RANCHO SANTA FE — Mention Bing Crosby and most people instantly think of him crooning a heartfelt rendition of “White Christmas” or bantering with Bob Hope in comedic quips.
But besides being a major Hollywood star and box office draw in the 1930s through the 1960s and beyond, Crosby, was also a big horseman and breeder. Born Harry Ellis Crosby Jr. in 1903 in Tacoma, Washington, he went on to co-found the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in 1937 and helped build the Del Mar Racetrack. He also made 58 motion pictures, broadcast many radio shows and sold more than 300 million records, according to an article in the LA Times at the time of his death.
Crosby, also an avid golfer and star of such films as “High Society” with Grace Kelly, and “Going My Way with Hope,” he took up residence in Rancho Santa Fe in the 1930s. He wasn’t alone as other top celebrities of the time like Corinne Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Mary Pickford, and then later, Victor Mature of “Samson and Delilah” fame, as well as Robert Young of “Father Knows Best” became residents of Rancho Santa Fe.
According to an article written by a past archives chairwoman for the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society, Fran Foley: “ … Crosby organized the tournament later known as the National Pro-Am in Pebble Beach. Initially, the event was conceived as a more casual affair, a “clambake,” as he called it. The first of these clambakes was held at Crosby’s local club in Rancho Santa Fe in 1937. (Sam Snead won the tournament and pocketed a princely $700 for the victory)”
Foley also wrote: “Rancho Santa Fe has been a popular place for the rich and famous to live since the ’30s. Whether the reasons lie in the area’s remote-ness, its beauty and charm or its million-dollar mansions, Rancho Santa Fe has always been an attraction for Hollywood stars and corporate executives. Rancho Santa Fe attracts celebrities because it is known that in the Ranch, they will be able to lead a normal life. In the 30s, 40s, and 50s, movie stars would flock to this area because they wanted to get away from Hollywood.”
The house that Crosby Built
In terms of living in the Ranch, Crosby bought the 100-acre property known as Osuna Adobe No. 2, the former home of Juan Maria Osuna, owner of the original Rancho San Dieguito land grant, in 1932. The sprawling ranch at one time was considered a historical landmark. Crosby and his predecessors made changes to the property with the help of popular architect of the time, Lilian Rice, including the Crosby family main residence.
Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society’s Sharon Alix said Crosby’s first wife Dixie Lee Crosby (1911-1952), lived at the ranch. She was an actress, dancer and singer, who later died of ovarian cancer on Nov.1, 1952, at the age of 41, according to Google. She was married to Bing from 1930-1952. They had four sons: Gary, twins Phillip and Dennis, and Lindsay, according to Wikipedia.
“Dixie raised the children there because it was shortly after the Lindbergh baby abduction; she had a 1-year old baby and feared for their safety in Los Angeles as a high-profile family,” Alix said. “Bing traveled a lot, so he wasn’t there full time, but he did spend time there and did a lot of work to the house and property, and to the development of the Del Mar Race track.”
Speaking of horses, Crosby bred, raised, and even raced horses on the property. The home had wonderful stables, large grass fields where the horses could wander and there was a practice track right on the property, Alix said.
“Many Hollywood stars would come to Rancho Santa Fe because it was far away from Hollywood and a perfect getaway for them. There were very wide-open spaces here and Crosby utilized all of his property to its full advantage and watched as the race track in Del Mar grew in popularity.”
The former Crosby estate is still located off Via de la Valle across from the Morgan Run Golf Club and Resort, in the Whispering Palms section of the Ranch, Alix said.
“There still are a lot of trees, large lawn areas and it has lush private gardens,” Alix said. “There is no public access onto the property, and if you drive by, you wouldn’t know there is a home there.”
Ultimately, Crosby sold the home in 1945; and today it is owned by another private family. Crosby died on Oct. 14, 1977; he suffered a heart attack after playing 18 holes on a course near Madrid. He was 73 years old.