Camp Pendleton’s two-century-old landmark ranch house and chapel will be open for visitors to tour on certain Saturdays through September as part of the base’s 75th anniversary this year.
The 90-minute tours, led by the docents of Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, will explore the historic Santa Margarita Ranch House and surrounding buildings that are on the National Register of Historical Sites.
The tour includes the nearby chapel, built in the early 1800s, which once served as a blacksmith’s shop and winery and is considered the oldest building on base.
The 8,500-foot ranch house, dating back to the 1820s, was home to prominent area families such as the Picos, Forsters, and O’Neills until the base was established in 1942. Thirty-five generals lived in the adobe house starting with Maj. Gen. Graves Erskine in 1947 and continuing to Maj. Gen. Michael R. Lehnert in 2007.
Now, the 31-room white adobe serves as a museum filled with antiques, period furniture from the 1900s and memorabilia from visiting presidents and movie stars, along with special displays such as the ongoing exhibit on the history of African-American women in the U.S. military.
The “President’s Room” contains memorabilia from visiting presidents, starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt, who visited the ranch house on Sept. 25, 1942, as part of the dedication of the base.
The anniversary tours are at noon and 2 p.m. March 11, April 8, May 6, June 3, July 8, Aug. 5 and Sept. 9.
Instructions for base access will be given during the reservation process.
Reservations for the free tours must be made at least seven days in advance at MCBCAMPEN_history@usmc.mil or (760) 725-5758 (from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and until 2 p.m. Fridays).
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