The Los Angeles Times turns to San Diego County in its Column One feature today with the blazing tale of Rancho Guejito, a spectacular ranch tucked into the hidden hills of North County.

The story traces the life of businessman and international jetsetter Benjamin Coates and the battle for his beloved ranch following his death. An excerpt:

The Pennsylvania-born businessman collected property the way others accumulate Hummel figurines. He owned a Manhattan office building, a hunting estate in Scotland, a Swiss chalet, apartments in Paris, New York and Tokyo. But above all else, he prized Rancho Guejito, Southern California’s last undivided Mexican land grant.

Most people have never heard of Rancho Guejito, in northern San Diego County. Few have seen it. Shielded from view by ridgelines, with only one road leading to a locked gate and a security guard, the ranch is a time capsule from 1845, when Mexico’s California governor awarded the core of it to San Diego’s customs inspector.

Since then, a series of wealthy men ran cattle and used Rancho Guejito (pronounced Weh-HEE-toh) as a private playground. Coates was the last. It was the jewel of a billion-dollar-plus fortune the 86-year-old aristocrat planned to pass down to generations of heirs with instructions that it never be developed.

There’s also an accompanying video on the Timeswebsite, too.


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