The Ranch House

The Las Flores Doorstep

The holes got into the doorstep because of the rain dropping off the roof year after year.

The Cross on the Hill

The cross on the hill was placed there during Pío Pico’s time and before the rancho was fenced in. It signified that travelers coming across the valley were welcome at any time.

The Original Entrance to the House

The steps are very steep and uneven, but this entrance is important because we believe that the first two rooms of the ranch house were up these steps and on the left.

The Pepper Tree

The pepper tree next to the steps was a seedling from the first Pepper Tree that was brought to California. Now it is known as the California Pepper but its origin is Peru and it was brought to the Mission San Luis Rey.

The Compass by the Double Doors

It is believed that the house is built opposite the points of the compass so that each room receives sunshine at some point during each day.

The Cannon Court

The cannon and bell were given to then Colonel Pendleton after the Battle of Coyotepe Hill in Nicaragua, which he led.

The Double Door Entrance – Guest Book

The house began with two rooms and additional rooms were added when needed. It was the Forster Family that added on to the rooms. The house has been like it is now since the late 1800s

The Fountain

The fountain was donated by General Hardy, a reserve general who lived here for only a one-month period during one summer.

The Bougainvillea

We have been told that it was planted in Pío Pico’s time, perhaps in the 1840s. It is a vine but it has been declared a national tree.

The O’Neill Library

This is called the O’Neill Library or study because Jerome O’Neill had his office in here. The family donated Jerome’s original roll-top desk and chair to the rancho.

This room has one of the seven working fireplaces in the house.

The bust of the gentleman you see over here is not Teddy Roosevelt but is General Joseph H Pendleton, as is the photograph over the desk.

The western painting to the right is by Hans Wigworst, who used to be a NYC policeman and who never had an art lesson in his life. He came west to California and settled in El Cajon and was a fabulous artist.

The picture to the right is of Richard O’Neill and his grandson Jerome Baumgartner, and is also on the cover of Rancho Santa Margarita Remembered book.

The picture of the Eagle, Globe and Anchor is the emblem of the Marine Corps. It was taken at Parris Island, South Carolina in 1919. It is made up of Marines, including General Pendleton who is in that picture at the bottom. It was an overhead shot taken from a hot air balloon.

The leather carving just to the right tells the history of the rancho from the time native peoples lived here through the mission period to the Marines coming aboard the base.

The watercolors were done by GySgt Grant Powers, a Marine stationed here 1943. He also painted the mural in the chapel.

The Sala

Although this room is the Sala or formal living room, it was originally a bedroom. It was divided by a standing floor screen with a sleeping area to the far side of the room and a sitting room on the front area nearest the door.

Some of the beams in the ceiling are smooth and others are rough-hewn. The hewn ones are the original beams.

The Hallway

This room is part of the original structure built by Pio Pico. The fire place was used for cooking and for heating the room.

The colored glass panes around the doors, some of which are original, were very high fashion Victorian decorations during the period

The beautiful big piece of furniture is made of mahogany and originally came in three parts, and was probably made in the late 1700s. It belonged to the O’Neill family, who left it in the house when the Marine Corps took over the property.

The portrait to the left of the fireplace is of John Forster, a.k.a. Don Juan Forster, who married Pío Pico’s sister Ysidora. Forster was an Englishman who came to Mexico at the request of his uncle when he was 15 years old. He took on Mexican citizenship so he could own land.

The portrait over the fireplace is of Pío Pico, who received the land in an original Mexican land grant. He was the last Mexican governor of Alta California.

To the right of the fireplace is the portrait of Andrés Pico. Andrés helped plan and led the Mexican soldiers in the battle of San Pasqual. He and his men planned that battle under some trees on the west side of the chapel.

The priest is Father Bose who was the priest at the Mission San Luis Rey when the Marines came aboard the base in 1942.

The photo on the left by the Pico room is of Jerome O’Neill sitting out in the patio area.

The Cantina

The bar was built during the time the house was used as the Officer’s Club. Prior to that it was the meat butchering and aging room, using the original hooks to hang the meat. The tile floor is original.

The Lower Patio

The lower patio is where the household staff would have done all their work, laundry, cooking – making tortillas, etc.

Pío Pico Room

This is one of the original two rooms, and a great example of how thick these walls are. The walls vary in thickness, and are thicker at the top than the bottom. If a picture were to hang without an anchor at the bottom, it would hang away from the wall. The original entrance to this room was where the window is now. It would have been a bare room, probably with straw bedding and a tamped-dirt floor.

The room has been used primarily as a guest room by the residents of the house, although all the furnishings in this room belong to the ranch house. In order to modernize a wonderful old home and maintain its history and integrity, some very creative means were used: behind door #1, they installed a water closet, behind door #2, a basin, and behind door #3, a shower. It is called a Pullman Bath.

The odd little piece hanging above the bed was given by the Crown Prince of Nepal to Gen. & Mrs. Christmas. It is an object they have inside their fences in Nepal, like the peepholes in your door.


Ysidora’s Room

This used to be known as the twin bedrooms (the room that is now the bathroom was also a bedroom), again with the entrance from the patio area to both rooms.

The photograph on the wall is of Ysidora Pico Forster. She was a small but dynamic woman. It is said that she really ruled the roost. She refused to speak English because she felt it was a heathen language, even though she was married to an Englishman.

The Formal Dining Room

The table, chairs and sideboard belong to the Marine Corps.

The Cowboy Room / Dining Room

This room was built by Richard O’Neill as a dining hall for his vaqueros. They would enter through the door on the south side of the house and would have three meals a day on long tables.

When the Marine Corps took over the ranch, the General and his wife did not want to live here, so the Marine Corps decided to turn the house into an Officer’s Club and BOQ.

The President’s Room

The President’s Room was originally built as a chapel for Ysidora Forster. She was a very devout woman. The O’Neills used the room for a dining room

It is now called the President's Room because when President Roosevelt was here after the property was purchased, he toured the ranch house and just loved the room. He suggested that this room should be saved for the next former president of the United States.

Several other presidents have stayed here but not while in office. Former President Nixon stayed here between the time he was Vice-President and elected President.

Former President Bush (Senior) stayed here after he left office and President George W. Bush toured the house but did not stay here. He did have his picture taken in the same pose as his father and former President Nixon. The other photograph on the wall is of President Roosevelt at the dedication of the rancho.

The prie-dieu was purchased at an antique shop and was donated to the Rancho by the Officers’ Wives Club. Prie-dieu is a French word for a prayer table – it is a kneeler.

The crucifix was a gift from the Mission San Luis Rey and is made of hand carved olive wood. The small painting is a 16th century gothic. It is oil on wood.

The Bell and Arch

The Arch with the Bell on top marks the original entrance to the Ranch House. The T&O symbol is a representation of the cattle brand used by the Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, and has been adopted by the Marine Corps as the emblem of Camp Pendleton. The bell was the alarm clock in the morning. It called everyone to breakfast, it was rung at noon for lunch, and then again for the evening meal. The only other time it was rung was in case of an extreme emergency such as a fire or a flood.

The gates are really interesting because they have gravity hinges. There are no screws or bolts securing them.