Walking Tour

We invite you to stroll around our historic ranch.
Begin by walking up the driveway from the main parking lot.
On your right, you’ll see…

Edgar W. Stow’s Office/Laboratory

The concrete building foundation in front of you is the site of Edgar W. Stow’s (1885-1949) Office/Laboratory. Stow was a leading figure in the commercial lemon growing industry in the Goleta Valley during his tenure as the Rancho La Patera manager, from 1915 to 1949. After purchasing the laboratory equipment from a defunct kelp processing plant in the early 1920s he set up his own “experiment station” in this wood frame structure. Stow spent many years in his laboratory conducting trials to determine the most productive lemon tree buds and rootstalks; developing his own insecticide spray formula; and devising his own tree pruning and spraying rigs that were manufactured in the ranch shop. He was recognized by the California Citrograph magazine in 1936 for his improvements to the ranch’s lemon production, water-saving irrigation techniques, and scientific ranching practices.

The Office/Laboratory building was moved from this location to the nearby Stow Ranch property on Cathedral Oaks Road in 1966 where it is still in use as the ranch office. Edgar W. Stow was elected to the State Assembly in 1923 and the State Senate in 1932. Stow did not agree with the nation’s prohibition of alcohol during the years1920-1933, so he planted a grape vineyard, pressed the fruit himself, and excavated a wine cellar beneath the Stow House.

Stow House 1872

The Stow House was built in c. 1872 by Sherman P. Stow (1851-1907). Stow was the son of William W. Stow (1825-1895), an influential San Francisco railroad attorney who in 1871 purchased 1,043 acres of La Patera Tract land in Goleta where his son could establish and manage a ranch. The Carpenter Gothic Style structure is believed to have been designed by

Frank Walker, a Bay Area architect. It was home to Sherman and his wife, Ida G. Stow (1851-1927), and their six children. Sherman built the Rancho La Patera into a very successful operation by pioneering in the development of commercial lemon growing and agricultural irrigation in the Goleta Valley. Under his stewardship Stow Lake was first enlarged and numerous ranch structures were erected, including the four buildings located behind the Stow House. Subsequent Stow family descendants lived in the house and managed the ranch until 1966.   The Goleta Valley Historical Society has cared for the house since 1967. The Stow House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Bunkhouse was built in 1914 by Sherman H. Stow (1876-1915), the manager of the Rancho La Patera, 1907-1915. Stow created the two-story building by stacking one single story structure on top of another. The second floor, with vertical board and batten siding and tin roofing, probably dates to the 1870s and was originally attached to rear of the Stow House where its four rooms were occupied by the Stow family’s domestic workers. Male Chinese immigrant cooks and laundrymen, whose numbers varied from one to three, were among the workers who occupied these rooms from the 1870s to the 1930s. The first floor, with horizontal board siding, was built in 1914 and was used as the Stow family food pantry. The Bunkhouse, which is a physical reminder of the contributions of immigrants to Goleta Valley culture and history, is now occupied by the Goleta Valley Historical Society’s Archives and Administration Center.

Ida G. Stow Memorial Arboretum

The Ida G. Stow Memorial Arboretum commemorates the restored historic gardens and landscaping surrounding the Stow House. They were established by Ida G. Stow (1851-1927) in the 1870s and improved by succeeding Stow family descendents in the early twentieth century. The gardens reflect the Picturesque Style of landscaping that featured naturalistic settings composed of large irregularly-shaped lawns edged with densely planted groups of exotic trees, shrubs, and plants imported from throughout the world. They are a rare surviving example of a gardening style that was popular among Victorian Era ranchers in California.

The Ida G. Stow Memorial Arboretum gardens were restored by the Goleta Valley Historical Society in 2013-2014. The Picturesque Style gardens are characterized by their diverse array of tropical and subtropical plantings, including specimen trees, such as: Norfolk Island Pine (South Pacific), Canary Date Palm (Canary Island), Lemon Eucalyptus (Australia), Chilean Wine Palm (Chile), and Bunya-Bunya Pine (Australia). How many can you identify? The Coast Redwood tree (California and Oregon) located to the east of the Stow House, was given to Ida G. Stow as a seedling by her husband, Sherman P. Stow (1851-1907), for their wedding anniversary.

Ranch Yard & Packing Shed (1880)

The Packing and Storage Shed was built c. 1880 by Sherman P. Stow (1851-1907) to process, package, and store the large variety of crops grown on the Rancho La Patera. These crops included walnuts, almonds, lemons, and lima beans. The redwood-sided structure played a vital role in the ranch’s production and shipment of agricultural products for several decades. Visible architectural features, such as the roofed front loading dock, large rolling and swinging doors, and air vents in the gables, provide clues to how the structure was once used. The building is now the Goleta Valley Historical Society’s History Education Center.
Beyond Rancho La Patera, enjoy views of Lake Los Carneros (formerly referred to as “Stow Pond.” With miles of pathways, native birds and wildlife, the Lake Los Carneros Natural & Historical Preserve has much to see. Enjoy!