The Camarillo Ranch was originally a 10,000 acre Spanish land grant created in 1837, patented to Gabriel Ruiz in 1866, then purchased by Juan Camarillo in 1875. His son Adolfo built the Queen Anne Victorian home in 1892. Later the barn and stables were added to support the agricultural work and house the renowned Camarillo White Horses. Today the ranch is owned by the City of Camarillo and operated by the non profit Camarillo Ranch Foundation.
The historic land upon which the Camarillo Ranch now sits was a part of the original Rancho Calleguas, one of the last Mexican land grants (9,998.29 acres). It was given by Governor Alvarado to Jose Pedro Ruiz in 1847. Juan Camarillo (1812-1880) obtained the rancho from the Ruiz family in 1875. Juan was a member of the Hijar-Padres Expedition to California in 1834. He settled in Ventura in 1857. Following Juan’s death in 1880, Adolfo Camarillo, his oldest son, took over the ranch operations. He was 16 at the time. During next 68 years, Adolfo operated the Camarillo Ranch, changing the operations from mostly cattle to crops. He was a leading innovator bringing in lima beans, plus barley, corn, alfalfa, walnuts, and citrus.
Adolfo (1864-1958) married Isabel Menchaca (1861-1936) in 1888 and they moved into an adobe home on the Ranch, which was later destroyed by fire. They had seven children. In 1890, with the help of two Chumash Indian boys, he planted two rows of eucalyptus trees. The trees arched across Highway 101 in Camarillo for many years. Some of the trees still line the north side of the freeway. Adolfo also employed a number of Chumash Indians on the Ranch.
The Camarillo House was built in 1892 by Adolfo and others using the services of Architects Franklin Ward and Herman Anlauf This three-story, 14-room home was built in the Victorian Queen Anne style.
Adolfo’s younger brother, Juan (1867-1935) later donated land for St. Mary Magdalen Chapel (completed in 1914) and St. John’s Seminary (completed in 1939), both prominent in Camarillo history. Juan chose not to stay at the Ranch and lived and worked in Ventura and Buenos Aires.
Adolfo has been called “The Last Spanish Don” and was a leader in numerous organizations in Camarillo, Ventura County, and California. These leadership roles included those with the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, Ventura County Fair Board, Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, Bank of A. Levy, Bank of America, Peoples Lumber Company, Los Rancheros Visitadores, California State Fair Board, and California Lima Bean Growers Association. Adolfo served as a member of the Pleasant Valley School District Board of Trustees for 57 years (1894-1951). In 1950, Pope Pius XII named Adolfo a Knight of St. Gregory.
Adolfo also helped the community in other ways. He gave 50 acres of land for the first high school in Camarillo. It is named for him, “Adolfo Camarillo High School.” He also gave land for the building of the Southern Pacific Railroad through Camarillo (1904), the new Conejo Grade (Highway 101) in 1937, and the expansion of St. John’s Seminary to include St. John’s College.