One of the central ‘characters’ of the Lancer series is the imposing, beautiful Mexican-style hacienda–the great house that is home to the Lancer family and both the family and business hub of a huge cattle operation in the San Joaquin valley.
It’s a real house, too. It’s the Rancho San Carlos, built in the 1920s near Carmel, used as the location for filming the pilot episode, and featured in most of the following episodes (although only the pilot was filmed on location). It is now a central feature of the St Lucia Conservatory , / Santa Lucia Preserve where it is the club house and offices of an exclusive gated community within the Conservatory’s boundaries.
To quote the Conservatory’s website:
Two Mexican Land Grants: El Potrero San Carlos and The San Francisquito made up the property of the present day Santa Lucia Preserve. Ownership of these parcels transferred hands several times before being consolidated into one expansive property. In the late 1800’s, James Sargent of New Hampshire acquired the two parcels which became a cattle ranch named San Francisquito y San Carlos, under the ownership of his brother Bradley Sargent.
In 1924, George Gordon Moore, a Canadian lawyer and purchased the ranch from Sargent’s heirs and renamed the land Rancho San Carlos. Under Moore’s ownership, Rancho San Carlos was a getaway for elites who came to enjoy the luxury of his rural rancho. Extravagant estates were common among entrepreneurs and industrialists during that era, and Moore’s Hispanic Rancho was a luxury retreat in the style of a Hispanic rancho. Moore is responsible for the construction of the Hacienda, Moores Lake, and the proliferation of wild boar on The Preserve which he imported for sport hunting.
With the Great Depression came an end to the Moore era at Rancho San Carlos. In 1939, Arthur C. Oppenheimer acquired the property. The ranch once again became a working cattle ranch and was known for producing quality beef. In addition to commercial ranching, at this time Rancho San Carlos was the backdrop of a weekly TV series, commercials, and films. The Oppenheimer’s sold the property in 1990 after a half-century of ownership and the land was purchased by the Santa Lucia Partnership and with thoughtful development planning became the Santa Lucia Preserve.
That ‘weekly TV series’ the website mentions was, of course, Lancer.
And just to reassure everyone: we had been told that the house was damaged in recent wildfires, but the Conservancy staff have assured us this isn’t the case, and the house was untouched. Indeed, the only damage to the house in recent years was a from a truck inadvertently backing into the portico!
What you will find in this segment of our Resources section:
(i) Aerial views of the house and environs, taken from Google Earth.
(ii) The Huntze Family Archives
Kindly shared with us by Chris Huntze, these are the photographs and letters belonging to the family of Eleanor and Wes Huntze, who were working for the Oppenheimers at the Rancho San Carlos at the time the pilot was filmed. Chris has also shared personal memories of visiting the Rancho as a child. This is an amazing resource, and we are so lucky that Chris contacted us to share everything.
Thank you, Chris!
(iii) Geraldine’s research
Geraldine, a Lancer fan of long standing, shared her research into the Rancho’s history, along with insights into how it was used during the filming of the pilot. She has also speculated on the interior layout of the house, using the episodes as a guide.
(iv) St Lucia Conservatory (external link)