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Bates Ranch Hotel
updated: May 31, 2014, 11:00 AM

By David Powdrell

I've learned that life throws some really great adventures your way if you keep your eyes wide open and get a little lucky every now and then.

So here's the deal…I'm an old time surfer, still fascinated by California surf folklore. Recently, as part of the Carpinteria Home and Garden Tour, I got the opportunity to photograph a home rich in California surf history, the historic Bates Ranch House.

In 1882, Dr. Charles Bell Bates, the first doctor of Santa Barbara County, purchased the 1,200 acre parcel from an original Spanish land grant. This property extended from the Carpinteria foothills down to the ocean and included half of Rincon point.

Dr. Bates must have been a character; he was known to have made house calls traveling on his unicycle.

Dr. Bates' son, R.W. Bates, was a volunteer ambulance driver in World War I, working alongside Ernest Hemmingway. R.W. was injured in the war and sent to Paris for nursing care. There, he fell in love and married his nurse.

In 1928, R. W. and his bride built their dream home, the Bates Ranch House. Using handmade adobe bricks, the five bedroom, six bath home measures approximately 5,000 square feet in size.

The ideal hideaway, renowned artist Richard Sumner Meryman painted in one of the outbuilding studios whenever he visited the property.

Studio where Meryman painted

Local photographer, Steve Bissell, took an unforgettable photograph from the Bates Ranch House that made the pages of Surfer Magazine in 1973. The image shows green rolling hills, a surfer in the foreground, and lines of epic waves wrapping around Rincon Point. "Queen of the Coast", I believe the image was titled, and it captured the imagination of most every surfer.

Steve Bissel 1973 photo

Turning the clock back in my head, I can only imagine the beauty that the Bates family saw when decades of unridden waves on strong north swells rolled around Rincon Point.

As my idol Huell Howser might have said, "This was a classic California gold adventure for me."


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