El Rancho Robles – restored to its old glory

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By John Hernandez

A hidden treasure in Oracle has been brought back to life thanks to a new owner who had a vision of the past.

El Rancho de los Robles (the Oak Ranch) was built by Charles and Helen Gilliland in the early 1920s. They also were responsible through their generous donations in having St. Helen’s Catholic Church built in 1927.

Rancho Robles, as it became known, was a dude ranch in the late 1920s. Within a few years it was one of the area’s most popular dude ranches. Over the years it has changed owners and uses, changing from a dude ranch to guest ranch and apartment rentals.

It now has a new owner and has undergone some major renovations and upgrades while keeping its southwestern ranch charm.

The new owner is Blake Campbell. Blake is from Albany, New York where he built custom homes for city people out in the suburbs and country. He did custom home design and built lake homes as well as restored old homes. He once restored a 200 year old colonial home.

“It was totally exciting to find an old historical building here in Oracle,” Blake said of Rancho Robles.

Two of Blake’s work crew followed him from New York and have been working restoring the old ranch and guest rooms.

El Rancho Robles opened in October as a group and corporate ranch retreat and special event venue.

Blake would like to expose the place to the public.

“Some people who have lived in Oracle did not even know it was here,” he said. “This is a great place to enjoy myself and have people enjoy the place also.”

Blake would like to have the community involved in the ranch. He would like to see local artists and vendors get involved with the ranch and have it enhance the town of Oracle.

There are some, though, who knew of the ranch’s existence. One morning, Blake said, he walked out of the main house and found 12 Apaches underneath a large oak tree in front of the house.

“They were harvesting acorns,” he exclaimed. “Where else can you have something like that happen?” Blake said he helped pick the acorns and talked with them. The ranch is surrounded by centuries old oak trees. The Apache people have been harvesting the acorns (bellotas) in Oracle for hundreds of years.

El Rancho Robles is the ideal location for group retreats for businesses, corporate meetings, workshops, spiritual retreats or intimate gatherings. It is a great place for weddings or family reunions. This historical ranch set in the beautiful hills of Oracle combines nature with elegance and charm to form a unique setting for people to gather together and enjoy themselves and their surroundings. Groups enjoy the private use of the ranch plus their own personal chef who can customize meals for everyone’s enjoyment. David Raneri, formerly a chef at a Napa Valley bistro and one of the co-owners of the popular Patio Café in Oracle, prepares healthy flavorful menus for retreat guests. He can prepare meals to accommodate individual needs. He can cook outstanding meals for vegans, vegetarians, gluten free and special dietary needs as well as gourmet meals. The all inclusive prices for groups include three meals a day plus snacks. David and his wife Stacy will be coordinating and managing the special events and retreats.

Blake says he would like to hold different types of events at the ranch that the public can come and enjoy. He talked about possibly having a jazz or blues festival. Other types of music concerts or arts and crafts shows are also being considered. El Rancho Robles recently hosted a photo shoot and fashion show for Mrs. Tinkler’s Evening Wear, LLC., out of Tempe. Right before Christmas, “Holidays at the Ranch” brought Santa Claus out for the kids to visit and have their picture taken with him. They also got to enjoy hayrides, food and some other fun events.

For more information about El Rancho Robles visit them at www.elranchorobles.com; email: info@elranchorobles.com or contact Stacy at (520)896-7651 or stacy@elranchorobles.com. El Rancho Robles is also on Facebook.

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