Quail Hollow Ranch thrives with the help of docents, such as Richard James

Who knew that in 1937 Lawrence and Ruth Lane, recent transplants from Iowa and the new owners and publishers of Sunset Magazine, also bought the Quail Hollow Ranch in Santa Cruz County that same year?  Sunset Magazine and its publishing brand would go on to achieve great success in the decades ahead, and from the patio and kitchen of the Quail Hollow ranch house the Lane’s would develop many of the ideas that would later become famous as the “California lifestyle.”
Richard James knows all about the history of Quail Hollow Ranch and is happy to share it as a volunteer docent for Santa Cruz County Parks. James, 72, a resident of Ben Lomond since 1979, has dedicated a good part of his retirement to the preservation, upkeep and outreach of what is now Quail Hollow County Park, not to mention sharing his research and enthusiasm for local history.
For the last six years James has been conducting tours on the history of the Quail Hollow Ranch House, and, as “something of an amateur architectural historian”, as James describes himself, provides a fascinating account of the ranch house, as well as an overview of the 300 acre county park.
According to James, the ranch house is a historic building telling a story of several periods of European settlement in California. Due mostly to not finding any ruins or foundation of the original homesteading cabin dating back to the 1860’s, it is believed the “fairly typical, 1890’s mid-Western, two-story farmhouse” was built on the same site as the original cabin.  This mid-western farmhouse was morphed into a precursor of the modern, single story, California suburban ranch-style home by the additions made by the Lane’s in the 1940’s and 50’s.
“The Lane’s really bought into the so-called ‘Western lifestyle’’’, James explains on his tour from what was actually the Lane’s bedroom, now a classroom, in the addition built by the Lane’s. “As you can see, the Lane’s wanted to bring the outside in- with the large, “glass wall”  with sliding glass doors and the large patio for barbeques and outdoor entertaining – all of this was new in the post-war 1950’s, especially for folks from Iowa,” James said while pointing out the features in the house.   
From an interior design point-of-view, the Lane’s introduced, and publized through their magazine, several “modern” home innovations such as combining the kitchen and dining room in an open floor plan, with a “kitchen island” counter space in between, rather than a formal, separate dining room, as well as stainless steel counter tops, an electric stove and sky lights in a residential house, according to James.   
Before becoming a “serial hand raiser” for volunteer work at Quail Hollow, James and his wife Kathryn ran a real estate management and brokerage business for almost 35 years with clients up and down the San Lorenzo Valley. James recalls, for example, contacting sellers of property and inquiring whether it might be better to rent out the property under his company’s management. 
In that work James became very familiar with the building types, construction history, and various problems that come with owning and managing property in the San Lorenzo Valley. Coupled with his own passion for local history, James was in his element analyzing, comparing and dating various building materials and construction techniques in the Quail Hollow Ranch House.
Quail Hollow County Park has a great deal more than its ranch house with its history, which James has also been involved in. There are four and half miles of trails through some very sensitive habitat of the Sand Hills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with is the only home to some very rare plants, insects and animals.
“We would not have the trail system here if not for our trail volunteers,” said Margaret Ingraham, Volunteer Coordinator for the County Parks Department.  Ingraham emphasizes that not only trail maintenance, but several ecological study programs, including monitoring the nest boxes of several species of birds, as well as removing invasive species such as Scotch and French broom, are completely dependent on volunteers.
Quail Hollow County Park earns some revenue through renting out stables for about eight privately-owned horses, as well as renting out the facility for weddings, which occur practically every weekend during the summer, according to Ingraham.
Nonetheless, James explains, Quail Hollow is at the mercy of the county parks maintenance budget, and the park and its buildings require several capital improvement projects that seem to have been on hold for several fiscal years. This includes stripping asbestos-containing stucco from the ranch house, which will be expensive, and re-painting the house, which it needs, according to James.
Richard James will be conducting another Quail Hollow Ranch House History tour on Sunday, April 15th. Friends of Quail Hollow, organized through the Valley Women’s Club, also coordinates donations and volunteers for ongoing trail maintenance, along with Margaret Ingraham, Volunteer Coordinator with the County’s Parks Department.   

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