Ronnie's Design & Layout
In building a home for "real" living, Ronnie encountered a few things which needed changing from the set home located in Old Tucson. For one thing, the set in Old Tucson was an empty shell...that is, there was no depth and substance to it, since it was used as an outdoor location shoot only, all the interior shots being filmed on a soundstage. Also, Ronnie's home had to adhere to modern-day building and plumbing codes. Once again, Ronnie takes up his story.
Ronnie's house on left and Old Tucson house on right
I will explain the differences in building a 'real' home as opposed to the 'TV' home, and what changes had to be made to make this a true-life livable home and still maintain the authenticity of The High Chaparral. In my many discussions with David Dortort, prior to and during construction, he told me that the design of the house was taken from an actual Mexican ranch house of that time period.
Armed with a 100-foot tape measure, a notebook and a pencil, I made several trips to Old Tucson and proceeded to take every dimension possible of the original High Chaparral house -- with the exception of the height (which would be determined by the interior ceiling height, and besides, I don't believe that the Old Tucson management would have appreciated me climbing all over the home, nor do I think they would have give me permission to do so....
Looking from living room to hutch area / looking from living room toward office
As most of you know, the house in Old Tucson was NOT where the interior scenes were filmed (the interior set was on a soundstage at Paramount Studios, and later at Warner Bros). As you watch the show from time to time, you can see variations of the interior. The house at Old Tucson could never accommodate the interior as was shown on the soundstage -- the home exterior is just too small -- even our new home is slightly smaller than the soundstage square feet. The Old Tucson house measured 60 feet across by 35 feet deep, for a total of 2100 square feet. The new home is 60 feet across by 45 feet deep, for an overall total of 2700 square feet. From the ground to the top of the Parapet roof measures 18 feet tall, with an interior ceiling height of 11 feet. The ceiling in the upper part of the home is 8 feet high. The bottom half of the home contains the living room, dining room, kitchen, various closets, and the room John Cannon used for his office directly to the left of the stairs (which is exactly what we use it for also). The top floor consists of three bedrooms, closets, and two baths. The hallway upstairs is darn near 30 feet long, and although the bedrooms don't have fireplaces in them, they have been designed to look very Spanish.
The entire interior walls have been textured to resemble adobe and are painted in Arizona White (a light cream). With the different variation of light throughout the day, the walls seem to change color, like they do on the show. Interior and exterior colors were chosen by Mr. Dortort himself.
Looking at fireplace / looking from kitchen toward front stairs
All of the doors and woodwork were handmade from designs of the 1800's and are painted a milk-chocolate brown. The bottom floor and hallway are tiled in terra cotta, at Don Collier's suggestion. The bedrooms are carpeted, as it gets mighty cold in the desert at night.
The outside of the home is stucco in an off-white. In the morning hours, the house looks about the same color as a Dairy Queen ice cream cone, but as the sun changes position, it takes on an almost "peach" appearance -- you'll notice this quite often in the show -- it's easy to tell what time of day the show was being filmed by the color of the house -- this house has the very same effect. The bottom half of the exterior is painted in Roasted Chili Pepper, and the squiggly line just above it is painted in Arizona Blue Sky (we've made this line a little heavier for effect). All of the colors were recommended by Mr. Dortort, and the home was designed from The High Chaparral episode entitled "Mi Casa, Su Casa." The floor of the porch will eventually be done in desert flagstone. The garage was built to look something like the home.
Back of house and the right side of house.
If you've ever noticed, the kitchen door on the show is to the right of the hutch -- this would be impossible because the door would open into the middle of the upstairs' hallway, halfway between the upper and lower floors, unless the home was a full two-story or the kitchen was underground, and neither of these was ever suggested on the TV show. Also, if you've noticed as the family walked up the stairs, there is a door at the top, immediately to the left (supposedly to John and Victoria's bedroom) -- that is another flaw because in its present position, if you opened the door and walked in, you'd fall right into John's office! We have the same door in the new home, but it's been moved down the hallway a bit.
Another bridge we had to cross and yet retain the authenticity of the home was with the spindled door to the left as you enter the house. On the show, the door has no windows or glass in it -- Victoria simply unfolds the bi-fold doors. But these doors don't lock and are far from being secure. What we came up with are two glass French doors inside that close and lock, and the outside spindled doors can be seen (whether they are opened or closed) when the French doors are opened. I had special removable screens made that snap into place over the spindles to keep out any unwanted Arizona insects!
Left front porch of house / left side with door to kitchen and back
The living room is basically intact with the fireplace in the exact position, only in a scaled down version to meet modern building codes. The kitchen is in a part of the house rarely seen on the series, and we added another staircase to reach the upstairs rooms without having to go all the way around the other side of the house to get to the upper rooms. (The Cannons never had to contend with bathrooms!) The home is very self-sufficient with its own well and septic system. It is very well insulated and maintains its interior temperature well. The neatest thing is that the doorbell plays The High Chaparral theme when the button is pushed....
Well, that's the story of Ronnie's Chaparral House. His neighbor Amos Seveses is "Vaquero" and another friend Jeff McKaig, who is Amos's son-in-law, is "Reno." Ronnie's neighbors include famous stuntmen Whitey Hughes and Bill Catching, as well as an Indian medicine man named Red Eagle. Amos says tour busses now drive past during the day, and on at least one occasion, one stopped and a small group of people, chattering in some language Amos did not understand, disembarked for a picture-taking session.
Neighbor Amos Seveses in left 2 photos and with Jeff McKaig at right
If you are ever in the Yuma area, you are invited to visit Ronnie and Sue in their dream house. They are gracious hosts and enjoy giving tours, and since Ronnie admits there are more things to come before he is satisfied that he has achieved the exact replica, there are always new things to see. For instance, he and his son Ronnie Jr. put the fence up last year, and Ronnie was able to acquire a one-arm saguaro from a piece of property down the street. Amos and Jeff put the windmill together. The water tower is now added. Soon to come will be the bunkhouse, which Ronnie will use as a workroom, and the remadas. An added thrill was when the house was granted the street location numbers of 1879, since the timeframe of the TV show was the late 1870's.
Amos working with his knife on the front porch
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