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Tuesday, August 20, 2019


Cottage lane on the grounds of the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.
By Connie Clotfelter—We’ve had many special people live on the Ranch (localese for the community of Rancho Santa Fe, north of San Diego).  Some were from politics, many from business, some from the entertainment world.  

One of the best known worldwide was Howard Hughes.  Yes, he called Rancho Santa Fe home between December 1960 and November 1961.

Hughes, an iconic industrialist, aviator, film studio and airline owner and Las Vegas casino mogul, leased a private cottage on the grounds of the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.  The cottage owners only used it during the summer.  The large Hughes entourage was also housed at the Inn—doctor, valet, bodyguards. 

He liked the arrangement so well that when the owners were ready to use their own quarters, he would not leave.  The owners spoke up, “our clothes and the possessions we need are in one locked closet.  We want them and our place back.”

Hughes sent word and money, “Go buy more things and other rooms.”

This couldn’t go on so an unfinished residence on the far northern side of the ranch was found for him to lease as soon as it was finished. But until it was completed he had to deal with the current cottage owners.  Hughes didn’t want to buy—just lease, so he told the owners to “go take a trip and paid them a fabulous price to continue leasing the cottage so he wouldn’t have to move.

He semi-settled in with his wife, Jean Peters.  She had space for a ceramics kiln and a room for sewing and handwork.  Nobody knew what he did besides work (perhaps) or fly a helicopter from there to wherever he needed to be.
Although, he wasn’t there all the time his wife and bodyguards were.  The latter were very diligent in leading their dull lives of sitting in space cars at various approaches to the grounds, caring for the guard dogs and keeping everyone away.  Even neighbors who owned nearby property or lived fairly near were carefully scrutinized—often challenged.  A special helicopter was able to land and take off on a spot near the house.

One neighbor who walked her dog every morning about six a.m. reported encountering another walker occasionally who never spoke.  She described him as being tall, slim, dark-haired and wearing a sweatshirt, old white pants, and tennis shoes.  Hughes was 6-4. Since no one in the area answered that description, all concluded she had seen the famous “invisible man.”

After two years the owners of the cottage were able to reclaim it as suddenly and oddly as they had left it.  They’ve lived there normally ever since.

A graduate of Millis College, who also completed post-grad work at UC Berkeley completed “Echoes of Rancho Santa Fe,” in 1985.  The above excerpt is from that work.   Long-time San Diego area journalist, Neil Morgan wrote in the introduction that when Constance Clotfelter came to Rancho Santa Fe in 1931, the area was “a small somewhat cliquish village surrounded by scrub-covered hills.”  She arrived one year into her marriage with her husband Reginald, who had been assigned to manage a small in called La Morada, and to oversee sales for the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company. 

La Morada became the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.  Connie and Reginald stayed for years into the future.  She has been called the area’s most persistent historian.

Paul Winn, who claims to have worked for Howard Hughes from 1957 until his death in 1976 says online that he was with the Hughes’ in Rancho Santa Fe from Christmas 1960 until Thanksgiving, 1961.     

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