SIMI VALLEY : Historic Ranch House Demolished

A century-old ranch house near Simi Valley built and owned by a pioneering Ventura County family was demolished Wednesday because of irreparable earthquake damage.

Clayton Edwards and Ellen Leyland Gillibrand built the sprawling wood-frame structure in 1888, after moving from Manchester, England, to California to run a cattle ranch, said Juanita Brooks, a granddaughter who lived in the house during her childhood.

Brooks described the house as a one-story, ranch-style building with a porch that wrapped around the house. An adjoining building, which once housed the kitchen and dining area and had been converted into a separate apartment, is all that remains of the house, Brooks said.

During the Jan. 17 earthquake, walls buckled and two doubled-sided fireplaces collapsed, sending bricks crashing through the roof, Brooks said.

"It was a really special place with a lot of memories," Brooks said. "But they didn't have the same building standards then and the damage was just horrible."

Until the earthquake, Brooks' cousin, Michael Boyle, lived in the house with his wife, Shelly, and their two children, Brooks said.

The Boyles could not be reached for comment on the demolition of their home, situated in Gillibrand Canyon on Tapo Canyon Road north of Simi Valley.

The couple, who have been living in a trailer on the property since the earthquake, plan to build a new home on the site, Brooks said.

Simi Valley historian Patricia Havens said the demolition of the Gillibrand home robs the area of a trove of information on its past as a ranching community.

"The Gillibrands were one of the most colorful families that lived here," Havens said. "They came over from England lured by the call of the American West and played a big role in the ranching world."

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