Edith Johnson

Treasures of the Vanderlip Ranch House

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Don Christy

Don Christy, proprietor of the Vanderlip Ranch House and author of Up Around the Bend.

Less than half a decade shy of its centennial, the Vanderlip Ranch House – also called the Old Ranch Cottage –remains richly saturated in the eclectic design aesthetic of its original owners and their descendants. Renaissance Italian furniture, Neoclassical French cabinetry, Qing-era Chinese objets d’art, and twentieth-century Americana represent just a few of the diverse genres elegantly united within the home’s interiors.

Built in 1916 as a vacation home for the family of New York financier Frank A. Vanderlip Sr., posthumously remembered as the founding father of Palos Verdes, the Ranch House was the inaugural construction in what Vanderlip Sr. hoped would become an Italianate artisan colony.

“He had grand ideas for this place,” explains Don Christy, stepson of Vanderlip Sr.’s youngest child, John, and current proprietor of the Ranch House.

In his forthcoming book, Up Around the Bend, Christy interweaves local history into an autobiographical account of growing up here. The oldest home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the Ranch House seems to reign over Portuguese Bend from its perch atop Vanderlip Drive, a winding, private road lined with lush Brazilian pepper trees planted by Vanderlip Sr. himself.

“He was like a Johnny Appleseed,” says Christy.

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The original front door to the four-bedroom home is still in place, although its use has been limited to formal occasions and parties. It features a decorative grill of filigreed metalwork depicting peacocks. (An identical door grill also adorns the dining room-patio door.) While the peacock motif was ubiquitous in turn-of-the-century art nouveau décor, the Ranch House’s door grills may have been inspired by Louis Comfort Tiffany’s famous Peacock Doors from Chicago’s exclusive C.D. Peacock jewelry store. Having worked as a reporter and financial editor at the Chicago Tribune during the 1880s and 1890s, Vanderlip Sr. most likely knew of the Tiffany doors, which were installed around the same time.

Today, guests to the Ranch House enter the home through a side door, traversing a small, checker-floored entry vestibule before beginning their visit in the kitchen. Organizing social calls around food comes naturally to Christy, who cites his mother’s French, Greek and Italian heritage as responsible for this gastronomical inclination.

“We like to feed you first,” he explains.

A rustic, walnut trestle table with charming heart-shaped cutouts served as the family breakfast table during Christy’s childhood. Dating to the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, the table is one of several pieces from Vanderlip Sr.’s European furniture collection, which he had shipped to Palos Verdes to outfit the Ranch House.

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