Randall House, Highway 1
Image by Jeff Boyd
This spooky place is right on the side of scenic Highway 1, a few miles south of Olema, CA. It’s pretty isolated, and there are no other buildings of any kind nearby.
I’ve driven by this place a number of times, each time noting how weird it was that this big, beautiful 19th century farmhouse is sitting out in the middle of nowhere, boarded up and abandoned. I’ve always wondered what the story behind this place is, and as Jen and I drove past it yesterday, I was compelled to stop and get some pictures. There’s a locked gate and barbed wire fence between the highway and the house, which I had to circumvent in order to get these shots. It’s almost a perfect setting for a bad horror movie.
The whole area around the house is almost indescribable. Not necessarily creepy, but definitely weird. Even though this was obviously someone’s home at one time, you feel as if you’re the first human to set foot there in decades. I saw a healthy-looking coyote strut through the back yard as I approached, and accidentally broke up what appeared to be a large quail convention as i walked around the southeast corner.
After doing some research online, I learned that this is the historic Randall House, built in 1880 by prosperous dairy owner Sarah Randall after her husband was murdered. Not surprisingly, the story behind the house is pretty interesting:
Perhaps to accommodate Raymond’s growing family, Mrs. Randall had a larger house built east of the county road, across the road from the dairy buildings. The exact date of construction is unclear; the 1880 census does not reflect an outstanding improvement in the value of the buildings there. One report states that Mrs. Randall began construction in 1880 and completed the house in 1881. The two-story Victorian, with elegant trim and ample space, became a showplace in the Olema Valley and still stands today. According to the county newspaper, Sarah Randall planned to have a new barn built in 1884.
A fire in 1890 destroyed most of the pasture and fences on the ranch; the newspaper called 10-year-old Lottie Randall "the little heroine" of the disaster. Mrs. Randall apparently returned to the ranch and lived alone there in later years but was eventually persuaded by her children to leave and live with them in town. Sarah Seaver Randall died on January 24, 1907, and left the ranch to her grown children Elizabeth Tripp, William, Fanny Tullar, Raymond and Mary Clifford.
The Randall House is the lone survivor of the legacy of William and Sarah Randall. The couple are among the earliest American settlers in the Olema Valley; the story of Mrs. Randall’s operation of the ranch and raising a large family after becoming widowed contributes significance in the area of women and the development of the west. The ranch may be regionally significant for its contribution to the 19th century dairy industry in the Olema Valley, an industry that provided food products to a growing San Francisco during the later years of the Gold Rush.
The superintendent of Point Reyes National Seashore had the remaining barns and outbuildings removed soon after the purchase and intended to demolish the unoccupied Randall House. The keeper of the National Register of Historic Places declared the house eligible for the National Register in 1979, spurring the park to attempt historic leasing on the old house. This effort failed through the lack of acceptable proposals, and again the house faced demolition. Discovery in the 1980s of a rare big-eared bat colony in the attic has given the place at least a temporary reprieve.
The place sat silent for years, and vandals stole everything that wasn’t nailed down (and even some that was). Thankfully, it’s now maintained by the Point Reyes National Seashore park staff and will probably be spared from demolition because it’s full of bats.
It’s too bad it isn’t being preserved for other reasons, but I guess that’ll do for now. Maybe someday it’ll be restored and reopened as a high-end Marin County inn and spa, where you can sip chardonnay and relax in a tub of fresh bat guano.
Other folks have posted some pretty neat photos of this place on Flickr. There are also some really cool-sounding historical photos of the house in existence somewhere, which I would love to see. If you have any additional photos or info regarding this place, please comment.
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