In 1909, Amy Strong, a famous San Diego dress designer, hired architects to build her dream home on the Ranch. They pitched tents on the site for their own accommodations, drew renderings and blueprints. The home was completed by 1921. The Strong home in Ramona is the vision of this artistic woman, the talents of her architects, and the philosophy of the Craftsman Movement.
The Craftsman ideals emphasized harmony between the individual and the environment, the intensive involvement of the artist with their materials, and the blending of the primitive with the sophisticated.
The style stressed ease, simplicity, harmony, and a romantic view of both man and the past. Builders of the period used elements from the natural surroundings, including wood, soils, and rock and stone to create structures that reflected the tastes and concerns of the owner and achieved a harmonious balance with the surroundings.
Building materials of the main house included eucalyptus, oak, and redwood, rocks and flagstone, adobe, bricks and tiles, plaster, concrete and stucco. Eucalyptus was cut from stands that dotted the property. Rocks were individually hand-picked by Mrs. Strong for their shapes and colors from the slopes of Mt. Woodson. The adobe bricks that form the second story walls were made at the site from the clay soils found along the drainage. It is purported that the roof tiles came from the San Gabriel Mission.
The Castle is a multi-level, twenty-seven room 12,000 square foot home with eight foot thick walls, a Great Hall with a sixteen foot ceiling, a swing porch, pantry, four fireplaces, a dutch oven, dumb waiter, complete intercom system and a gasoline-engine-assisted windmill. The windmill pumped water from the springs to redwood storage tanks and the room under the windmill was used to cool meats and vegetables.
The finished exterior, the stone work, windmill, bricks and tiles, and arches reflect French, Dutch, Spanish, and Medieval styles. Roof tiles are supported on a concrete roof sustained by rock buttresses. Eaves are troughs hewn from unfinished eucalyptus trunks supported by gargoyle figures. Aztec, Greek, Roman, North American, and Oriental crafts, decorated the exterior and interior of the house. All were tributes to prosperity, health, friendship, and good luck.
Other motifs were taken from Persian, Arabic and Oriental rug designs used in the house. Mrs. Strong, her niece and their cook, did much of the painting and design-work themselves. Interior use of wood included lightly polished redwood planks recycled from vats for many of the doors and mantels, beams, and balustrades of twisted eucalyptus. Mrs. Strong left natural, oak, and pine; other woods were painted or polished. Some of the original floors and stairs were flagstone and a few of the floors were oak planks. No chalk lines were used in the construction. There are no perfect corners and neither the roof nor floors are level. The windows, of Belgium triplex glass, are irregularly shaped as well.
The effect was warmth, grace, freedom, and unity of both the exterior and interior with the rock and tree studded surroundings. Over the years, the main house has been meticulously restored and updated in an effort to preserve the beauty and charm of the original home while adding modern conveniences so that the property can be appreciated by all.