The Olmsteds' "Friendly Garden," for example, grew from family friends' botanical gifts. "Playdays," a bronze nymph by Harriet Frishmuth — an American student of French sculptor Auguste Rodin — was the garden's original centerpiece, but it's now on view in the ranch house, along with Rookwood Pottery that formerly adorned an outdoor fountain.
The Cassatt and a small painting of water lilies by Claude Monet, also given to LACMA, are represented by reproductions in the music room. Nearby, above a fireplace, is "The Fancy Dress," a 1926 painting by American Impressionist Frederick Frieseke, purchased at his studio in France. Some members of Florence's family judged the acquisition "too fancy and too Frenchy," Seager says, but it reflects her quest for an artful environment.
Native American baskets, molded glass works and a signature nighttime cowboy scene by American painter Frank Tenney Johnson are displayed in other rooms.
Thanks to Bixby family members and sharp-eyed supporters, more than 90% of the original artworks, furnishings and garden ornaments are on the site, Seager says. A long-lost metal sign made for Rancho Los Alamitos Office turned up in a Berkeley antique shop and is back where it belongs, hanging on a post outside the office.
Seager, a former director of the California Historical Society, came to the ranch in 1985 to set up the foundation's partnership with the city and stayed to write a highly detailed master plan. Faced with the challenge of carrying it out, she offered to make a 10-year commitment to the project if the foundation's board president, Preston B. Hotchkis, would do so too.
"We're both still here," she says. "We have implemented 165 of 167 recommendations." They include relocating five agricultural structures that had been moved from their original sites. Next on the list: seismic strengthening of the ranch house and restoration of the "Old Garden," thought to have originated in the 1840s.
Mimi Morris is executive director of the California Cultural and Historical Endowment, a state fund that awarded the foundation a $1.5-million grant. "We have many great projects," Morris says, referring to a program that has given about 150 organizations a total of $122.5 million. "What I love about this one is that it encapsulates so much of California's history."
Seager hopes the restored ranch will "connect with new immigrants and show that we all lived together in one place. Before, when you came to the site, what you saw was the last owner," she says. "We wanted to bring in everybody from Native American times to the end of World War II, the people who lived here and shaped it, and show changes of the landscape over time."