Scripps’ Castle

Until the late 80's, Scripps Ranch was considered nothing more than an out-of-the-way town with very little use or purpose. Before the suburban boom, Scripps Ranch was originally a 400 acre ranch owned by E.W. Scripps whom later expanded it to 1,200 acres. Edward Scripps was was an American newspaper publisher and founder of The E. W. Scripps Company.

 

In 1898, Scripps finished building a home in San Diego, which later came to be known as Miramar Ranch. Scripps hoped that the dry, warm climate would help his allergic rhinitis he'd had all his life as well as giving him and his family a fresh start from several failed businesses. He built the ranch as a winter home to escape the cold of Illinois, but eventually lived there year round while conducting his newspaper business. His ranch encompassed what is known today as the community of Scripps Ranch and the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

On March 15, 1891, E.W. Scripps drew a sketch of Miramar Ranch. The lines show the canyons and streams that ran through the property.

Courtesy of Ella Strong Denison Library, Scripps College.

E.W.'s wife, Nackie, had several large issues with the them moving to Scripps Ranch and fought for them to reside in Los Angeles. For one, it was 30 miles from the nearest hospital and a hotspot for rattlesnakes. That certainly isn't safe for the children! It was also within miles of one of Scripps' first loves, Lida. E.W. however loved the area so that was that. He wrote, “there is just enough of mountain background—just enough of sea foreground, just enough of level plain around and just enough of hill and hollow on the spot to suit a man whose aspirations are dreams and whose present comfort demands ease without plain flatness.”

One of the first things most people would notice upon visiting Scripps Ranch is the abundance of Eucalyptus trees. These trees are said to have been planted by Chauncy I. Jerabek, the gardener of E.W. Scripps. The trees were planted to provide railroad ties, but unfortunately it turned out they were unsuitable for this use due to being too brittle. Even more unfortunate was the devastation that the the 2003 Cedar Fire had on this region, burning hundreds of acres of the trees and 300 houses.

1930 aerial of E.W. Scripps mansion and grounds, showing the sides of the house organized around the central courtyard:

E.W. Scripps mansion and grounds in 1906 showing the southwest tower on the left side of the house:

So in August of 1889, E.W. and his brothers began building the Miramar Ranch, which translates to "View of the Sea" in Spanish. E.W.'s home was inspired by the Miramare Castle in Trieste, Italy, imitating the structures with its crenelated towers and promenade on the roof. He modified the plan, however, by adding the structural touches of a villa with four 1-story wings around the central courtyard.

1880 photographs of Miramare Castle in Trieste, Italy showing some of the architectural features E.W. incorporated into the design of his home in San Diego: 

The Scripps family gathered in Detroit to celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of William Scripps’ arrival in the United States in 1791. Twenty-nine lineal descendants and their spouses were photographed on the steps of George G. Booth’s residence on Trumbull Ave., Detroit, June 29, 1891. Ellen B. Scripps stands second from the left:

E.W. envisioned Miramar Ranch to be a utopia and one of "the most famous of dwelling places". He wrote "To make it a paradise, all that is needed will be a little more spending money than we now have (which we will soon have), contentment in our hearts and ability to compel to quietness those restless spirits who grumble because the country will not yield dollars as well as beauty" He imagined a domestic space that would provide companionship and care for the elderly, a source of income for brothers who needed work, and “isolation and privacy” for individual families, including his own.

The photograph above was taken sometime between 1907 and 1910 and shows E.W.’s daughter standing inside one part of the corridor that surrounded the courtyard/auto court. Ellen B. Scripps and her brother, Will, typically played chess after dinner at Miramar:

Multiple wings gave family members the option to have space from one another while still close enough for interaction when needed. E.W. said, “Fred would have his room or rooms and I would have mine...I will not interfere with him, his wife, his remnants, or his land, neither shall he interfere with mine.”

Photograph of the Miramar Ranch garage taken sometime between 1907 and 1910:

 

E.W.’s wife, Nackie Holtsinger Scripps (1866-1930), with her horse in the mansion courtyard between 1907 and 1910:

The E.W. Scripps mansion courtyard as it looked when the mansion was open for tours from a 1969 issue of San Diego Magazine:

It appears there were many family problems that arose while living here for all the residences. From sex scandals, to health problems and of course, a whole slew of arguments oftentimes based around money. Ellen suspected that the family suffered from a “moral taint” that no Utopian experiment could cure: “let us hope that the next generations do not inherit it, for it is a nasty sort of heritage to pass on to others. I feel sometimes as though I would like to go and bury myself in the desert, out of sight and hearing and knowledge of everybody I belong to!” Regardless of her personal issues, she felt compelled to help her brother with his dreams of the ranch.

n the 60's the ranch was sold to developers who held tours of the homestead until the 70's. At this time the ranch was abandoned due to the costs of maintaining it. It wasn't long until vandals begin stripping the interior of its valuables leading to the decision to demolish this beautiful home. All that remains today are the memories and tiny remnants scattered throughout the town.

Satellite view of where the ranch used to be:

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