The fascinating story of Rancho Los Laureles – now the popular Los Laureles Lodge dates back to the early 1830s when it was deeded to Señor Jose Boronda by the Mexican government. It was one of the largest of those early land grants, roughly 7,000 acres. Jose and his wife Juana raised 15 children on this picturesque rancho. The rancho was famous for its hospitality, many happy fiestas, good cattle and wheat. Señor Boronda also raised the standard of fine cheese making by developing the now famous Monterey Jack Cheese.
Several stories are told about the origin of that name. One was that the brothers of Monterey marketed it. And some say that the real reason for the name was that Señor Boronda put the curds into nail kegs and used a house jack to squeeze out the whey and so the stories go.
The Pacific Improvement Company built the Del Monte Hotel in 1879 and also acquired several thousand acres of the Rancho Los Laureles area. At that time, and even after Del Monte Properties bought the property in 1915, the Rancho Los Laureles was the place for many visiting dignitaries from other countries. The guests from the Del Monte Hotel were transported by tallyho coaches when there was little or no sun along the coast.
In the early ‘30s, Muriel “Vanderbilt” Phelps bought the Rancho and converted the former Carriage House into a Ranch House and added extensive stables for her thoroughbred racehorses. She did a great deal of entertaining and was known to be a most gracious hostess. She also built the large swimming pool (still in operation) at the front of her house (now the restaurant), and had tons of salt added to the water periodically so her guests could enjoy an “ocean” swim in sunny Carmel Valley.
She sold the place approximately 10 years later and it was converted into a resort. The picture window in one of the dining rooms, frames a view reminiscent of one of the oldest oak trees in the state, estimated to have been standing approximately 150 years prior to the time that Columbus discovered the New World. The magnificent frame on the large painting, in the cocktail lounge (once Muriel’s living room) is over 100 years old and is an actual window that once graced the original Spreckel’s building. The lady in the portrait … Well, all that can be said is that the painting is by our local well-known artist Bruce Ariss – and that it is one of a famous movie star (then a starlet) who shall remain nameless…