The Preserved 1920’s Mansion of Western Movie Star, William S. Hart

Lex sez:

When Neek and I first walked into the William S. Hart Museum foyer, two immediate impressions of the man formed for me: his love of art and his love of the Old West.  This 10,000 square foot Spanish Colonial Revival style mansion completed in 1927 was designed by Arthur Roland Kelly, who was also responsible for designing the Arthur Letts, Jr. estate in Holmby Hills, more popularly known as The Playboy Mansion where Hugh Hefner lives.  I noticed that along the spiral staircase leading up to the second story, there were beautiful paintings of Western motifs.  It seemed very inviting, but Neek and I decided to explore downstairs first.

Usually they have guided tours, but Neek and I happened to arrive on a day where they were presenting the place “open house style.”

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The First Western Movie Star – William S. Hart

Neek sez:

William S. Hart was not always a western movie star.  He first started acting on stage in New York City doing Shakespearean roles but he was most well-known for his portrayal of Messala in the original 1899 theatre production of “Ben Hur”.

William S. Hart was already 50 years old when he transitioned to silent films.  His choice to work in Westerns was greatly influenced by his childhood memories of traveling the Old West with his father, Nicholas Hart, a machinist who dreamt of owning a grist mill.

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One Man’s Vision of the West – Old Trapper’s Lodge Folk Art

Lex sez:

In the interior of Pierce College in Woodland Hills, California, there is a fascinating collection of statues, fake tombstones and other examples of folk art.  These are what remain of Old Trapper’s Lodge.  It took Neek and me a long time driving around to find it, but hidden in a more rural section of the college where a rooster was crowing loudly, we finally stumbled onto it.

Entering the display, two things caught my attention right away.  One was the historical plaque for California Registered Historical Landmark #939.  This told the story of John Ehn (1897-1981), who was a trapper before moving to California, who opened a motel near the Burbank airport at Arvilla Avenue and San Fernando Road called the Old Trapper’s Lodge in 1941.  Continue reading

The Desert Dwellers – Visiting the Vasquez Rocks Interpretive Center

Neek sez:

I love interpretive centers!  They are thoughtful, informative and give you answers to questions about the places you visit.  So, starting off, this is what I learned:

The history of Vasquez Rocks starts with the native people, The Tataviam who were here from 200 B.C., years before the first Spanish explorers met them in 1769 when they numbered in the hundreds.  Continue reading

Do You Recognize this Place? – Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California

Lex sez:

In the town of Agua Dulce in the Sierra Pelona Mountains is a 932 acre area called the Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park.  These are huge rock formations from an uplift about 25 million years ago.  The Tataviam people were living here in grass huts within villages for centuries before the Spanish arrived.

But it was bandit Tiburcio Vasquez, who used these rocks to hide out from authorities in 1873 and 1874, whose name is associated with this amazing formation. Continue reading

A Small Community with a Rich History – Montrose, California

Neek sez:

Los Angeles, California is not just a city but also a county with a collection of smaller communities.  That is especially true for Montrose which is part of the Crescenta Valley sandwiched between the San Fernando Valley and Glendale, California.  It is about 15 minutes (unless you’re stuck in traffic) from downtown Los Angeles.

The history of the area dates back to 1784 when California was a Spanish territory.  Don Jose Maria Verdugo was granted 36,000 acres by the Spanish Crown.   Continue reading

An Abandoned Utopia – Llano Del Rio

Neek sez:

Big stone pillars can be seen on the highway leading to Pearblossom in the Mojave Desert.  The ruins are part of an old utopian colony called Llano Del Rio (Plain of River in Spanish ) and this was going to be one interesting place to explore.

Llano Del Rio was a failed socialist utopian colony that was active from 1914 to 1918 in the California desert and it really intrigued me as to why anyone would attempt to create a living in such a desolate environment.  Continue reading