11 Most Endangered Historic Places
Ridgewood Ranch, Home of Seabiscuit
Year Listed: 2004
Location: Willits, California
Threat: Deterioration, Development
Nestled among oak and redwood-studded hillsides, Northern California's Ridgewood Ranch was the home –- and is the final resting place -- of a great American horseracing legend, Seabiscuit. . Located in rural Mendocino County, between the towns of Ukiah and Willits, Ridgewood Ranch comprises 4,600 acres of working farmland, forests, streams, and redwoods and a 90-acre central area featuring more than 25 historic structures associated with owners William Van Arsdale (1903-1909) and Charles S. Howard (1921-1951), Seabiscuit's owner. The diverse cultural resources at Ridgewood Ranch include over two-dozen buildings and man-made features such as trails, bridges, a gravity-fed Pelton water wheel and reservoir, a 19th Century stagecoach road and cemetery, and a railway station, as well as vestiges of Native American habitation. These elements all exist in the context of the overarching 5,000-acre ranch and woodland property.
Over time, Howard transformed the one-time cattle ranch into a thoroughbred horse facility unparalleled in California. It was here in the Walker Valley that an improbable winning trio - owner Howard, jockey Red Pollard and trainer Tom Smith - nursed an ailing racehorse back to health in 1939 after a serious injury. Seabiscuit's recuperation at the ranch set into motion events that culminated in his electrifying, third-try, blaze-of-glory finish at Santa Anita Racetrack in 1940. Depression-era America was enthralled; the unassuming brown horse's unexpected winning streak seemed to reflect the fragile hopes and indomitability of a nation subdued by adversity. Laura Hilllenbrand's book Seabiscuit: An American Legend (2001), and the later Academy Award-nominated movie based upon it, have introduced new generations to the inspirational tale.