Wicky Up Ranch Historical Photos: Circa 1902
Wicky-Up Ranch Bed and Breakfast is an historic California ranch offering guests a rare lodging opportunity to experience first-hand the farm stay accommodations at a working citrus ranch.
A night’s stay in the Harding Room is simply presidential. And though it is doubtful that Warren G. Harding, 29th president and distant cousin of Fred E. Harding, ever slept here, he most certainly would have enjoyed his stay.
And that’s what hosts Monica and Jack Pizura have known for quite some time. In fact, Monica, a relative of Fred Harding, grew up on the Woodlake ranch and for many years dreamed of opening the historic property to the public. That dream came to fruition in January of 1997 when Monica and Jack officially opened the Wicky-Up Ranch Bed and Breakfast. What they are offering visitors is a unique California guest ranch experience.
The house that Fred Harding built at the turn-of-the-century has been lovingly cared for all these years. The grounds, the groves, and every detail of the working citrus ranch convey a classic style – a warm, casual elegance. To call the Wicky-Up Ranch historic is an understatement. When Fred Harding and his wife, Lucy Nye Harding, visited Pasadena in the winters of the late 1800s, citrus development was the talk of the town. It was during one of those talks that Harding heard about a new frost-free district with plenty of wide-open country. Harding, along with his wife, left at once for the foothill district east of present-day Woodlake.
There was no town of Woodlake until a decade later, but there was lots of excitement in the local citrus industry. The Pogues were firmly established at Lemon Cove, having planted the first trees in 1878. Other plantings were made at that time in Porterville, Venice Hill and Three Rivers. The first full carload of oranges was shipped from Porterville in 1893.
When Fred Harding arrived in 1898 for an inspection tour, he was enthralled with the place. He purchased a large tract, which included land against the foothills along the present-day Naranjo Blvd. (Ave. 344). Those hills were still home a century ago to Native Americans who lived near a year-round spring. The people of the Wukchumna tribe welcomed their new neighbors. Harding was taken with the native people, their culture and the fact that the Wild West was still alive and well at Naranjo.
Naranjo (Sp. Orange) is the name by which the little ranch settlement became known. There was a Naranjo post office in the general store. Harding packed his fruit under the “Naranjo” brand and named his ranch “Wicky-Up,” meaning shelter in a Native American language. Although built as a winter home, the Hardings’ craftsman-style house imported all the finest Pasadena design elements. The impressive home was Harding’s Wicky-Up.
In subsequent generations little has changed. The family names were different as daughters were married. Parcels changed hands but the property remained in citrus. Monica’s grandfather packed his fruit under the brands Unagood, Unafine and Unabest. Those were the days when citrus was king and life was good.
An 80 year-old oak tree holds court while century-old magnolia trees stand sentinel at the foot of the driveway. Adrian Green of Three Rivers designed the statue of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of nature. The piece adorns the façade of the house. The surrounding gardens inspire guests who linger on the veranda. Fresh-squeezed orange juice is the drink of choice.
Monica and Jack are “people persons” who love company. “You have the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life,” said Monica. “And maybe the best part is sharing this pioneer heritage.”
Wicky Up Ranch, a California farm stay property, has been a navel orange ranch since c. 1899 when retired Illinois senator Fred E. Harding purchased several hundreds of acres and turned fields of golden wild grains into green citrus groves. Water to irrigate the produce was brought in from the nearby Kaweah River by a flume system. In later years, cement pipelines were buried in the ground and used to deliver water to the furrows. In 1995, Wicky Up irrigation was changed from the original furrow irrigation to fan jet irrigation, a method which distributes water more evenly and deters wasteful runoff.
The delicious Washington navels from Wicky Up Ranch were grown using conventional farming methods until November 30, 2002, when the owners, Jack and Monica Pizura (Monica is Fred E. Harding’s great, great niece), decided to convert to sustainable (organic) farming. Owing to significant decreases in production, conventional farming resumed in January 2011.