Photo Special: Neverland Ranch 1987 – 2009
Neverland Ranch was built in 1981 by real estate developer William Bone, from whom Michael Jackson bought the property for $19.5 million in 1987.
After taking ownership Jackson spent in excess of $35 million transforming the 2,600-acre ranch into his own land of make believe with a zoo, funfair rides, a full sized replica wild west town, two helicopter pads and the Neverland Valley Fire Department, which was manned by several full time fire-fighters.
He even added two functional railways complete with a steam locomotive and the infamous train station with it’s front lawn of manicured flowers in the shape of a clock face. This building is probably more famous than main house which is rarely photographed because it is shrouded by large oak trees.
At its peak, Neverland boasted a staff of 150, costing $10 million a year to maintain and played host to celebrity guests, high-priced fund-raisers, days out for local school kids and children with cancer or other serious illnesses.
Jackson was twice accused of molesting boys at the ranch and stopped living at Neverland following his second trial in 2005 saying he felt traumatized by the events surrounding his arrest and trial.
At this point most of the staff were dismissed and the place fell into a state of disrepair. Over the following years there were several high profile stories and court cases involving Jackson’s ability to service debts secured against Neverland.
Finally on November 10, 2008, he transferred the title to Sycamore Valley Ranch Company, LLC – a joint venture between Jackson and an affiliate of Colony Capital – meaning he still retained a small stake in it’s ownership.
Days after the takeover neighbours reported a hive of activity with most of the funfair rides, including the ferris wheel and roller coaster, being dismantled and removed from the property.
What became of the giraffe’s, tigers, elephants, crocodiles and numerous other animals kept in the zoo is unclear. Some reports suggest most of the animals were removed in 2005 with many being rehomed at animal sanctuaries across the USA.
However, at the beginning of 2006 animal rights campaigners were loudly voicing their concerns at the squalid and cramped surroundings some of the remaining animals were being imprisoned in.
Since January 2009 more than 80 workers have been working on landscaping and repairs to the property’s electrical and plumbing systems as part of a $3 million investment by Colony Capital.
As you’ll see in the 64 picture gallery, that contains many rare photos, the main house is in very good shape, as is the station, the guesthouse and a great deal of the garden.
Only time will tell what the future has in store for this once mysterious playgound of Michael Jackson, a place that holds so many untold stories and secrets that died along with him.
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