Swanner House

Swanner House


History of the Swanner House and Property

also known as Roger Y. Williams House


In 1913, Roger Williams and his brother William purchased 347 acres in the northern portion of San Juan Capistrano from Judge Richard Egan, who had owned the property since 1868.  With the assistance of their brother Guy, the Williams planned to grow walnuts on the property and subdivide a portion of the land into family farms.

In 1916, Roger and William granted their brother Guy a 17.25 acre triangular-shaped parcel in the northern portion of their land.  The same year Guy and his wife Catherine Bathgate Williams built a two-story Craftsman style residence on the one-acre fronting highway 101, now Camino Capistrano.

In 1923, Roger and Lizzie Swanner Williams built their two-story Craftsman house on the 35 acre parcel that was subdivided that year from the larger property.  Their house was constructed just south of Guy’s house and also fronts on Camino Capistrano.  The property includes a garage and tank house that were designed to compliment the style of the residence.  The Williams landscaped the yard around their house with walnut and fruit trees.  By 1924, the couple relocated to San Juan Capistrano from their residence in Santa Ana.

In the 1920’s, Roger and Guy transitioned from walnuts as their primary crop to oranges.  By the end of the decade the brothers had earned recognition for their success in citrus ranching and were featured in a 1929 interview Overland Monthly magazine.  According to the article, Roger Williams had, “for years been transforming the bean fields and waste stretches of this fertile little valley into a veritable paradise of citrus and walnut orchards”.  In Dos Cientos Anos En San Juan Capistrano, author Patricia Hallan also discussed the Williams’ citrus activities, stating “The Williams’ can be credited with starting the citrus industry in Capistrano which grew into this major buisness in the 30s and 40s”.

In 1931, Lizzie Williams passed away.  Nine years later Roger died and interest in his proptery was divided between his brother Guy and is nephews, Charles and John Swanner.  John was an independent oil producer living in Wichita Falls, Texas and visited the property periodically.  Charles practiced law and lived in Santa Ana.  The Swanners did not play a day-to-day role in the operation of the ranch, as it was maintained by Guy Williams until his death in 1952.  Descendants of the Swanner family owned the residence until 1991 when it was purchased by the city of San Juan Capistrano with the intent of preserving it as a significant example of an intact ranch house.  The Roger Y. Williams home is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the US Department of the Interior.

John Swanner, standing next to the photo of his great Aunt Lizzie Swanner, and his girlfriend Courtney, standing beside the photograph of Roger Williams. They stopped by the winery to visit his family’s home for the first time.  They were visiting from Wichita Falls, TX.  Of course, he took a tour of the home, including the cellar.  What a treat it was to visit with both of them!

© 2017 A Stones Throw Vineyards. All rights reserved.