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Reagan Ranch Timeline

1872: The Ranch in the 1800s

Since its statehood in 1848, vast acres of California land, including the mountain areas along the coast, had been cleared and settled by ranchers. In 1872, Jose Jesus Pico decides to build a small adobe home for his family, using the clay of the surrounding hills of Refugio Pass, high above the Pacific Ocean. For years, he and his family prosper by growing vegetables, cultivating vineyards, and raising livestock. Finally, in August of 1898, he acquires title to the land through the Homestead Act of 1862.

November 13, 1974: Tip Top Ranch is Purchased

Ronald and Nancy Reagan purchase “Tip Top Ranch” nestled in the Santa Ynez Mountains north of Santa Barbara. They christen the ranch retreat “Rancho del Cielo.” Reagan appreciates both the early history of his beloved “Ranch in the Sky” and the efforts of the man who built it by hand more than 100 years earlier.

January 1975: Reagan’s second term as Governor ends

Ronald Reagan steps down after two successful terms as the 33rd governor of California. The San Francisco Chronicle commends Reagan for having “saved the state from bankruptcy.” The Los Angeles Times hails him as an “accomplished practitioner in the art of government.” Newsweek dubs the governor “one of the most brilliantly gifted politicians anywhere in the U.S. today.”

October 18, 1975: Mike Wallace’s Ranch interview with Reagan

Mike Wallace of CBS’ 60 Minutes interviews Ronald Reagan at Rancho del Cielo. In this segment, titled “Mister Right,” renowned journalist Mike Wallace notes that not only did Mrs. Reagan consider Reagan “Mister Right,” but the American public might as well. A Gallup poll showed Reagan leading incumbent President Gerald Ford by eight points with the 1976 presidential election not far away. Sitting with Reagan atop one of the Ranch’s sweeping vistas, Wallace asks him why a man who has “got it made” would want to give it up for the presidency. “Somebody once said that life begins when you begin to serve,” answers Reagan. “Maybe there’s a feeling that if you can be of service, that you feel you have to do it.”

Harkening back to FDR’s fireside chats, Reagan tells Wallace how he admired Roosevelt’s ability to take his case to the people, to “enlighten” them directly. “The greatest leader,” concludes Reagan, “is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He’s the one who gets the people to do the greatest things. And that’s what’s lacking now.”

August 19, 1976: Reagan loses the GOP nomination

Reagan barely loses the delegate count to incumbent President Gerald Ford at the 1976 Republican National Convention. In an emotional speech, Reagan awes the crowd. Biographer Edmund Morris later writes: “The power of the speech was extraordinary. And you could just feel throughout the auditorium the palpable sense among the delegates that [they had] nominated the wrong guy.”

May 27, 1977: Reagan inscribes initials in Heart Rock

One day in May 1977, as the Reagans ride their horses together along a trail at the Ranch overlooking the Pacific, Ronald Reagan stops to engrave his and Nancy’s initials in a rock now known as “Heart Rock.” He also gives Mrs. Reagan a canoe named “Truluv” to use on Lake Lucky.

January 20, 1981: Reagan is inaugurated

Ronald Reagan is inaugurated the 40th president of the United States. The new president pledges an “era of national renewal.” He says that if Americans believe in themselves, then they, together with God’s help, could resolve the problems confronting them. “And after all, why shouldn’t we believe that?” says Reagan, “We are Americans.” Only minutes later, 52 Americans fly to freedom after a 444-day ordeal as hostages to the Ayatollah’s theocracy in Iran.

March 30, 1981: The assassination attempt on Reagan’s life

At 2:25 p.m., while exiting the Washington Hilton, Ronald Reagan is greeted by a barrage of bullets fired from the revolver of John Hinckley. Unbeknownst to the public, Reagan nearly bleeds to death at The George Washington University Hospital. Upon his recovery, he informs close friends and family that he believes God spared his life for a special purpose. He tells New York’s Terence Cardinal Cooke: “I have decided that whatever time I have left is for Him.”

June 27, 1981: The Bushes visit the Ranch

Vice President George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara visit the Ranch, arriving at approximately 2:00 p.m. on a Saturday. The Texans have never seen a ranch anywhere in the Lone Star state quite like Rancho del Cielo. The president and vice president meet to discuss the latter’s recent trip to western Europe. This is the first of several visits to the Ranch by Vice President Bush.

August 12, 1981: Reagan hosts a barbecue for Seabees at the Ranch

In a day that includes a chat with Secretary of State Alexander Haig, horseback riding, chopping wood and clearing brush, the Reagans host a barbecue for the Seabee Navy Construction Battalion that assisted with construction of temporary structures at the Ranch–the facilities necessary for transforming Rancho del Cielo into the Western White House.

August 13, 1981: The signing of the Economic Recovery Tax Act

In a ceremony at Rancho del Cielo, Ronald Reagan signs the Economic Recovery Tax Act. He secures a 25% across-the-board reduction in federal income tax rates over a three-year period starting in October 1981. Eventually, through this and subsequent cuts, the upper income marginal tax rate is reduced from 70% to 28%.

November 24, 1981: Barbara Walters interviews Reagan at the Ranch

Barbara Walters interviews Ronald Reagan at the Ranch for a television special, “Ronald Reagan: At Home on the Ranch, a Personal Portrait,” broadcast on Thanksgiving Day 1981 by ABC’s 20/20. The show includes not only interviews with Ronald and Nancy Reagan but also children Ron, Patti, and Maureen Reagan and brother Neil Reagan, and friends and associates. Walters and Reagan talked about a mixture of public policy–the budget crisis, the tax reduction, and the assassination attempt eight months earlier. “We have a great deal to be thankful for,” said Reagan. He says of the Ranch, “It casts a spell. There’s such a sense of seclusion, and I suppose it’s the scriptural line that, “I look to the hills from whence cometh my strength.”

March 2, 1983: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visit the Ranch

Ronald Reagan hosts Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at the Ranch. The day of the Royal visit is very rainy and the winding road to the mountaintop retreat is barely passable, yet the Queen insists on making the journey. The visit is spent indoors by the warmth of the fireplace stoked with wood that Reagan has cut.

March 8, 1983: Reagan gives his “Evil Empire” speech

In a speech in Orlando, Florida to the National Association of Evangelicals, Ronald Reagan calls the Soviet Union “the focus of evil in the modern world”–an “Evil Empire.” At the Permanent Labor Camp 35 deep within the Soviet gulag, Anatoly Sharansky and his cellmates hear the news and rejoice that, at last, someone in the West has spoken the truth about the USSR.

September 1, 1983: Soviets shoot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007

At Rancho del Cielo, Reagan learns from National Security Adviser Bill Clark that a Soviet fighter aircraft blasted a South Korean commercial airliner Flight 007 out of the sky, en route from New York City to Seoul, killing 269 passengers–including 61 Americans. The Soviets initially deny responsibility, but later admit their guilt.

August 11, 1984: Reagan “Outlaws” Russia

Prior to his radio address from the Ranch, Reagan, not knowing that the microphone is ‘open,’ makes a humorous remark about Russia, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” In his diaries Reagan writes about the ‘open mic’ incident saying:

On one of them I gave the press an opening to display their irresponsibility which they did. Doing a ‘voice level’ with no thought that anyone other than the few people in the room would hear I ad-libbed jokingly something about the Soviets. The networks had a line open and recorded it and of course made it public–hence an international incident.

April 14, 1987: Secretary of State George Shultz visits Moscow

At the Ranch at 1:45 p.m. President Reagan receives a call from Secretary of State George Shultz in Moscow where he had been meeting with the Soviets on arms negotiations. After meetings in Moscow and Brussels, Shultz flies to the Ranch, where he arrives on April 16 to discuss his efforts. After convening inside the house, Reagan and Shultz greet the press, to whom the president reads a statement. “It is my hope,” says Reagan, “that the process now underway continues to move forward and that Mr. Gorbachev and I can complete a historic agreement on East-West relations at a summit meeting.”

June 12, 1987: Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany

At the Brandenburg Gate, Ronald Reagan directs these words to the leader of the Soviet Union: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” On Moscow television, Georgi Arbatov denounces Reagan’s words as “political vulgarity” and “blackmail by an American cowboy.” A year later at the Moscow Summit, Reagan makes his request to Gorbachev in person. Gorbachev says that he “[cannot] agree with the president’s view.”

December 8, 1987: Washington Summit: INF Treaty is signed

At the Washington Summit, Reagan and Gorbachev sign the INF Treaty, the first and only treaty to successfully ban an entire class of nuclear weapons, namely medium-range missiles. The agreement fulfills Reagan’s first-term objective of a “zero-zero” balance on these weapons.

May 3, 1992: The Gorbachevs visit the Ranch

The Reagans host Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev at the Ranch. Only five months earlier, on December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned as leader of the Soviet Union, thereby also permanently disbanding the USSR itself–its principal part is once again just Russia. The Evil Empire has at long last been resigned to the ash-heap of history. For the first time, the two former superpower leaders enjoy a friendly day not as adversaries or negotiators but now as friends who changed the world.

February 7, 1993: Lady Margaret Thatcher visits the Ranch

On the foggy day in February following the celebration of the President’s birthday at the Reagan Presidential Library the previous night, Lady Margaret Thatcher, 71st Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, visits the Reagans at the Ranch. Lady Thatcher is gracious as she tours the humble ranch home and pauses in front of the fireplace to express her joy at finally being able to visit Reagan’s beloved presidential retreat. As they chat about the weather, the Reagans apologize for the foggy conditions to which she remarks, “I love the fog.” She asks about the home and its history. The President tells her about the history of the property and what they have done to improve it over the years.

July 25 - 31, 1993: Reagan speaks to the Young America’s Foundation Summer Conference

Reagan addresses Young America’s Foundation’s 15th Annual National Conservative Student Conference. Recalling his longtime collaboration with the Foundation the 40th president says, “Together we worked to accomplish much of what has come to be known as the Reagan Revolution. We helped turn the tide against totalitarianism.” In those 15 years, says Reagan, he and they have witnessed a rebirth of liberty worldwide.

November 5, 1994: Reagan informs the world of his Alzheimer’s Disease

Ronald Reagan releases a handwritten letter informing the world that the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease is leading him into “the sunset” of his life. “When the Lord calls me home,” he writes, “I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.”

August 15, 1995: Reagan visits the Ranch for the last time

Ronald Reagan makes his final visits to Rancho del Cielo during the hot days of late August. Where he had previously enjoyed physical activities such as horseback riding, cutting brush and fixing things, the activities he can do with ease become fewer and fewer. Since the president can no longer enjoy Ranch activities as he once did, the time has come to say farewell to his beloved mountaintop retreat, an ‘old friend’ that has served him well for nearly twenty-one historic and memorable years spanning his governorship to his post-presidency.

April 21, 1998: Rancho del Cielo is saved by Young America’s Foundation

Rancho del Cielo is sold to the Young America’s Foundation. The Ranch is now preserved as it was when President Reagan owned it, having been saved with most original artifacts and memorabilia intact. It now lives on as a monument to the life and ideas of Ronald Reagan.

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