Much of the text and information, photographs and screencaps used in this article are the work of Geraldine, a Lancer fan of long standing. We owe her grateful thanks, not only for all her hard work in researching and collating this information, but for giving us permission to utilise it here for the benefit of Lancer fanfic writers everywhere. Thanks, Geraldine!
The first glimpse that we and the Lancer sons have of the hacienda in the pilot, is from a hillside several miles away, with the hacienda sitting in the midst of fertile meadows and paddocks below. It looks huge and imposing. And it was a real place – the Rancho San Carlos. Sadly, it was destroyed during the Californian wildfires of late 2018.
The Rancho San Carlos was situated in what is now the Santa Lucia preserve in the Santa Lucia mountains, close to Monterey and Carmel. Once built to host the hunting parties of George Gordon Moore, a Canadian-born lawyer, businessman, socialite and sportsman, it eventually became the central ranch club of an exclusive gated community within the Preserve’s boundaries.
Moore built the 37-room hacienda in 1922, in the Spanish-Mexican style, to entertain his friends and family. To quote the Santa Lucia preserve website (the page is now defunct): “Moore was a Gatsbyesque character of the roaring twenties. In the early 1920’s Moore dedicated his Hacienda to hospitality; visitors all enjoyed tennis, swimming, croquet, riding and polo. On Moore’s polo field, America’s greatest-ever polo player, Olympian Tommy Hitchcock, trained the formidable Rancho San Carlos Cardinals which Moore sponsored. The Hacienda routine was robust; the food and drink, the best; and the coming and goings of friends, nonstop. A full calendar of feasts, festivities and performances welcome families and friends, and as the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson found, experiences capable of life-changing experiences and unforgettable memories.”
By the time of the Great Depression, Moore was losing money and was forced to give up the Rancho San Carlos home and land. It was the end of an affluent and extravagant era, but he left behind a magnificent hacienda. Arthur C. Oppenheimer, of Salinas, bought the San Carlos and restored it to a cattle ranch. He maintained the property until 1990, when a group bought the largely-untouched property, intent on establishing select homes in conjunction with a large conservation preserve. It was during Oppenheimers’ era that the hacienda was loaned out in 1968 for the filming of a new television series: Lancer.
The real hacienda was used for the pilot (The High Riders) and continued to appear in stock ‘external’ shots and in the show’s opening credits. Once the pilot was accepted, a set was built for the series. The set designers worked from photos of the original hacienda to duplicate every detail of the great room shown in the pilot, though it was downsized for the show. The steer’s head and lances over the fireplace were replaced with a plaster shield with the Lancer ‘L’ on it, but the bookcase and everything in it, including the pheasants were duplicated. Also reproduced for the show were the model ship, large desk and other furniture including the famous dining room chairs. The real hacienda and the set version of the Lancer house had little in common beyond the great room. The Lancers’ front door and the arched verandah that leads out to the front drive didn’t exist in the real thing, for example.
Views of the Hacienda
How the external areas were used in filming
This aerial photograph of Rancho San Carlos has been annotated by Geraldine to highlight elements of particular relevance to the show, particularly to the High Riders (the pilot episode – marked as HR in her annotations):
The dining room juts out rather than being part of the great room (as seen in the show) and the three arched French doors are not really at the front of the hacienda – but look out over a courtyard at the side. The front of this hacienda in this aerial photo is on the far side of the tower.
In the older photograph above, you can see the firebell tower used in the pilot when Day Pardee and his men set the fields alight just as Murdoch is meeting his sons for the first time in 20 years. The building – perhaps a storehouse, perhaps one of the houses used for married vaqeuros – is overshadowed by a huge oak tree – the one behind which Scott and Johnny shelter in the final fight sequence. You can see the building behind the pair in these publicity stills:
The pilot was filmed on location at the Hacienda, but subsequent episodes were studio filmed using a set recreated from photographs of the Moore Hacienda interiors, but scaled down. This means that there were changes to the interior in subsequent episodes, that the eagle-eyed fan will not have missed.
One of the most obvious changes is that the original dining room, glimpsed in the pilot, is never used, but the set designers ‘moved’ the table and chairs out into the great room. This makes the great room the ‘heart of the house’, where the family ate, read and talked. The other big change is that the steer’s head and crossed lancers above the fireplace become a plaster copy of the Lancer brand, the ornate letter L in its circle.
The version built on set for the rest of the series:
Geraldine produced two composite pictures from screen caps of episodes where the great room can be seen with particular clarity. They give a really good sense of the room’s layout.
Furniture and Fittings
The chairs used in the dining set are copies of the Moore Hacienda originals. The dining room chairs featured in Lancer were upholstered in moquette, a type of cut wool velvet, decorated with a palm tree motif. This motif was not an 1800s style, but a 1920s fashion, most likely influenced by the Egyptian style that was all the craze at the time Moore built the Hacienda. Other common upholstery fabric designs were floral or historic patterns of cut and uncut looped pile. The chairs made for Lancer set were later used in the films Young Frankenstein and The Omen 2.
The chairs and patterns can be clearly seen in the picture of the dining area of the set version of the hacienda’s interior (above).
Geraldine has established that the painting in the great room is a copy of Goya’s Woman Reading A Letter.
“A Woman Reading a Letter” was painted by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes in oil around 1814. Goya (1746 – 1828) was a Spanish painter and printmaker who is regarded as the most important Spanish artist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
This painting of a small house, seen in Scott’s bedroom in a scene from the pilot episode, appears in several different locations as the set designers moved it around to ‘dress’ different episodes. Although the painting survived to appear on other episodes, you’ll be glad to know those plaid pants didn’t!