Behind-the-Scenes: The Beginning in Petaluma

In the beginning—July 1998 when I bought the property—Rancho Obi-Wan was 2 1/4 acres with an updated farmhouse, three large former hen houses and overgrown fields with a junked car, part of a truck and half-buried containers of who-knew what. The first order of business after moving in was to clear the fields, find temporary housing for the collection and figure out next steps.

The huge barns, which neighbors tell us housed around 20,000 chickens up until the early 1970s, had been converted into a small manufacturing facility to make machinery for cabinet makers. That eventually got the seller into trouble with zoning authorities as did his attempt to turn the front barn into a personal storage facility.

With the collection temporarily housed in the middle barn, remodeling started in the fall of 1998 on the front barn. My idea to give the property a name was influenced by a nearby house with a beautifully manicured lawn and garden that the owners dubbed “Easy Life Ranch.” Since the eventual museum was on smaller grounds, “Rancho” seemed more apt, added to the name of my favorite Star Wars character. Anthony Daniels, AKA C-3PO, stopped by one day to see the work in progress.

Steve Sansweet is owner and Executive Chairman of Rancho Obi-Wan, former Head of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm and contributor to, and previously the longest-running Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal in Los Angeles.