Ficus macrophylla

The McRae/Albright Ranch House in Spring Valley, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Out & About San Diego


I love it when I can mix history, nature, and photography all in the same expedition.

Yesterday morning I went exploring in an area of San Diego County that I thought I knew well. Well, well, well…. Not so well it turns out.

I was cruising down Highway 94 when I saw a big tree off to the right. Now I’ve driven Highway 94 thousands of times in the past ten years and have never noticed this tree:

Ficus macrophylla


That is a Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla). According to that white plaque at the lower right, that tree was planted in 1874 and is the oldest of its kind in California and the second largest (the largest is in Balboa Park but is only 90 years old), having a 35′ girth, a 54′ height, and a 109′ canopy spread.

The house, the McRae/Albright Ranch House, was built in 1872 by Daniel and John McRae, is a California State Historic Site. It was the premier Victorian ranch house in the Spring Valley area at the time, and the McRae Ranch was the first commercial orange and lemon grove in the area.

The property was purchased in 1910 by acclaimed architect Harrison Albright. Albright designed the famous West Baden Springs Hotel in West Baden, Indiana, which, at the time of its construction, boasted the largest free-spanning dome in the world. After Albrights moved to California, he designed many now-historic buildings in San Diego, including the Balboa Park Organ Pavilion (the largest outdoor organ in the world), the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego, the Spreckels Theatre, the Spreckels Mansion, and the Coronado Library. All of these historic buildings will be featured in upcoming blog posts.

Here are a couple of pictures of the Ranch House and the typical tree roots of a Moreton Bay Fig:

McRae/Albright Ranch House


McRae/Albright Ranch House


The Moreton Bay Fig is a strangler fig, meaning that seeds sprout in the branches of the tree. Seedlings live as epiphytes while they send roots down to the ground. Those roots eventually will strangle the parent tree if left alone.

Albright was also an early proponent of reinforced concrete construction. His annex to the Homer Laughlin Building in downtown Los Angeles was that city’s first reinforced concrete building. In the following picture, you can see a rectangular pool under the tree. It is a reinforced concrete pool built by Albright.

McRae/Albright Ranch House


The current owners, Ron and Janie Ogdon, bought the property in 2001, six weeks after their marriage. What a nice wedding present to themselves!

Location of the McRae/Albright Ranch House, 3754 Barbic Court, Spring Valley, California:

3754 Barbic Court, Spring Valley, California

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This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos


12 thoughts on “The McRae/Albright Ranch House in Spring Valley, California

  1. victoriaaphotography

    We have many old Moreton Bay Fig Trees in the Botanic Gardens about 5 mins from my front door. Your photo reminded me of their height, girth and enormous roots (which I pretty much take for granted in my many walks each week).


  2. Michelle Clark

    My friends and I would ride our horses and play and climb in this tree as kids in the 1960’s and 1970’s. This house set vacant for a very long time and the open Barn area was stuffed with all sorts of goodies and treasures. One day as of noxious teenagers we went through the open Barn area and took some things, one of the things I took was a beautiful old bottle of unopened wine or champagne. It looked to be a hundred years old. I carried it with me for decades and it always sat on the fireplace mantel wherever I lived. In 1999 I moved to Texas and in 2012 I traveled back to San Diego to visit my son who was stationed there in the Navy, I carried that bottle of wine with me and I knocked on the door of this home, the new owners run and Janie we’re excited to hear my childhood stories at this house, playing there and climbing the tree. Also they were excited to get that little piece of history back as I returned that unopened bottle to them I had carried with me for some 40 years. They graciously gave me a clipping they had planted from the moreton bay fig that was about 2 inches tall. Ron took my photograph of me holding my tiny new tree clipping standing in front of the gigantic moreton Bay fig, I treasure that photo! I carried my tiny new clipping in a sippy cup on my flight back to Austin Texas. I planted that little tree and I have almost lost it every cold Texas winter, I built a PVC visqueen house to go over it. It is my most treasured plant on my whole Ranch! I planted it the year that we had the Bastrop County fires that took out almost our entire 6,000 Acres pine trees State Park, and we lost almost 1,800 homes in one day. It was a special year to plant this tree for me. It currently stands about 2 ft tall and 2 ft wide with big beautiful green leaves almost the size of my hands. Soon it will be the most beautiful tree in Cedar Creek Texas! It certainly has a crazy history and story to boot, that many won’t understand, as it involves almost a half-century, two different States, crazy young Barefoot, bareback horse-riding girls in the 1960s, taking things that didn’t belong to you but then returning them, the US Navy and smuggling a tiny 2-inch tree in a sippy cup in my hand onto an airplane. Life is good, thank you for reading. Michelle Clark, Cedar Creek, Texas


    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Thank you, Michelle, so much for such a great comment and a great story. Reminds me of when I was 9 in 1964 and living in Brigham City, Utah. I stole a “Liberty Stamp Album” from a store and started stamp collecting. I was one of Utah’s greatest juvenile delinquents. My wise old paternal grandmother adopted me in 1965 and moved me to Texas. When President Carter signed the extension to the Freedom of Information Act in 1978, I traveled from Texas back to Utah the next year to try to get the records of just exactly how bad I was. Still a stamp collector at that time in 1979, I took my stamp album with me. I walked into the store and asked to see the owner. I explained to him who I was, what I had done, and showed him the stamp album. It still had the price sticker on it from 1964: $3.95. I added interest and paid him $20 for my stamp album. He tried to decline it but I insisted. I felt good, and I think he knew it.



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