It’s always time to leave the worries of work behind at Ruando Spa.
“The clock says ‘5 p.m.’ on every hour,” said Alison Calton.
Ruando Spa, built by Ogden’s Eccles, Rich and Browning families, is a private retreat with a pool, set in a secluded hollow. A glimpse of this little slice of heaven can be had during the Ogden Area Garden Tour.
The tour, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, is a rare opportunity to see nine gardens in Ogden’s East Bench area. Three of the gardens used to join together at Ruanda Spa.
Ruth and Willard Eccles bought a lot, at 2745 Fillmore Ave., in the 1930s when the street was mostly just mud. Willard encouraged his friends, Dr. Clark Rich and wife Dorothy (also known as Doll), to buy the lot to the north, at 2733 Fillmore. Val and Ann Browning purchased a house at 1528 28th St. The three yards met at the bottom of a gully the families called “The Hollow,” where they joined together to build the pool and pool house after World War II.
The Eccles, Rich and Browning families no longer live around The Hollow, but many of the original touches still exist in the gardens.
“The pool itself, and pool house, are original,” said Calton, noting that they have been replastered and remodeled. “You can see in the cement patio of the pool where the original owners put their names.”
Calton now lives in the house Eccles built, and the yard includes the Ruando Spa area.
“They made a pact that the last man standing would inherit,” said Laurie Van Zandt, coordinator of the tour. Eccles was the last still living in one of the three homes, so the property became his.
The pool and pool house were named by contest.
“Sally Rich, the daughter of Dr. Rich, won the contest,” said Starla Stanley, whose family now owns the Rich home. “She came up with the name ‘Ruando’ by combining all three wives’ names — Ruth, Ann and Doll. … For winning, she got a free operation from Dr. Clark Rich, a hundred-dollar bill from Bill Eccles and a shotgun from Val Browning, but she never collected.”
The pool still has some original tiles, with fun images of fish. The original decorative ironwork and “Ruando Spa” clock — a tribute to Eccles’ banker hours — are on the pool house.
Because the pool was built in the bottom of a gully, the path down was steep.
“We have an original tram, or trolley car, that goes from the back patio of the house down the hillside,” said Calton. “It could transport people who might have a hard time going down, or supplies.”
The “Hil-A-Vator,” built by Dwan & Co. of San Francisco, could carry up to four people at a time. It’s not currently in use, and plants cover the tracks.
“We’d have to have an elevator permit, because it’s a full cable car,” said Calton, adding that the cable needs replacing. “We don’t feel the need right now, but all the working parts are there.”
Blending old and new
The Stanleys kept the original stone staircase down to the hollow, and there is still a stone staircase leading from the hollow to the Browning home, now owned by George and Mary Hall.
The Stanley yard has been through many changes over the years, and now features a treehouse, pool and vegetable gardens.
The Halls maintain the 1950s rose garden, but have recently completed new landscaping that includes extensive stonework and steel sculpture.
The Caltons kept the original house’s patio, with its dragon fountain, and the stone steps from the patio down to the hollow. They also kept the wrought iron gate on the north side of the house, and found new iron to match in other parts of the yard.
When the Caltons tore down the old garage and workshop to put in a new garage, they excavated an old stone retaining wall.
“We had to match the old wall that was built by the Army Corps of Engineers way back when,” Calton said. “It was a challenge to find a mason that could mimic it, and cared to mimic it correctly.”
The wall matches a bridge on either side of Fillmore Avenue, where a stream enters the hollow.
“The stream that runs through the yard used to run through the middle of the grass, and was a dirt ditch,” Calton said. “In the back, we moved it to the north side of the lot so the grass wouldn’t be cut up.”
They also lined it with rocks.
An overgrown hillside has been transformed into a grass path, lined with flowers, and another path was created using bricks from the old garage.
Calton says the best thing about the garden is the sense of privacy and quiet.
“When I’m in the backyard, it doesn’t feel like I’m in the middle of the city,” she said.
But she’s agreed to open the gardens for the tour, to give back to the community.
“It’s fun that all three houses will be on the tour at the same time,” she said.
WHAT: Ogden Area Garden Tour
WHEN: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine
WHERE: Nine gardens on Ogden’s East Bench; park behind The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 1643 26th St.
TICKETS: $20, in advance at Ogden Nature Center, 966 W. 12th St.; www.ogdennaturecenter.org; or at the gardens on tour day. 801- 621-7595.