In 1927, seven sycamore trees were planted in Ivanhoe, California, and the rest is history. The story doesn’t end there—in fact, it only gets better. That’s because, decades later, the orchard and farmland would become one of Central Valley’ premiere wedding venues. We're of course talking about Historic Seven Sycamores Ranch.
See, long before there were pergolas, brick paths, and ivy-laden trellises, there sat a warm and inviting homestead. Settled in the shadows of sequoias and surrounded by orange trees, the homestead remains gorgeously surrounded by its 120-acre ranch. History has remained a key component of the property, with its World War II observation tower and the barn's vintage windows being taken from a local school. New life has been no stranger either. Everything from olives to camellia flowers have popped up over the years. What may be most magical, though, is that current ranch owner Bob McKellar was raised on the property. His parents planted those iconic sycamore trees.
These days, 86-year-old McKellar lives across the street from the venue with his wife Ann, whom he married in the backyard of his childhood home (what is now The Garden). McKellar’s still in the farming business and as of 2013, he’s been in the wedding business. Furthermore, recognizing that their ranch and venue are facets of their local community, the McKellars make sure they contribute each and every year. Beyond offering the location as a site for fundraisers, the couple partners with a nonprofit each year to ultimately donate an annual total of $7,000. So couples that get hitched at the Historic Seven Sycamores Ranch have a rewarding sense of helping out. The McKellars are obviously lovely folk and we wanted to hear more from the ranch’s resident-turned-owner.
Words by Bob Mckellar, owner of Historic Seven Sycamores
What is the concept behind Historic Seven Sycamores?
The name, Seven Sycamores, came from the fact that my Father and Mother planted the Seven Sycamore trees to grow and provide shade for the home. (no air conditioning at that time) so it was called Seven Sycamores Ranch and was well-known in the community. The “Historic” part of the name comes from the World War 2 aircraft observation post that operated in 1941 and 1942 by family, friends and neighbors 24/7 and still currently is a permanent fixture at the entrance of the venue.
How did you find the property or location?
My parents, along with my Mother’s Father, John Jordan, bought the property. It was their first farm after being married. The original property was aprox. 10 acres. I lived there as a child.
How did you decide to start hosting events here?
The idea for weddings came from my membership in North American Farmers Direct Marketing Assn. conferences where I saw the success of other farm weddings all over the country. Since the Garden Venue was the original site because it was, in fact, most recently, my Mother’s garden. We had started holding events there each year starting with my Mother’s 100th Birthday celebration. It was attended by 400 friends and family. Two years later she died and we held her funeral in the garden. When Ann and I were planning our wedding it was natural to hold it there in the garden. We applied for a special use permit, which took two years to obtain, removed several rows of orange trees to create the parking lot and the entrance from Rd. 164, meeting the requirements of the County. There is more to tell if you need more volume but this is the basic info.
Tell us a little bit about the design.
The Garden Venue has a varied history. At one time it was a citrus and olive nursery where my Father grew replacement stock for his own orchards and sold trees to other farmers. Then it was my Mother’s garden where she grew roses, sweet peas and other garden flowers. In their later years, my folks grew camellias and entered the flowers in competitions throughout California. When my Father died, the had some 4,000 camellia plants growing in the garden. The caterers’ building was an equipment storage barn with an open front and dirt floor. We installed the cement floor and closed the front of the building. Likewise, the building now housing the bridal dressing room and the restrooms was an open-fronted storage shed which we cleaned out and built into the facility it is now. We also layed a cement walkway into the Venue styled after the other walkways around the Hummingbird Cottage (named after my Mother’s love for hummingbirds). Those walks were cement inlayed with granite rocks which my Father brought down from Big Meadows in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The Glass Barn was the original citrus packing house and shop for the Mckellar Citrus and was later than remodeled to become what's now referred to as The Glass Barn due to the windows that line all the walls within the structure that were brought in from an original school house in a neighboring town that date back to the 1920's.
What do you think makes Historic Seven Sycamores ideal for weddings and other gatherings?
People, especially folks who live in the cities, like to get out into the country where it is quiet, beautiful and serene. The broad expanse of lawn, the trees, including the Sycamore trees, the vine-covered arbor, all lend themselves to beautiful photography. The surrounding orange orchards add to the ambience. The Cottage, too, lends itself to the ambience as well as being available for rent during activities.
Another plus was the conversion of the old “shop” into a wedding venue called the Glass Barn. It dates back to pre-1927 and still has the original poles and roof. We have gussied it up some but it still retains its old charm. There are stories to be told about how this came to be a venue if you need more “history”.
Who is the team behind the venue?
Kim Rico, the venue manager who oversees all creative direction, social media and sales and finances. Elise Anderson, is our Assistant Manager and manages all client relations, Administrative and Day Of Event Logistics management. We also have 1 Administrative Intern and 2 in house Property Grounds staff who all contribute to ensuring were maintaining an inspiring location for our clients & their guests.
What sets you apart from other venues?
Other than our location, property history and legacy that the Mckellar Family has established beginning in 1927, as of January 1st we've introduced a giving element within our business model, now allows our clients to not just host a wedding or event at our property but be a part of contributing to giving back to an organization that is helping within these 3 categories: feeding those in need, caring for orphans and helping children within our local community. Our first giving partner is Ivanhoe Elementary School is a small elementary school within our farming community and is the same school that our Bob attended when he was younger.