Carey Kendall
Properties Large or Small, Always Distinctive
Santa Ynez Valley’s #1 Agent
2020 - 2018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014


Palacio del Rio

3280 Via Rancheros, Santa Ynez, California


Offered at $8,950,000 SOLD

Once in a lifetime opportunity to purchase one of the most historic homes in the Santa Ynez Valley. Rancho Juan Y Lolita, also known as Palacio del Rio, is now offered. A fabulous Edwards & Plunkett designed hacienda with sweeping views of the whole of the Santa Ynez Valley offering incredible location, serenity, and privacy.

In coveted seclusion - Palacio del Rio is an iconic estate situated in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains overlooking the breathtaking Santa Ynez River Valley.

Formerly the hacienda for the renowned Juan y Lolita Ranch, encompasses approximately 36.54 acres, surrounded by oaks and redwoods, and abounding with quail, deer, wild turkeys, bobcats, and other wildlife. This is a place of amazing tranquility.

“Palacio”, known as ‘The Jewel of the Valley’ with its views, rich history, all its privacy and sense of seclusion, is located only three miles from the town of Santa Ynez, four miles from the Santa Ynez Airport, six miles from Solvang, 35 miles from Santa Barbara, and only 2 hours from Los Angeles. 


The late John S. Mitchell, founder of United Airlines, and his wife Lolita Armour of the Armour & Company meat packing company, had the house built as a wedding gift from Lolita’s parents. Palacio del Rio was designed and constructed in 1928 by the famous Edwards & Plunket firm of Santa Barbara, whose oeuvre also includes the Santa Barbara Airport and Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara.  A guest wing, guest house, and garages were later added around1938. Mr. Mitchell founded the legendary Los Rancheros Visitadores at the ranch, which still continues today. Other previous owners include Jimmy Stewart and Dean Martin, who separately, used this as a retreat from Hollywood.

There is an air of warmth and hospitality immediately experienced upon entering the protected courtyard with its flagstone walkways, flowers and sycamore trees.

The property is truly magnificent and irreplaceable.




The interior of the main residence is warm and sophisticated consisting of a spacious living room and adjoining dining room, both of which have stunning fireplaces and command spectacular views of the Santa Ynez Valley.
The Kitchen opens to a comfortable family room and features state of the art appliances, a huge center island with sink, views out to the Valley, and a grand fireplace. The well-known team of Mary O'Hagen and P.J. MIlligan designed and built the cabinets and entertainment area and also the adjoining butler’s pantry cabinetry. Additionally there is a storage pantry room and a mud room entry room off the main courtyard leading into the kitchen.
The Primary Suite is comprised of a Den / TV Room with fireplace, bedroom with vaulted ceiling and fireplace, and an enclosed porch room (used as an office) adjoining the outside pool area. There are two large, custom walk-in closets, master bath, and a gym.

Four additional en-suite bedrooms, two with fireplaces, complete the accommodations in the main residence. Each bedroom also has private entrances from the outside of the house.



Off the Living room is a 26 x 50 foot pool, and convenient to this area is a bathroom, showers, sauna, and dressing rooms.

Just below this area is a fully-lighted tennis court.




Across the courtyard is a guest house with four-bedroom suites, two of which are master suites with fireplaces, a large living room, and a prohibition-era bar with kitchen. Built as the party-room, there is an oak dance floor in the living room. The guesthouse features a private covered patio overlooking the main courtyard and out back, a private walled yard with outdoor fireplace. A private driveway serves this guest house.










Below the guest house is the 6-car garage with beamed ceilings. The entire porte-cochere is covered in an original wall mural landscape painted in 1938 by the renowned Plein Air artist, Douglas Parshall. This area is heated and well lighted, and can be used as a formal ballroom, as it has in the past during some wild Hollywood parties.

The wine cellar, one bedroom, one bath staff’s quarters with fireplace, and shop are located adjacent to this.


The Mitchels brought the acclaimed artist, Esias Bosch from Italy to construct four tile murals in the courtyard. The murals are scenes from Don Quixote and are of significant value.


Apart from the main house, tucked away in the redwoods, is a two-bedroom caretaker’s cottage with private yard.



The property consists of approximately 36.54 acres. After passing through the gated entrance you travel up approximately one-half mile of paved road winding through mature oak trees. Upon reaching the main house you enter an outside parking area capable of accommodating over 20 cars. From this point the road turns into a beautiful base rock material that compliments the style of the home. The road then separates and passes through the garage one way, and also above the guesthouse to meet again on the backside of the property by the Cottage, completing a loop of the upper portion of the property. The road also loops to the back of the property behind the guesthouse to the main road, which can be used as a back exit or staff entrance.

Across the bottom of the property, fronts the Santa Ynez River and the property water well is located in this area and draws from a significant aquifer.



On the lower portion of the property are fenced pastures and horse shelters, and a riding ring. There is also a large barn with a tack room, ample storage space, and four stalls.




BATHS:   10 Full Baths, 1 Powder Bath 
FIREPLACES:   10 Interior, 2 Exterior 
HEATING:   FAG and Floor Radiant in Entry and Powder Room area and two main house master bathrooms. 
FLOORS:   Carpet, Tile and Hardwood 
FOUNDATION:   Raised and Slab 
ROOF:   Spanish Tile 
SEWER:   Septic 



The History of Palacio del Rio

We are not quite sure exactly the year, but sometime in the early 1920’s John J. “Jack” Mitchell and his wife, Lolita Armour Mitchell, purchased their 12,000 acre + / - Santa Ynez Valley Rancho and so, named the ranch after themselves, Juan y Lolita. To build their home on a prominent view knoll they employed Joseph Plunkett of the firm Edward’s, Plunkett and Howell.

Plunkett and firm became quite famous for their instrumental work in the rebuilding of Santa Barbara between 1925-1928 especially after the earthquake of 1926. They were responsible for many of Santa Barbara’s well-known buildings and homes, including Santa Barbara Airport that was the original hub for the newly formed United Airlines. (Of which “Jack” Mitchell was share holder / director).

During this period of time the Mitchell’s also owned Zaca Lake and San Marcos Lodge, a beach home on Fernald Point in Montecito and the Armour Family, (Armour Meatpacking of Chicago) additionally owned the well-known El Mirador estate on Cold Springs Road in Montecito.

The Mitchell’s ranch home initially was fairly small, but by 1938, as a result of two additions it was completed and enlarged to a grander scale. It became recognized as the greatest Ranch Estate in the Valley and quickly became the social center for many of the Western activities that “Jack” Mitchell loved.

Elmer Awl, a man well known in the area for both his good humor and his talent in landscape development supervised the Ranch and the Mitchell’s Montecito estate and both properties flourished because of his talents. Both he and Jack Mitchell loved Western ranch life. This common bond led to the successful birth and growth of the unique Santa Barbara riding group, Los Rancheros Vistadores. Mitchell and Awl, together with western artist Ed Borein and other well-known local men, organized the first ride in the valley on a May weekend in 1930. After visiting other ranches, 90 riders arrived at the Rancho Juan y Lolita, where Los Rancheros Vistadores was established and Mitchell became its president, an office he held for the next 25 years!

There are still those today who remember the Carriage garage and the parties that filled it. They remember the walls that still grace the impressive mural of the Southern California Landscape before the Spanish arrived. C. Douglas Parshall, who was an early Santa Barbara artist and muralist and noted member of the Plein Air group, painted the Mural. Some remember the large collection of carriages and wagons that Mitchell collected, many of which are now on display at the Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Historical Museums.

Sometime during the last construction phase, the Mitchell’s sponsored the very famous artist Bosch and they brought him from Italy to construct four tile murals in the courtyard. He is highly acclaimed and well represented in the Smithsonian galleries in the Washington D.C. The murals are scenes from Don Quixote and are of significant value.

In 1941 or 1942 Lolita Armour Mitchell quitclaimed about 8,600 acres of the Ranch to John “Jack” Mitchell, and retained the rest. In 1949 the Hacienda was sold and after, the Juan y Lolita Ranch began several decades of division and “Real Estate Roulette,” passing from buyer to seller in succession.

Portions were bought and sold by Pierre Merillons to the James Richardson’s, then to the Borge Andersons, and then to the partnership of Robert Record and Russell Smith. Record and Smith were well established locally - the former a lifelong Montecito resident, the latter a popular manager of the El Paseo Restaurant in Santa Barbara. That partnership purchased the Plunkett designed ranch house in 1956 and the land immediately surrounding it, planning to turn it into a country restaurant-inn.

They named it Palacio del Rio, a name by which the property since has became known. They added a dining room terrace that wrapped the North and Westerly section of the house and overlooked the river and valley. For the next several years “Palacio” enjoyed a flurry of popularity. There was a wonderful view overlooking the valley and the Santa Ynez River, the restaurant drew weekend crowds, and it was a charming spot for wedding receptions and other celebrations. Overnight guests could be accommodated in a limited number of rooms available in the ranch house or above the garage. That garage, many people remember with delight, still carried on its walls the impressive 1938 mural of life in the early days of Santa Ynez Valley.

One partner sold out to the other, and in 1962 Russell Smith’s widow put it up for sale. The buyers were actor James Stewart and local resident Kirk Johnson. Stewart soon purchased the adjoining 1000 acres called the “Wine Cup II”. On this parcel, which surrounded the Palacio property, Stewart built a small ranch house and horse barn.

However, both Stewart and Johnson sold “Palacio” sometime in the 1960’s to Paul Loughridge Jr. and family (there were 8 children) and all resided at the home until he in turn sold to singer Dean Martin. The Martins did extensive remodeling to the home and reputedly loved to entertain and spend family time at their ranch home. When they divorced, they then sold their portions separately in 1973 to Dr. Franklin and Rosemary Ashley, a well-known cosmetic surgeon. The Ashley’s’, in turn, sold the property and acreage to the owners of local paper (Santa Ynez Valley News), Ken and Peg Johnson. The Johnson’s also owned Crown Point Arabians and they constructed extensive horse facilities on the bottom lands of the ranch acreage by Refugio Road.

Apparently, little was done to the Palacio home during this period and the Johnsons divorced in the mid 1980’s; Peg Johnson took the Palacio home and her husband took the horse facilities. The tennis star Jimmy Conners and family then purchased the Horse facilities and extensively re- built the home that sits on that 70+ acre bottom parcel which fronts on Refugio Road. Peg Johnson sold the Palacio home to Helen Kenney of Wyoming in 1989, who later sold to the Rosedale family in about 1991.

The Rosedale family sold to a Montecito family in 2001and they undertook renovations and remodel which included expanding the kitchen and family room and remodeling the main bedroom suite. They used the well-known Santa Barbara firm of Braun and Associates to do this work, which demanded expertise and high quality to conform to the original design and build standards. P.J. Milligan built the kitchen to the design of Mary O’Hagen.

The current family purchased the property around 2005 and they continued with the renovations, which included a rebuild of the pool and bottom cabana areas and resurface of the tennis court and build of the barn toward the bottom of the property.

The Mitchell family still own part of the original Juan y Lolita Ranch of approximately 5,000 acres surrounding Palacio del Rio and the Gildred Ranch.

The Gildred Family Trust purchased from Jimmy Stewart the 950 +acres that immediately surrounds the Palacio home and this has now become divided into a few parcels, all owned by different families.

The private lane, now named Via Rancheros, accesses all these magical properties, all steeped in local history and lore.


History of Architect
Joseph Plunkett (1900 - 1946)

Born on April 15, 1900 in Rome, New York. Plunkett attended Syracuse State University from 1919-22, traveling to California with friends his junior. He did not complete his degree, but took work with an architect in Santa Maria where he met and married Josephine Graham in 1923. The Plunkett’s intended to move to Los Angeles, but the 1923 L.A. earthquake made them reluctant to leave Santa Barbara. Plunkett worked for two architects in Santa Barbara from 1923-25, forming a partnership with William A. Edward’s in June of 1925. Henry Howell was a junior partner from 1926-28.

Edward’s, Plunkett and Howell were a commercial firm, aiding in the extensive rebuilding of Santa Barbara between 1925-28. Plunkett was a master at sketching and could give clients an immediate plan on paper, receiving many large commissions due to his rapid sketching and re-sketching of ideas. After Howell left the firm, Edward’s and Plunkett continued their partnership, constructing the Fox-Arlington Theater, the Airport Terminal, the National Guard Armory, and several beautiful residences between 1929 and 1940.

The grand Fox-Arlington Theater was a Los Angeles investor’s dream. It was to be the social center for growing Santa Barbara. It is ironic, however, that Plunkett sketched this landmark on the top of a hotel dresser. Though actually constructed by a Los Angeles contractor, local friends and artists helped create the theater. John Gamble, a local painter, executed the ceiling and the interior and exterior murals. The Fox-Arlington served as an example of the town’s metropolitan sophistication, as did the Airport Terminal, the last building constructed by the firm. The sensuous stairway and sturdy tower are a characteristic of Plunkett’s designs.

The partnership dissolved in 1940. Edward’s left Santa Barbara to take a government position. But Plunkett remained to design the El Presidio complex on Anacapa and De La Guerra Streets. It contains many of his best details; rounded towers, small angular rooms, narrow connected hallways, and dark wood-beamed ceilings. He died in 1946 before the Presidio was completed.


Palacio del Rio

3280 Via Rancheros
Santa Ynez, California

Contact Agent for additional information


Carey Kendall
Associate Broker

Cal BRE License # 00753349

Village Properties Office
3615 Sagunto Street, Suite A,
Santa Ynez, CA 93460

From Santa Barbara to Santa Ynez
Selling Legacy Properties for Over 30 Years


All information provided is deemed reliable, but we do not guarantee it. We recommend that buyers make their own inquiries.



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