And throughout the '70s, Muriel Vanderbilt (the great-great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the famous railroad tycoon, built and resided in what is still referred to as ‘The Vanderbilt Estate'. She turned the 80 acres surrounding the mansion into a serene and picturesque horse farm, where she bred racehorses. Most notable of the horses bred here is the U.S. Riding Hall of Fame inductee, Desert Vixen.
In 1980, successful businessman Arthur Jones and his wife purchased the Vanderbilt property. In order to build an oversized runway to accommodate their aircraft, they also acquired an additional 450 acres surrounding the Vanderbilt Estate. They flew in exotic animals, including several hundred crocodiles and snakes, three white rhinos, 17 elephants, and even a gorilla named Mickey. They further developed the Vanderbilt Estate with the addition of a ballroom, elephant and rhino barns, a pool with a pool house, as well as a gym fully equipped with Nautilus exercise equipment that Arthur Jones famously invented himself. With all of this, they made the property a celebrity hotspot and tourist destination.
In 1984, the couple flew to Africa to rescue 63 baby elephants and bring them back to the property. The successful rescue, entitled 'Operation Elephant' was featured on ABC's 20/20. It was through this rescue that the property earned its name. 'JUMBO' (which of course means large in size) referred to ‘Jumbo’, the PT Barnum elephant, and is also the perfect nod to the 'Jumbo jets' that were on the property. 'LAIR' by definition means a place where a wild animal lives or where one takes refuge. Hence the name JUMBOLAIR.
The animals thrived here at Jumbolair until 1989, when the couple divorced. At that point, the animals were donated to parks and zoos, where they could happily live out the remainder of their lives. Jumbolair itself was kept private until the late '90s, when plans were made to turn a portion of the property into an upscale residential aviation community. In 2001, Jumbolair Aviation Estates was founded.
Yes, it's true... John Travolta actually purchased the first lot in Jumbolair Aviation Estates, on which he built his home, in 2002. Over the next several years, lots were sold in Phase 1, and beautiful estate homes were built. During this time, the Vanderbilt Estate was primarily used as a venue for weddings and other events, including car shows and fly-ins. The mansion itself functioned as a bed and breakfast for some time. However, in 2013, due to economic reasons, the development and the Vanderbilt property were sold. The new owner built a stunning estate home in the community, but beyond that, further development was somewhat halted, and the remaining lots were taken off the market. In 2019, the property was listed for sale once again.
The Jumbolair Aviation Estates development, along with the Vanderbilt Estate and additional surrounding property, was purchased in early 2021. The property was the perfect setting to combine aviation and equestrian lifestyles. The vision and the plan to build Jumbolair Aviation & Equestrian Estates into a premier aviation community were immediately put into motion. In just over a year’s time, the transformation that has taken place is truly remarkable, and we are just getting started!