Between 1988 and 2005, pop star Michael Jackson transformed a 2,676-acre property in Santa Barbara County, California into a Disneyesque fantasyland called Neverland Valley Ranch.
The Tudor-style house and surrounding land, formerly called Sycamore Valley Ranch, had been owned by a golf course entrepreneur. When Michael Jackson arrived, he added faux-Victorian buildings and attractions that evoked a sense of play.
Among those was a "Victorian" train station Michael Jackson built for his guests to travel through the property on a real steam train. Where would they go?01of 03
Michael Jackson's Amusement Park at Neverland
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Michael Jackson named his home after Neverland, the imaginary land from the children's story "Peter Pan" by J.M. Barrie. Neverland was Michael Jackson's home, but also a private amusement park.
Visitors to Neverland found many attractions, including:
- a floral clock
- a zoo
- two railroads
- a roller coaster
- a Ferris wheel
- a carousel
- bumper cars
Home as Castle: Building an Oasis
Kyle Harmon / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
The notion that a "man's house is his castle" is deeply rooted not only in American traditions and customs, but also in the laws of the land. We may gawk in disbelief, but Michael Jackson built as lavishly as he could afford. At Neverland, the music star carried his utopian dreams to the extreme.
Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch seems like an oasis in a desert. Trees, lakes, and greenery are surrounded by a harsh, arid environment. Jackson attempted to create a retreat from the outside world for himself and his friends-a place where he could be himself and experience whatever amused him. It's been reported that his library was extensive, with books on art, poetry, and spirituality.
Michael Jackson's Neverland was vast and extravagant. But, he certainly was not the first to turn the idea of home into a fantasy world.
- Walt Disney was perhaps the world's most famous creator of amusement venues. His parks are located around the world. The Disney Corporation expanded the concept of utopia with Celebration, Florida, a residential village that incorporated Disney ideas.
- Sir Clough Williams-Ellis created Portmeirion, a fanciful village with architecture designed to amuse, on his land in Wales.
- Like Michael Jackson, the wealthy Walter and Leonore Annenberg turned a desert plot into a vacation estate. Sunnylands near Palm Springs, California. is still used as a retreat for U.S. Presidents and other global leaders.
Michael Jackson Closes Neverland
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A "ranch" usually has rugged, utilitarian architecture, but during his time at Neverland, Jackson added an odd mix of fanciful details. Mock-Victorian architecture and amusement park rides turned the desert property into a utopian playland.
Jackson often hosted groups of children at Neverland. The fanciful ranch became a haven for hundreds of seriously ill and underprivileged children. Michael Jackson raised millions of dollars for charitable organizations and humanitarian causes. However, authorities became suspicious when Jackson held sleepover parties and shared his bed with young children. Amidst the praise for Jackson and gratitude for his generosity, reports of sexual misconduct surfaced.
After a series of police searches, Michael Jackson left Neverland in 2005. Jackson said the searches violated the beauty and innocence of Neverland. He dismantled the carousel and Ferris wheel and dismissed most of the Neverland staff.
Michael Jackson died in 2009. As of March 2017, Neverland, listed once again as Sycamore Valley Ranch, was on the market for $67 million.
Resources and Further Reading
- Messer, Lesley. “Neverland Ranch, Now Sycamore Valley Ranch, Is Relisted for $67 Million.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 1 Mar. 2017.
- Nimmer, Larry. Michael Jackson: The Untold Story of Neverland. 2009.