Former President Ronald Reagan’s posh movie star ranch, which once served as the ‘Western White House,’ opened its doors to select guests for one day only on October 3.
The guests got to see the premises of the 688-acre ranch with a tiny house circa 1872, where the former president would go to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C.
The ranch sits above the Santa Ynez Mountains in Santa Barbara County, and includes a lake, a garage for his trucks and a stable for his horses.
Reagan’s property includes a visitor center complete with exhibits that guests are welcome to visit, but Sunday’s event gave a select few the chance to get a far closer look at he and wife Nancy’s former living quarters.
Reagan was seen in photos during his time as president and governor of California riding his horses on the land, meeting with members of the press and foreign dignitaries and spending time with his family.
Former president Ronald Reagan’s 688-acre ranch includes a lake, a garage for his trucks and a stable for his horses.
It sits atop sits the Santa Ynez Mountains in Santa Barbara County, California
The property features a small house circa 1872, where Reagan would retreat to to get away from the hustle and bustle of DC
The property also included a garage for Reagan to store his trucks and cars
A select group of people got to tour the premises on Sunday. Normally, visitors are only allowed to attend an adjoining visitor center, complete with Reagan-themed exhibitions
The former president bought the ranch in 1974, and christened it Rancho del Cielo.
‘From the first day we saw it, Rancho del Cielo cast a spell over it,’ Reagan once said, according to the Young America’s Foundation. ‘No place before or since has ever given Nancy and me the joy and serenity it does.’
‘There’s something about the wild scenery and serenity of the ranch and the easy gait of the horse beneath me that I find particularly relaxing,’ he said. ‘And while I loved living in the White House, I must confess that nothing in this great wide world of ours quite compares to having a home on the ranch.’
The former president would use the Santa Barbara ranch as a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C. – spending his time cutting wood, clearing brushes, chopping up used telephone poles or riding his horses.
‘There are things that give you a sense of accomplishment,’ Reagan told Barbara Walters in 1981. ‘Things like clearing a trail, pruning a section of woods that has to be done, clearing brush—and then you go at it.’
But Reagan also conducted some official business in the ranch, which soon became known as the Western White House. There, he met with his White House staff, his vice president, George H.W. Bush, and heads of state, including Queen Elizabeth II.
He died in 2004 aged 93, with second wife Nancy dying in 2016 aged 94.
And from the comfort and serenity of the Western White House, Reagan signed important legislation – like the Economic Recovery Tax Act in August 1981, and his decision to fire more than 11,000 striking air-traffic controllers that same month.
The Reagans purchased the ranch in 1974 and christened it Rancho del Cielo
Reagan and his wife Nancy posed with their dog on the ranch for a picture while he was president
A portrait of Ronald Reagan with Nancy and his son Ronnie on the ranch when he was running for governor of California
In an interview, Reagan once said he and Nancy fell in love with the property the first time they saw it
Reagan is pictured enjoying his ranch during the 1980s, having branded it his favorite place to be
Reporters asked Reagan and Nancy questions at the ranch in 1980
In his downtime, Reagan liked to tend to his horses and go horseback riding
He and Nancy also used the site to greet Queen Elizabeth II in 1983
Reagan spent much of his time at the ranch chopping wood
The private tour of his property comes as Reagan’s would-be assassin is facing unconditional release.
Last week, a federal judge ruled that John Hinckley Jr., now 66, could be freed from all his remaining restrictions next year.
Hinckley is now barred from owning a gun, and cannot contact Reagan’s children, other victims or their families, or actress Jodie Foster, who he was obsessed with at the time of the 1981 shooting outside a Washington, DC hotel. And since he moved to Williamsburg, Virginia from a Washington hospital in 2016, he is required to see doctors and therapists for his psychiatric medication and therapy.
But he is no longer showing any symptoms of mental illness, has not exhibited any violent behavior and has had no interest in weapons since 1983, US District Court Judge Paul Friedman ruled on September 27.
‘If he hadn’t tried to kill the president, he would have been unconditionally released a long, long time ago,’ Friedman said, according to the Associated Press. ‘But everybody is comfortable now, after all of the studies, all of the analysis and all of the interviews and all of the experience with Mr. Hinckley.’
Lawyers for the federal government, though, are worried about how he may adapt to living on his own for the first time in 40 years, after he moved out of his mother’s house. She died in July.
‘Mr. Hinckley does have a history of turning inward, and towards isolation,’ Kacie Weston argued, noting that one of his longtime therapists will soon retire, and his therapy group – which has provided him with support and social interaction – is soon ending.
‘All we have to do is wait a few more months and see,’ she said. ‘And we’ll have actual hard data. We’ll have information in real time to see how Mr. Hinckley adapts.’
The plan now is to release Hinckley from all his restrictions in June 2022.
John Hinckley Jr was just 25 when he shot and injured Reagan in 1981. He is now 66 years old, and is facing unconditional release from the restrictions imposed on him
His lawyers said at the time that he was suffering from acute psychosis and he was ordered to live at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington
The shooting outside of a Washington hotel injured Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy. Reagan was shot in the arm, and spent several days in hospital
He was just 25 when he shot and injured the 40th president outside a Washington hotel. The shooting left Reagan’s press secretary James Brady paralyzed, and injured Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty.
His lawyers at the time argued he was suffering from acute psychosis, and when jurors found him not guilty by reason of insanity, they said he needed treatment, and he was ordered to live at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington.
In the 2000s, he began visiting his parents’ house in Williamsburg, and a 2016 court order granted him permission to live with his mom full-time after experts said he had been in remission for decades.
Hinckley is still barred from traveling to places where he knows there will be Secret Service, and must give officials three days notice if he wants to travel more than 75 miles from his home. He also has to turn over passwords for computers, phones and online accounts, but can now display his artwork publicly and share his music on YouTube.
He was not present at the court hearing last week, the AP reports, but his attorney, Barry Levine, said Hinckley wanted to express his ‘heartfelt’ apologies and ‘profound’ regret to the people he shot and their families, as well as to Jodie Foster and the American people.
‘Perhaps it is to much to ask for forgiveness,’ Levine said. ‘But we hope they have an understanding that the acts that caused him to do this terrible thing [were caused by] mental illness.’
‘I would hope that people will see this as a victory for mental health,’ he continued. ‘That is the real message in this case – that people who have been ravaged by mental disease with good support and access to treatments can actually become productive members of society.’