August 10th, 2014
I was out for a cruise on the Big Green Machine when I decided to make a stop at the Randall House on highway 1 in Olema Valley, California just north of Stinson Beach. The place has is kind of a creepy American Horror story vibe to it. The setting is breathtaking, as is most of California. The only reason it still stands as it did in the late 1800’s is also quite California like. A rare big earred bat gathering lives in the attic of the home. This has saved it from demolition.
The home was built by Sarah Randall in 1880 after her husband was murdered. She began a prosperous dairy farmer in her own right. Of course the story is quite interesting. Read below.
Perhaps to accommodate Raymond’s growing family, Mrs. Randall had a larger house built east of the county road, across the road from the dairy buildings. The exact date of construction is unclear; the 1880 census does not reflect an outstanding improvement in the value of the buildings there. One report states that Mrs. Randall began construction in 1880 and completed the house in 1881. The two-story Victorian, with elegant trim and ample space, became a showplace in the Olema Valley and still stands today. According to the county newspaper, Sarah Randall planned to have a new barn built in 1884.
A fire in 1890 destroyed most of the pasture and fences on the ranch; the newspaper called 10-year-old Lottie Randall “the little heroine” of the disaster. Mrs. Randall apparently returned to the ranch and lived alone there in later years but was eventually persuaded by her children to leave and live with them in town. Sarah Seaver Randall died on January 24, 1907, and left the ranch to her grown children Elizabeth Tripp, William, Fanny Tullar, Raymond and Mary Clifford.
The Randall House is the lone survivor of the legacy of William and Sarah Randall. The couple are among the earliest American settlers in the Olema Valley; the story of Mrs. Randall’s operation of the ranch and raising a large family after becoming widowed contributes significance in the area of women and the development of the west. The ranch may be regionally significant for its contribution to the 19th century dairy industry in the Olema Valley, an industry that provided food products to a growing San Francisco during the later years of the Gold Rush.
The superintendent of Point Reyes National Seashore had the remaining barns and outbuildings removed soon after the purchase and intended to demolish the unoccupied Randall House. The keeper of the National Register of Historic Places declared the house eligible for the National Register in 1979, spurring the park to attempt historic leasing on the old house. This effort failed through the lack of acceptable proposals, and again the house faced demolition. Discovery in the 1980s of a rare big-eared bat colony in the attic has given the place at least a temporary reprieve.
I also pulled this little gem off the internet from an e-book on the region.
The five Randall children grew up in a sort of idyll at the ranch, the
death of their father notwithstanding, riding to the nearby Olema School at
Five Brooks on horseback, gathering huckleberries in the surrounding woods
and then drying and preserving them by the bushel. The children were no
doubt a large factor in their mother’s prosperity in the dairy business. Oldest
son William, known as Willie and later W. J., was born at Murphy’s Camp,
California on April 1, 1852. He attended boarding school in Petaluma and was
eight years old when his father was killed; he then attended local schools and
graduated from Heald’s Business College in San Francisco in 1873. He
apparently ran his uncle Daniel Seaver’s ranch up the road for many years, and
married Abbie Perham in 1879. William left the ranch around 1881 to run his
own dairy businesses on Point Reyes, including the famous Pierce Ranch and O.
L. Shafter’s L Ranch. Raymond Randall, born at Angel’s Camp in the Oregon
gold country while his father was mining there, took over the Randall business
in the 1870s after his marriage to Harriet “Hattie” Weeks, a neighbor to the
south. The couple had six daughters while living on the ranch, Lottie, Myra,
Elizabeth, Helen, Sadie, Fanny and Aileen. The family referred to the place as
the Bell Ranch, because the cows wore bells. Raymond’s sister Mary became a
schoolteacher, beginning at the Garcia School in Olema in 1879 and then
teaching at the nearby Olema School at Five Brooks in 1883. Mary was
married to M. H. Clifford of San Francisco in her mother’s house in 1885.
Oldest sister Elizabeth married P. Tripp of San Francisco in 1886. 61
If you live in the area or are passing through do check it out!
PS: Please click on the thumbnails below to view the large images.