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Cal Estate Fullerton

The official home of the campus president is a peaceful, unpretentious mansion. Living there, though, has its challenges, Milton Gordon says.

March 03, 2001|ANN CONWAY

In the spotlight: The El Dorado Ranch, the official residence of Cal State Fullerton President Milton A. Gordon and his wife, Margaret, dean of extended education at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Located on 4.5 acres and only a few miles from campus, the hillside estate in Fullerton includes a 5,792-square-foot, two-story house and tennis court.

Once the home of Fullerton pioneer C. Stanley Chapman Sr., the ranch was donated to the university in 1989 by his family to further the cause of higher education in Orange County. Besides being home to the president, the ranch and its carefully tended grounds are regularly used for university social gatherings.

Stately welcome: Pull up to the Spanish-flavored ranch with its imposing driveway, circular courtyard, towering trees and separate, three-story guard tower--a structure used by one former owner for creative inspiration--and it's easy to pretend you're in another place and time.

Peaceful and unpretentious, the property has a heritage dating to the early part of the 20th century when it was owned by C. Stanley Chapman, Sr., son of Charles C. Chapman, "father of the Valencia orange" and first mayor of Fullerton.

"I was raised in the south side of Chicago and never dreamed I'd live in a home so beautiful," Milton Gordon said. "When we moved in, it seemed huge. But now, 11 years later, we find it comfortable, warm, inviting."

Making a house home. No sooner do you step into the two-story foyer of the grand house with its rich birch paneling than you know who resides there.

Assembled on an entry wall are cheerful photographs of the Gordons--posing with former California Gov. Pete Wilson, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), former President Bill Clinton, and former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite.

"Now we have to get a photograph from President Bush--we attended his inauguration," President Gordon said.

Although the Gordons enjoy the

elegant ambience of the home's saffron-and-rust-toned living room--with its grand piano, marble-topped bombe chests and crystal light fixtures--they spend most of their time in the cozy library or in a small room off the kitchen where, on a wall, Margaret showcases her collection of ceramic tiles from around the world.

The library, appointed with a wood-burning marble fireplace, cushy sofa and twin wing-back chairs, is where Milton Gordon goes to "read, write, do my serious thinking, make important decisions," he said. "It's very quiet, and to me, it seems like just the most comfortable room there is."

Margaret Gordon too enjoys the intimacy of the library. Frequently, the couple, who have been married for 14 years, meet there to sip a glass of wine and chat--but not about their respective careers in education. "We try to stay away from business," President Gordon said.

Mostly, they discuss their plans for travel. "We go to a different country every summer," he said. "Those trips are really the only time of the year, where, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, we are together. We absolutely insist upon that."

Collectibles: "Just about everything you see [lying] around belongs to us," Margaret Gordon said of the variety of interesting objects that grace everything from a living room curio cabinet--filled with personal gifts from friends and family--to artworks they have collected on their trips.

Items also include an antique mantel clock that once belonged to Milton Gordon's mother and a pair of oils executed by Margaret's grandfather.

A public life: Although the Gordons find satisfaction in sharing their home with others, living in the residence has its challenges.

One night, they were reminded of just how public their home was. "After a reception, I prepared to go to bed and came downstairs to turn out the lights and found people in the library with their feet up, drinking wine and talking," he said.

Another night, the couple found guests roaming through an upstairs bedroom with video cameras. "We now lock the door--you have to get used to that kind of thing," Milton Gordon said.

Frequently, the couple entertain several hundred people on the estate's grounds. When they first began to host hundreds of guests, they were intimidated by the numbers and the responsibility, Milton Gordon said.

"Now, we always joke, that, in the middle of a [large social gathering], we could go to a movie and nobody would know we'd left."

Ann Conway can be reached by phone at (714) 966-5952 or by fax at (714) 966-7790.

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