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Walnut Creek Magazine


Jul 20, 2017 04:47PM ● By Pam Kessler

In 1921, a wealthy gambling hall owner, John W. Marchbanks, converted the 255-acre Sulphur Springs Ranch on Ygnacio Valley Road into a thoroughbred horse training facility, and named it Heather Farm after his champion stallion, Heather King. Marchbanks spent $1 million to build a Spanish-style mansion, a half-mile track, a 48-stall stable, and a barn on the land. Heather Farm soon became the most important horse-breeding ranch west of the Mississippi, raising dozens of champions. In fact, movie stars Clark Gable and Madge Evans came to Walnut Creek in 1931 to film scenes for MGM’s, Sporting Blood, at Heather Farm.

It remained a ranch until 1965, when Walnut Creek voters approved bond measures to fund community parks, which allowed the city to acquire 50-acres of the historic Heather Farm. Phil and Ruth Bancroft had previously donated five acres of their land adjoining Heather Farm, for use as a future park, and on the combined properties a park and swimming complex were developed. In 1970, Heather Farm Park officially opened and became the city’s largest park at 100-acres. Today the last vestiges of the park’s storied horse racing past can be found at the Equestrian Center, tucked quietly in the back, and enjoyed by many for its horse-riding events and miniature horse shows. –PK

Source: Walnut Creek An Illustrated History by Brad Rovanpera


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