Best of 2000: Best Hacienda In The County

Rancho Guajome, Vista
(760) 724-4082

Plenty of Spanish hacienda relics remain in San Diego County. Rancho Guajome ("Frog pond") is still out there. The suburban world hasn't closed in and made it look like a caged bear. You can just see houses lipping the surrounding hills, but that's it. Guajome's valley looks as it did in the 1850s, when Cave Johnson Couts, an Anglo on the make, brought his Mexican bride Ysidora Bandini out from Old Town to be queen of its 2200 acres and its 7000-square-foot, 28-room adobe casa and private chapel. The two turned the rancho into the social and cultural center of the North County. Folks said their grand fiestas attracted the social elite from the entire state. At the same time, Couts's harshness toward his Indian workers is legendary to this day. It helped inspire Helen Hunt Jackson to write Ramona. Now, the county has done a sensitive restoration. The 150-year-old courtyard's climbing rose thrives. Carriages left behind sit in the barn. And the frog pond and fields remain intact.

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