On Mount Diablo: The Green Family Summer Home

A house with a swimming pool, tennis courts and horse stables used to sit on the Danville side of the mountain

This is the second in a series of stories this summer on the sites and places on Mount Diablo.

The remnants are still there.

An Olympic-sized swimming pool with no water.

Cracked and faded tennis courts with a basketball hoop at one end.

Red tiles that still form steps leading to and from concrete foundations.

More than a half-century ago, a summer home sat on a flat parcel of land along the steep hillsides of the southern flank of Mount Diablo.

It belonged to the Green family, who spend summer days and nights at the house in the 1940s and 1950s.

"It became a very fond place for them," said Rich McDrew, author of "Mountain Lore," a book about the sites and places on Mount Diablo. "It puts a tear in your eye, they loved it so much."

Robert Green bought the 180-acre property in 1938 from the Garcia brothers, who had given up on trying to run a cattle ranch on the Danville side of the mountain.

Green was an attorney who lived in Berkeley. His wife, Deborah Bixby Green, came from a wealthy Orange County family and she loved to ride horses.

"He always wanted a place in the country for her. He went up to the property and loved it. He said this is perfect for her," said McDrew.

They hired well-known architect William Wurster to design the home. It was built in 1939 on one of the few flat pieces of land on that side of the mountain slightly less than a mile's walk from the summit.

The estate had the large home, a caretaker's cabin, the large pool, tennis courts, a basketball hoop, horse stable, shower rooms for workers and a patio.

"They spared no expense," said Burt Bogardus, who was a ranger on Mount Diablo from 1975 to 1993.

A dirt road, called Green Ranch Road, snaked up the southern side of the mountain to the house. The place had electricity and it had water from the nearby underground spring.

For two decades, the family spent a large part of their summers at the home. The Greens' four children invited friends. Green and his wife invited other couples as well as members of The Bohemian Club.

In an 1995 essay reprinted on the Mount Diablo Interpretive Society's website, one of the children, Deborah Green Seymour, described the good times she and her siblings had at the home.

"During the various seasons we looked for and found golden poppies, blue lupine, red Indian paint brush, wildcurrant, toyon berries, tarweed, mustard, and plenty of poison oak," Seymour wrote. "The pines, oaks, mistletoe, scrub brush and wild oats were everywhere. We four children learned to swim, hike, and ride. Two of us took to riding, two didn’t. My younger brother and I had our own horses and would get up before dawn, saddle up and pack our saddle bags with provisions, and ride up to one of the picnic grounds, there to eat breakfast while watching the sun come up; then we would ride over the mountain trails and be home in time for lunch."

After Green's wife died in 1958, he lost interest in the home.

"It was her place. He wasn't interested, so it fell into disrepair," said McDrew.

The state bought the property in 1965 as part of Mount Diablo State Park. It was used by youth groups in the 1970s and by the California Conservation Corps in the 1980s.

They built other structures on the property, including two water tanks.

However, the property was abandoned in the 1990s. In 1993, fire prevention officials decided the structures were too much of a fire hazard, so they burned them down.

"They got tired of it being an attractive nuisance," said Bogardus.

Some of the remnants were carted off the mountain, but foundations, three brick fireplaces, steps, the pool, the tennis courts, the basketball hoop, a bathtub and other items still remain.

The hike to the property is a tough, uphill climb from the Frog Pond area near Danville. An easier route is hiking down Green Ranch Trail from where it crosses the Summit Trail.

More information about the mountain can be found on the MDIA website as well as the Save Mount Diablo website.

stuart fellows June 26, 2012 at 11:42 PM
I love to bike up to Green Ranch Road, then go down to the property, and come back up through Curry Canyon. Long ride and climb and well worth it! The area near Green Ranch is a quiet place that would have been a great summer retreat. Also great geology around in that area! I would love to hear more info about the Rhine Mine and the plane crash that happened on Ransom Peak.
David Mills (Editor) June 27, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Hey, Stuart: Thanks for the note. You're right about the solitude of the Green family property. The World War Two plane crash near Ransom Peak is on my agenda for this summer already. I'll look more into Rhine Mine. I don't know about that location.


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