Scripps Ranch - The Beginning
Serendipity was at work when newspaperman E.W. Scripps came to California in 1890 to see his ailing sister, Annie (Julia Anne), in Alameda. Seeing that she was on the road to recovery, he boarded a steamship for a four-day visit to San Diego. He didn't think much of it, describing it as a "busted, broken down boom town," but as he traveled north, he became more and more excited. The climate and the foliage reminded him of Algeria, one of the few places in the world where he had remained free of colds that had plagued him all his life. Arriving at a barren, arid mesa 16 miles from town, he decided to build a home, Miramar, named after the Archduke Maximilian's castle in Trieste, Italy.
He and his mentor, his beloved half-sister, Ellen Browning Scripps, purchased 400 acres of what is today Scripps Ranch for $5,000. Only 30 acres were to be E.W.'s, for his home and grounds; the rest would belong to Ellen. Eventually he acquired 2,100 acres, becoming a laughingstock for investing in the stony, treeless, waterless, hopeless acreage. Undaunted, he immediately started to build what he thought would be a "winter" home, to which he could escape during the cold months in Illinois.
He supervised construction of the ranch for eight years, completing the adobe east wing in 1898. By 1900 it became the family's year round home, with E.W. seldom leaving it until 1917. He modeled the permanent residence, his dream home, after the architecture in North Africa, building three sides of a square around a paved courtyard with a fountain in the center and turreted rooms on three corners. The estate grounds were covered with citrus, pine, eucalyptus, and other beautiful trees, some of which still stand at the Scripps Ranch Swim and Racquet Club on Aviary Dr.
Ellen lived at Miramar until 1897 while her home in La Jolla was being built, but sisters Annie and Virginia, and brother George also lived in the mansion a
t various times. Fred, another brother (there were 13 siblings), had attempted to grow a lemon orchard on the ranch, but was unsuccessful in the effort.
E.W., whose pride and joy in Miramar never waned, conducted most of his business from the ranch, only occasionally making trips to his many newspaper offices around the country. He loved the quality of life it afforded him and his family, just as today's residents do.
(Most of this information is from E.W. and Ellen Browning Scripps: An Unmatched Pair, by Scripps Ranch resident Charles Preece. It is available at the Scripps Ranch Library and can be purchased in bookstores and at the library's Book Nook.)