Famous Barns

Archives: February 2014

Langford Trail Drive Au06_4581Almost-copyThis post is the second in a series from Field Sport Concepts Affiliate Sonja Howle of Famous Barns. Field Sport Concepts’ expertise is in the development and implementation of plans which conserve open lands through environmentally sound recreational use.  We believe that land which sustains itself by producing income as open space today is land most likely to remain open space for generations to come. 

As you explore the architecture of San Antonio and Texas, one name comes up again and again.  Alfred Giles.  Giles was born in Hillingdon, Middlesex, England in 1853 and after years of architectural study in London, he moved to San Antonio in 1873.  Many of the state’s most remarkable county court houses were designed by Giles; his work is showcased at Fort Sam Houston’s Military Base, in Officers’ Quarters, Barracks and the famous Quadrangle.  He built mansions, carriage houses and commercial structures throughout Texas and Mexico, since he also had an office in Monterrey.

In 1885 he purchased a 13,000 acre ranch in Kendall County with his brother-in-law and partner Judge John Herndon James.  They bred registered Aberdeen-Angus cattle and angora goats.  They called the place Hillingdon Ranch.

Remarkably, 129 years and six generations later, the ranch is still owned by the Giles descendants and remains a working ranch.

David Langford, Alfred’s great-grandson, lives there and is well-respected as a wildlife, western life and landscape photographer.  He has not only won awards for his photographs in the Images for Conservation Fund competitions but he’s hosted photographers at Hillingdon Ranch as well.  His career in photography is as significant as his lifetime commitment to conservation.

David and his family learned stewardship first-hand.  They understand elements like the water cycle, soil regeneration, plant succession and the vital role of open spaces in everything from flood control to carbon sequestration.

His public service has involved over two decades as an Executive Vice President of the Texas Wildlife Association.  (He is currently vice president emeritus).  His efforts and those of that group ensured access to an invaluable tool to help rural landowners: the “wildlife management property tax valuation.”  This allowed the land owner options with their resources:  hunting, birding, wildlife and nature tourism, and it created a new level of stewardship.

David is in the middle of a book-signing tour for “Hillingdon Ranch, Four Seasons, Six Generations.”  His new book illustrates the diversity and depth of his family’s Kendall County Ranch.  And for my friends in the San Antonio area, David will be at the Patrick Heath Public Library in Boerne for a book signing during the Local Author Bookfest on March 1, 2014.  I’ll stop by and say Hi – may see you there.

For more, contact Sonja Howle at Famous Barns and Robert McKee at Field Sport Concepts

Santa Margarita Ranch WhitetailsThis is the first in a series from Field Sport Concepts Affiliate Sonja Howle of Famous Barns. Field Sport Concepts’ expertise is in the development and implementation of plans which conserve open lands through environmentally sound recreational use. We believe that land which sustains itself by producing income as open space today is land most likely to remain open space for generations to come.  


Even though Don Collis’ roots were in Kansas farms and ranches, for decades his life had been spent in board rooms, banks and on Wall Street.  When it was time to look toward the future, that farm and ranch foundation would lead him to a ranch south of San Antonio.


The ranch had no name and no improvements.  It was 3,000 acres of diversity.  There was the rich riverbank of the Nueces River, the fertile north pasture and the classic south Texas brush country.  Don and Margaret built their home, lodging for visiting hunters and a barn to serve as the headquarters for the whitetail and exotic breeding operation that would complement the Santa Margarita Ranch’s hunting expeditions.

Then, in 2009 the Images for Conservation Fund invited them to participate in a program that would combine the talents of 20 top wildlife photographers with 20 of Texas’ premier ranches.   Don was happy to be involved — his son, Chris Collis, is a professional photographer with a studio in San Antonio.  

The end result of the four weeks that they, and other ranch owners, hosted photographers was a magnificent partnership, rich in creativity, wildlife, geographical and historical highlights.  A book was published highlighting top images and the story of each ranch and it was sold to raise money for the Conservation Fund. 


The experience gave them a new appreciation for all the different wildlife and reptiles at the ranch, seeing them as  essential members of the ranch’s ecosystem.  So they continued to research ways to maintain a healthy habitat for all species.


Now, in addition to the hunting operation at Santa Margarita, the ranch hosts nature and wildlife tours and photo shoots each season.  And, this fall they’ll host the Images in Conservation Funds’ 2014 Whitetail Pro-Am. 


Don admits it takes commitment to create a more diversified operation but it can pay off by providing new revenue streams.  The investment in the wise use of ranch resources has a long term payoff.  


Contact:  Sonja Howle, Famous Barns, (210) 364-7381, sonja@famousbarns.com

Robert McKee, Field Sport Concepts, (434) 979-3846, rmckee@fieldsport.com

Twin Barn 7


“Today the collection of buildings is architecturally significant for its fine design as well as historically important for its WPA construction using entirely local materials and labor.”

This was a great tour, with Candace Miller of CTM Architects in Livingston,Montana.

From its Listing on the National Register of Historic Places:

Early Twin Bridges offered few public gathering places and so these fifty acres, once part of the Lott and Seidensticker homesteads, were developed as “The Park” in 1887.  A “harvest home barbecue” was held that year and two years later the event had blossomed into the first annual county fair.  In 1928 a depressed economy curtailed the event and in 1930 Madison County purchased the fair grounds property.  The economy worsened during the Great Depression until 1934 when more than half Madison County’s work force was unemployed.  In 1935, the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) approved funding assistance for the rebuilding of the unused fair grounds.  Construction began in 1936 directed by Tosten Stenberg, well-known for his log structures in Yellowstone Park.

Lodgepole pine, douglas fir and newly added steel cross-bracing so the barns can last another 100 years.  This is why we tour famous barns: to build barns with as much character and integrity as the people who will own them.

Click here to take the one minute video tour.

FSC logo green

San Antonio, Texas – Field Sport Concepts, Ltd. (FSC/www.fieldsport.com) announces the addition of Famous Barns as a new affiliate. Field Sport Concepts’ affiliates are nationally respected consultants who provide comprehensive services to plan and develop field sport programs including equestrian, shooting, hunting, fishing, falconry and high adventure sports. These activities are also complemented by conservation finance services including easements and monetization of ecosystem services.

Both Field Sport Concepts and Famous Barns seek to enhance rural and ranch properties in a manner that is sympathetic to the natural environment while providing opportunities for the pursuit and appreciation of the sporting and ranch life.

Howle studied the economic models of historically and architecturally significant barns across America and has been in post and beam construction for the past 7 years, with projects throughout Texas and the southwest. McKee says “Sonja provides important architectural and historical perspectives that contribute to the value and economic success of a project.”

Full release is available upon request.

Contact: Robert McKee, (434) 979-3846, Email: rmckee@fieldsport.com, www.fieldsport.com







Elvis’ first horse was a Palomino named Rising Sun.  So, it only made sense that the barn and stable would be called The House of the Rising Sun.


Rising Sun is gone, but for decades Priscilla, the Presley estate and the caring staff have provided a home for unwanted horses.  The side of this hill in Memphis is not a bad home.


This is a beautiful example of a bank barn; it’s built into the side of a bank.  The lower level is accessible from the front and is used for the stables.  The second level, accessible from the back of the barn, allows for the hay and feed to be driven right in.  The gambrel roof provides a high and spacious interior and the loft also has some great drop-through doors for the hay.


An elegant and well-designed barn.  That’s why tour and study barns of historic and architectural significance.  Yesterday’s barns help us design and build better barns today.   


You can take a video tour here, or just click on the photo above.

Camarillo Barn 0

In 1921, Adolfo Camarillo (the founder of the city of Camarillo, California) saw a white stallion named Sultan at the Sacramento Fair.  He bought the stallion and bred him to his Morgan mares and created a new breed of white horse, a family legacy and a century-old icon in California ranching.


The Camarillo White Horses led parades and fiestas with presidents, governors and movie stars.  Even now the breed is treasured.  In fact, in 1992 The Camarillo White Horse Association was founded to maintain Sultan’s bloodline, which they learned carries a unique mutation of a certain gene partially responsible for coat color.


The red stables and mule barn of the Camarillo Ranch are in the care of Camarillo Ranch Foundation.  The barn is a special place for weddings, events and galas.  The famous stables of the white horses provide a home for the foundation’s offices, museum and gift shop  


To take your video tour, click here.


And, if you’d like to explore the Camarillo’s Victorian Home and learn more about the foundation, click here.  


By the way, this Saturday’s video is a little over 2 minutes – the music is way cool though, so I know you won’t mind.  Happy Weekend.