A True California Treasure
The Kemper Campbell Ranch is a private estate and working cattle ranch located in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. Hidden in a secluded oasis, the Ranch boasts views of the cottonwood forest bordering the Mojave River, the stunning ro formations of the Mojave Narrows, the High Desert with its Joshua Trees, sage brush and desert succulents, and the Ranch's idyllic green pastures—all against a mountain backdrop. Our adobe Main House, built in 1929, has been featured in architectural publications and books including Rancho Deluxe and Mediterranean Houses in America, and was used as the setting for the Netflix movie, Mank, winner of two Academy Awards in 2021. Once a guest ranch that hosted stars from Old Hollywood, the Ranch has once again opened its doors.
Nearly a century in the making
The Ranch was acquired in 1924 by Kemper and Litta Belle Campbell, both attorneys practicing law in Los Angeles. At the time, it was called the North Verde Ranch. In 1929, the Campbells enlisted John Byers, the well-known architect and builder noted for use of the Spanish Colonial revival style, to design their home on the Ranch. The Main House was built of adobe bricks made from materials on the Ranch and dried in the sun, using the same method as the Monterey-style homes of early California. Shortly after the Main House was built, the Campbells decided to relocate and make the Ranch their family's primary residence. They raised their children there, while they continued to split their time between Victorville and Los Angeles.
Over the years, the Ranch served many functions. For varying periods of time, the family had a successful dairy business, ran cattle for beef, and raised alfalfa, among other things. In the 1930's, after years of hosting friends, the Campbells opened the guest ranch. Guests could ride horses, play tennis, and enjoy the three meals served every day in the Main House dining rooms. The Ranch hosted all sorts of guests, from family friends to Old Hollywood stars (John Wayne, Greer Garson, Groucho Marx and Greta Garbo, to name a few), all eager to escape the bustle of Los Angeles without having to travel too far. Notably, a large portion of the screenplay for the Orson Welles' cinematic masterpiece, Citizen Kane, was written at the Ranch by Herman Mankiewicz in 1940. (This has been recently dramatized in Netflix's Acadamy Award-winning 2020 film, Mank, directed by David Fincher, and starring Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, and Lily Collins. Mank tells Mankiewicz's story as he sets out to write Citizen Kane, and includes various scenes shot at the Ranch, where the events actually took place. Mank won Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Production Design, and was nominated in eight other categories, including Best Picture.) The Ranch was renamed the Kemper Campbell Ranch in 1943, after the Campbells' oldest son Kemper Jr. was killed in a plane crash during World War II.
The family decided to close the guest ranch business in 1976, but the property continues to function as a working cattle ranch. In recent years, the Ranch has opened its doors again as a vacation rental and event space for those who seek its timeless charm and beautiful scenery. The Ranch remains under the ownership of the Campbell family, now the grandsons and great-grandchildren of the couple that started it all.