There Will Be Bids

Maria Barbera
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via Eliman

via Douglas Elliman

The 1,800 acre Las Varas Ranch, which features nearly 2 miles of pristine Santa Barbara beachfront and was built by Edward Doheny, is somewhat surrounded by artistic appeal. The expansive property inspired Upton Sinclair’s Oil! and, consequently, the 2007 Oscar-nominated film “There Will Be Blood” starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Despite the film and novel’s use of the lavish estate to further their condemnation of exploitative greed, the publicity surrounding these acclaimed works of art probably didn’t hurt the ranch’s asking price of $80 million.

In 1892, Edward Doheny drilled the first successful oil well in the Los Angeles City Oil Field. His success set off a huge petroleum boom in Southern California. It also made him a massive fortune. His company eventually became the Pan American Petroleum & Transport Company, one of the largest oil companies in the world in the 1920s. In 1954, what began as Doheny’s empire became a merger with Standard of Indiana to form the American Oil Company, or Amoco, which was in turn acquired by British Petroleum in 1998.

In the 1920s, Doheny was implicated in the Teapot Dome Scandal and accused of offering a $100,000 bribe to Albert Fall, the United States Secretary of the Interior. While Doheny avoided the legal ramifications of his alleged crimes and was twice acquitted of offering the bribe, Fall was convicted of accepting it. The character J. Arnold Ross in Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil! (the inspiration for the 2007 film There Will Be Blood) is loosely based on Doheny.

The Las Varas Ranch, one of the last standing legacies of Edward Doheny’s massive wealth and influence, is comprised of flat open pasture, as well as live oak, eucalyptus, and juniper forests. The estate also contains actively farmed avocado and lemon orchards, private canyon trails stretching toward the Santa Ynez mountains, two fresh water creeks, an 18 acre reservoir, and over 10,000 feet of private access oceanfront with sandy beaches.

The term “luxurious ranch” may seem paradoxical at first glance, but a further look at Las Varas shows us that the term is fitting: its current structures include the owner’s hacienda, ranch manager’s cottage, Victorian-era guest house, horse barn corral, mechanics cottages, and multiple outbuildings dating back to the 1920’s. The property affords plenty of room for new construction given its ample 1,800 total acres, of which 520 are open to the Pacific Ocean.

This is the first time the property has been offered for sale in over 50 years. Since its original $200 million listing, the ranch’s price has consistently dropped – first to $108 million and more recently to $80 million. Despite its attachment to a morally questionable history, the listing, which is currently held by Kerry Mormann at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, is nothing short of a picturesque slice of California beachfront heaven.

Brokered via Douglas Elliman.