The site of the Valley of the Moon Camp near Glen Ellen was sold to a next-door neighbor and vintner who said Thursday that he and his wife wanted the iconic property for privacy reasons and as a gathering place for family.
The announcement ends speculation over who purchased the 23-acre parcel on Morningside Mountain Drive that borders Jack London State Park.
The site was a cherished retreat for youth groups and other organizations for at least 40 years, and prior to that, for Hollywood luminaries such as Clark Gable.
Bill Brinton, who owns Charles Creek Vineyard in Glen Ellen along with his wife, Gerry, confirmed Thursday that the couple bought the property from the Presbytery of San Francisco.
The deal, quietly consummated last spring, became public after the couple assumed ownership of the property Jan. 1. Brinton would not say how much the couple paid for the property, but county transfer tax on the transaction indicates the sales amount was $1.65 million.
The asking price for the property was $1.695 million.
Bill Brinton, 66, said he and his wife have owned a second home adjacent to the camp since 1984 and shared an easement affording access to the parcel.
He cited camp traffic and noise as reasons why the couple wanted to buy the property.
"I know everyone on the road is a little happier now that the camp is not up there," Brinton said.
He said he and his wife are not planning to put vineyards on the property. That will come as a relief to environmentalists, who feared new development would damage the site, which has mature stands of trees, streams and wildlife, including the likely presence of spotted owls.
"We're in the wine business, and it (the property) has zoning that with some approvals would permit vineyards. But we're not going to do that," Bill Brinton said.
The camp, however, is no more.
"I hope they can find somewhere else that makes them happy," Brinton said of those who lament the loss.
The property was a gift to the presbytery made by Alma deBrettville Spreckels, whose husband, Adolph Spreckels, was heir to the Claus Spreckels sugar empire.
After Adolph's death, Alma Spreckels bought the 3,000-acre Sobre Vista Ranch from her brother-in-law. The 23-acre parcel was once the horsemen's camp on the ranch. Movie stars, such as Gable, who was married to a member of the Spreckels family, frequented the camp.
The bar where luminaries sidled up for a drink still exists. A small post behind a caretaker's house marks the former northeast boundary of Gen. Mariano Vallejo's property.
The site also includes cabins, a dining hall, an outdoor amphitheater and a swimming pool.
Bill Brinton, who sold a natural products and nutritional beverage company he founded to another company in 2000, said he plans to maintain and improve the existing structures for use by his family.
He said he and his wife are active in philanthropic causes locally, including, he said, making a "sizeable donation" toward the construction of a new emergency center at Sonoma Valley Hospital.
He said the couple recently sold their home in San Francisco to make their permanent home in Glen Ellen, where their house includes 3,390 square feet and a pool, property records show.