After first being offered in 2006, the 225-acre Puzzleface Ranch sold Friday.
According to warranty deeds on file with the Teton County Clerk, Fintan D. Ryan purchased the ranch from Puzzleface Ranch LLC and David and Melinda Kornblum.
The ranch, protected by a conservation easement, sits along Highway 22 between Jackson and the Snake River. It is perhaps best known for its scenic, irrigated swan ponds, which thousands of drivers see every day as they travel the highway.
The property is located south of the protected Walton Ranch.
“The purchase price was mutually agreeable,” said Mack Mendenhall, an associate broker with Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates, who represented Ryan.
Mendenhall would not disclose the purchase price, saying a confidentiality agreement prevented him from doing so. The most recent listed price of the 225-acre ranch was $7.8 million, down almost 70 percent from the $25 million sought in 2006.
Mendenhall said his client, who lives in Henderson, Nev., has visited the valley for years and has long been interested in the Puzzleface property.
“We finally came to terms,” Mendenhall said of Friday’s sale.
In the 1960s, John Morgan and three partners purchased the ranch for either $2,000 or $6,000, Morgan’s widow, Georgie, recalled.
“We heard the whole property was going to be sold to some developer from Salt Lake City,” she said.
They decided after a night of dancing that they would buy the land instead.
In 1969, the owners began selling lots on the ridge above the meadow, said Bert Raynes, a resident and columnist for the News&Guide.
Then, in 1971, Morgan and his partners placed the ranch meadow into a conservation easement with the Nature Conservancy, a national organization committed to preservation. The easement protected the meadowland and delicate wetlands, which provide habitat to migrating waterfowl, against future development. It was the first conservation easement in Wyoming.
“People thought we were crazy,” Georgie Morgan said. “My husband was very aware of easements in other parts of the country happening. It was a very idealistic thing, because we never received any money for it. Nobody said we had to do it. We just wanted to save the land.”
The easement set a precedent for that corridor on the highway, and gradually other properties put easements on their land, she said.
“That’s why it’s so beautiful,” she said.
The property’s history is detailed in stories in the News&Guide archives.
Ken and Pat Snyder bought the property in 1972 and moved there in 1981. They sold the ranch, known at the time as the Snyder Ranch, to the Kornblums in 2001. The new owners renamed the property for the famous outlaw Bill “Puzzleface” Taylor.
The ranch was listed with Sotheby’s International Reality at the time for $4.3 million. The Kornblums bought two homesites, totaling 10 acres combined, in 2003, according to clerk’s records.
Formerly of northern California, the couple had no experience ranching, but owning a horse farm had always been a dream of Melinda’s, she said at the time.
David Kornblum became known in the valley for his cowboy poetry. Under the name Kid Kornblum, he called himself the “poet lariat” of Jackson Hole and performed humorous, original cowboy verses.
Outside of poetry, Kornblum served on the Teton County School District No. 1 board of trustees and is still on the Off Square Theatre Company board.
A few noticeable events happened on the ranch during the Kornblums’ time there.
In August 2003, a trio of Blackhawk helicopters carrying former Vice President Dick Cheney used the protected terrain as a landing and launching pad, reportedly buzzing Skyline Pond 18 times through three landings and takeoffs.
A year later, former ranch manager Alan John, who also was working at the Jackson Police Department, filed a lawsuit alleging his rejection of Melinda Kornblum’s sexual advances resulted in his termination as ranch manager. The parties settled the suit and ultimately agreed there was no sexually related contact between the litigants.
One Sunday evening in January 2005, a new ranch manager’s home caught fire. Ranch workers tried to put out the fire, but the equipment was frozen. The home burned down.
Throughout the Kornblums’ time there, the ranch has been used for Western horseback riding lessons and horse boarding. The couple put the property on the market in 2006, asking $25 million.
“It started out with a pretty aggressive price,” Mendenhall said. “In those four years was the volatile market that we saw occur, so they adjusted aggressively with the market.”
In November 2008, Live Water Properties announced a 30 percent price reduction to a $17.3 million asking price.
The price was further dropped to $14.9 million in May 2009. Interested parties were told to “bring all offers.” The Kornblums were described as “very motivated sellers.”
According to Livewater marketing materials, the 215-acre ranch parcel is composed of variable terrain that ranges from pasture lands to a ridge with unparalleled views of the Tetons.
A buildable homesite is located on the meadow portion of the ranch, Livewater’s website states. Also on this site are multiple corrals, a barn with stalls, tack rooms, a large arena and round pens. Several residences are used for the manager and staff quarters.
“All equipment needed to run this efficient operation is already on-site,” promotional materials state. “The operation can be tailored to a prospective owner’s needs and requirements, i.e., the public boarding operation could be maintained, curtailed or eliminated. The incoming owner to Puzzleface Ranch has the option to be as hands-on or hands-off as desired, since this is a turnkey operation with veteran ranch staff in place.”
In addition to the main ranch, Ryan also purchased two separately deeded lots of 5.35 and 5.65 acres.
Marketing materials describe those parcels as secluded, with elevations that provide each site with “spectacular views in every direction.”
“The western view is one of the most sensational in the Jackson Hole valley: the Snake River Mountains and Tetons frame the skyline, creating sites that are world-class while a tranquil wildlife pond and protected wooded area on Crane Creek Ranch add to the serene landscape,” the website states.
One parcel contains a cottage, a barn with horse stalls and small corral.
No structures sit on the second parcel, according to the Teton County geographic information system.
Ryan will likely use the ranch as a vacation property, eventually building a main residence within the next few years, Mendenhall said. Riding lessons and horse boarding should continue through the year with the new owner, Mendenhall said.
“No one should see a difference this year,” he said. “It will look and run the exact same.”
David Kornblum and Alex Maher, Live Water Properties broker-owner, did not return a phone call seeking comment.