WASHINGTON (AP) — Home was the White House, but Ronald Reagan’s heart was in “Rancho del Cielo,” his California mountaintop hideaway. Now it is being sold to a conservative group seeking inspiration for a new generation of political leaders.
The Young America’s Foundation, which promotes conservative values among high school and college students, purchased the property for an undisclosed price. Sale of the ranch, which had an asking price of $5.95 million, was to be completed Tuesday.
“Ronnie and I are delighted that Young America’s Foundation will be the new owners of Rancho del Cielo,” Nancy Reagan said in a statement. “We hope that our ranch will be a spark for many bright, young Americans in the years ahead.”
Reagan, who at 87 is struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, drew strength and inspiration from the 688-acre property in the Santa Ynez mountains. “We relax at the ranch, which if not Heaven itself, probably has the same ZIP code,” he wrote in 1992.
Two years later, his family announced that Reagan was sick. In August 1996, his beloved ranch — where he was host to such world leaders as Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth — was put on the market.
Reagan still visits his office in Los Angeles frequently and occasionally plays golf. But he and Nancy long ago found it necessary to abandon the ranch.
“Rancho del Cielo,” Spanish for Ranch in the Sky, consists of a 106-year-old, 1,300-square-foot adobe house, which Reagan remodeled, along with a smaller guest house, a man-made lake that Reagan created, stables and a wooden fence.
It was at the ranch in 1981 that Reagan signed the tax-cutting Economic Recovery Tax Act. And he burst from the ranch house one late-summer day in 1987 to greet Secretary of State George Shultz, who had just landed by helicopter to deliver a progress report on talks with the Soviets on an intermediate nuclear forces treaty.
While Reagan occasionally entertained at the ranch, he most enjoyed spending time there alone with Nancy.
As president, he traveled there several times a year. He and Nancy took a helicopter to the ranch while reporters traveled separately to nearby Santa Barbara to cover his vacation by remote control, often hearing his voice only during his Saturday radio address.
The nation also saw little of him, except for the occasional television footage, shot at long range, of Reagan horseback riding or doing chores, a real-life image of the rugged individualist he played in the movies.
Nancy Reagan said through a spokeswoman Monday that she was actively involved in the sale negotiations.
“I wanted to be sure that the person or group that bought the ranch would be people that Ronnie would approve of,” she said.
Marc Short, the foundation’s executive director, called the ranch “a breathtaking piece of property” and said the group was buying it with private donations.
Reagan and his wife bought the ranch for $547,000 in 1974 as he was nearing the end of his second term as California’s governor.
Selling it posed several problems. One plan to use $5 million in federal funds to turn it into a state park was shelved after local residents balked at what they considered a misuse of taxpayer dollars.