to the native Tongva people. The ranch house on the property is one of the oldest residential structures in Southern California. The ranch fell into foreclosure in the mid-1800s. Under the watch of the Bixby family who purchased the 27-thousand acres, oil was discovered on the property. For a time it was one of the most fertile fields for “black gold” on the planet.
The Bixby clan gave what hadn’t been developed–7.5 acres– to the city of Long Beach back in the late sixties. The tens of thousands of acres that comprised the original rancho is now… true modern California: Developed to the hilt, including the surrounding “Bixby Hill” gated development, replete with homes boasting 3-car garages.
What you’ll see if you visit now–the Rancho reopens to the public on Sunday–is a lovingly protected oasis. A newly restored historic barn serves as an educational center. Perhaps the most amazing part of Rancho, for this garden-loving correspondent, is the grounds. They’re not as large or sprawling as the Huntington, but if you’re a fan of that San Marino destination, it’s well worth your time to trek in the opposite direction and take a step back in time.