Llano Del Rio, CA
Llano Del Rio, CA
Llano Del Rio is located directly off of SR138, roughly 20 miles east of Palmdale, CA. When coming from Palmdale you will pass through Little Rock, and Pearblossom, once you reach the intersection for 165th Street slow down as the site is located just up the road on the left hand side.
Llano Del Rio’s history is very different from that of your usual ghost town in the old west. It was not a mining town, railroad town, or anything of the sort. Llano Del Rio was established as a socialist colony on May 1st, 1914 by Job Harriman. Job Harriman was an Indiana native, he was the first person to ever run for Vice President of the United States under the newly formed (at that time) Socialist Party in 1900. After an unsuccessful Vice Presidential run Harriman would make another unsuccessful office run for the Mayor of Los Angeles in 1911.
Frustrated with the political realm, Harriman and his fellow visionaries set out to create their own socialist utopia along the San Gabriel Mountain in Los Angeles County. Harriman marketed Llano Del Rio nationwide, mostly through the socialist magazine The Western Comrade. His efforts managed to bring the town to a population of over 1,000 people in 1916. The colony had numerous buildings including a hotel, meeting house, and water storage tank.
The colony was pretty self-sustaining by 1916. They had a paint shop, agriculture, orchards, a poultry yard, a rabbitry, a print shop, and a fish hatchery all within the compound. Their fields grew alfalfa, corn, and grain; and by 1916 90% of the food eaten at Llano Del Rio was produced by the colony.
The year 1917 would see the end of Llano Del Rio, the town’s water supply was diverted from an earthquake. 200 members of the colony would uproot and relocate to a new settlement 1,700 miles away in New Llano, LA. Despite the relocation Harriman was quoted as saying the following about the California location, “progressed from a ‘Utopian, chimerical idea’ to a concrete practicality— from a dozen dreamers to a thousand determined doers”. Some members remaining at the California compound until 1918 when some faulty legal maneuvering would end it forever.
Today the walls of a few structures remain. The first set of walls (closest to the highway), that include the two chimneys was the hotel. When you walk further back into the desert you will find additional walls and foundations. There was a large circular building standing on the site. I’ve managed to come across pictures of it dating up until October 2010, however it is no longer standing and there are no traces of it left where it once stood. I haven’t been able to find any information on what happened to it. Llano Del Rio is worth the stop to check out, the history is extra interesting since it’s not your typical ghost town.