Take a peek inside 'Peanuts' creator Charles Schulz’s Sebastopol art studio
When Donald and Helen Rogers bought their 8-acre getaway in Sebastopol 40 years ago, it was the beauty of the land - a sunny glade surrounded by redwoods and thick stands of redwood and oak - that sealed the deal. That, and a price of $115,000 that seemed ridiculously low compared to The Peninsula, where the couple lived and ran a commercial baking company.
It was merely a bonus that the property’s 1,300-square-foot vacation home once had a world-famous occupant.
Built in a U with a courtyard, broad patios and big windows looking out at ponds on two sides, the one-bedroom cottage perched on a knoll is the place where Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang were sketched into life.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, this was the private studio of Charles Schulz, a place where the cartoonist and father of five could break away from his large brood and work in quiet in a wooded setting on the edge of the 28-acre property on Coffee Lane in rural Sebastopol.
Here, Schulz also met with creative associates like Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson, with whom he collaborated on the popular “Peanuts” cartoon specials and movies.
Famous pals like Bob Hope and Jack Lemon also reportedly came to play golf on the four-hole course surrounding the studio.
The Rogers family has maintained the four-room studio largely as Schulz left it when he moved with his family to a ranch on Chalk Hill, not long before Schulz split from his first wife, Joyce.
“My grandmother was telling me at one point early on she thought she should add a bedroom and enlarge the kitchen,” said grandson Eric Rogers, who now lives on the property as a caretaker.
He said it wasn’t until many years later that his family realized what a blessing it was that Grandma never got around to making any major renovations.
“It dawned on us later on that this has a history to it. You want to preserve the memory of what it really was,” he said.
Eric and his father Tim, a retired helicopter pilot who lives nearby in Sebastopol, have spent the past 10 years renovating the grounds, including an irrigation system to restore the golf course and landscaping around the studio. In April, they began booking it as a vacation rental, discretely describing it on Airbnb only as “Hidden Cabin of Famous Cartoonist.”
It is only when guests arrive that they learn they will be sleeping in the former studio of Charles Schulz. An open book on the desk shows pictures of the Peanut’s creator at work in that same room, his back to a window overlooking what is clearly the same pond, although the Rogers’ have upgraded the original spray fountain.
The Rogers own only a piece of the original Schulz property, named “The Coffee Grounds” by the previous owner, photographer Rolla Watt, because of its location on Coffee Lane. After the Schulz family left about 1972, it was broken into three parcels. Artist Jack Stuppin owns a piece that contains the main family house built by the Schultz family and a photographer’s studio, where the cartoonist first set up his drafting tables.
That studio is still standing. A second parcel between the Rogers’ property and the main house is shared by multiple owners. It includes tennis courts, the miniature golf course, a pool and other amenities, as well as a home where Schulz’s mother-in-law lived and where Schulz also worked for a time.
In 1976 the Rogers bought the smallest parcel with the final studio, a stylish, Mad Men era lair with classic, mid-century modern elements.
Schulz bought the 28-acre property in 1958, moving his family out from Minnesota to what was then Apple Country, including his youngest, 2-month-old Jill.
“We wanted a place in the country, away not only from the crowded cities but winter weather, too. I might as well admit that I’m one of those who goes for that ‘it’s-a-wonderful-place-to-raise-the kids’ line... We wanted to be near San Francisco, and here we got more of everything we wanted for our money, especially land,” Schulz said in the 1960s.
His wife Joyce, with a sharp design aesthetic, took charge of turning the parcel into a showplace, overseeing the design and construction of a new split-level house and transforming the grounds into a children’s paradise, with tennis court, swimming pool, baseball diamond, stables and the pee-wee golf course complete with miniature buildings and ponds.
“It was the greatest place in the world to grow up,” Schulz’s son Monte Schulz remembered. “It was bad when we had to move... My dad thought it was the biggest mistake he ever made. My mom persuaded him to sell it, so they did.”