Tag Archives: California
Monastery of Our Lady of the Sanctuary is located a short distance outside of the town of California City. From California City take Randsburg Mojave Road towards Randsburg. At the cut off take 20 Mule Team Road for only .20 miles. Turn right on George Blvd. (dirt road) and follow for 1.25 miles. Turn right on 127th St., and follow for .13 miles.
The area around the monastery is fenced and gated off. During my visit however the gate was open so I decided to check out the ruins of the monastery. Two buildings remain, one most likely being the temple, and the other a storage area or even possibly a small home. The temple is the most interesting of the two buildings. The ceiling inside has a circular pattern that spirals up. In the middle of the room is an altar or table of sort that is built up on a block of concrete. Around the grounds there is freakish religious metal art (as seen below), and a small meditating area surrounded by cactus.
I’ve tried to uncover information from various sources about the monastery, however most people around California City seem to not even know of it having existed here. Even the East Kern Historical Society, which is based in California City didn’t know what I was talking about. If anyone has any information please comment with it below or contact me via email so that I may add it this page.
The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns are located within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park despite their location being in the Panamint Mountain Range. They are located 7.10 miles from the Wildrose Road, and Wood Canyon Road intersection. Turn on Wood Canyon Road, which quickly turns into Charcoal Kiln Road. The last couple of miles the road becomes dirt and can be a bit washboard, however just about any vehicle can make it without issues.
The charcoal kilns were constructed in 1877 by Chinese Labor men in the employ of George Hearst. George Hearst had purchased into a mining operation at Lookout City (25 miles west of the Charcoal Kilns in the Argus Mountain Range). As the mining operation at Lookout City continued to grow the decision was made to build two furnaces directly at the mining site. Previously everything had been shipped off to Panamint City to be crushed in their stamp mill. There was only one problem, there was limited lumber in the Argus Mountains which was needed to fuel the furnaces. Construction of the charcoal kilns in the Panamints was the solution.
Once in operation the kilns employed roughly 40 woodcutters, and workmen. Remi Nadeau’s stage and freight company was hired to transport the charcoal from the kilns across the Panamint Valley to Lookout City three times per week.
Each of the ten kilns stands roughly 25 feet tall, with a circumference of about 30 feet. Each kiln could hold up to 42 cords of wood, and could produce 2,000 bushels of charcoal.
The men that worked at the kiln lived in a town by the name of Wildrose. The location of the town has never been found, but it’s speculated that it may have been located near the kilns, or possibly at Wildrose Spring, 7 miles away. Due to there be no evidence of the location it was most likely a tent town with limited to no structures.
Death Valley National Park states that the kilns had been used for three years (1877-1890). Most likely that is not so accurate. In the fall of the same year that construction was completed on the kilns (1877), the furnaces at Lookout City broke down and remained broken until May of 1878 (down time estimated at 5-6 months). Hearst and his associates had stopped mining the Modoc (the mine at Lookout City) in the later part of 1878. It wasn’t mined again until 1881 when it was leased to Frank Fitzgerald, and by this time the kilns had already ceased operation. Based on my research I have determined that the kilns may have been used for the better part of a year and a half.
The kilns are located of off of the beaten path, however it is worth the trip, as are most of the locations in the Panamint Mountains (IE: Harrisburg, Skidoo, Aguereberry Point, Telescope Peak, Panamint City, etc.). You will not find kilns in this condition anywhere else in the western United States. During my latest trip I enjoyed lunch inside one of the 100+ year kilns, as it made for a cool break from the blazing sunshine.
For more information on Lookout City, and the Modoc Mine head over to my Lookout City page.
Ubehebe Crater (pronounced YOU-bee-HEE-bee) is located at the northern tip of the Cottonwood Mountains within Death Valley National Park. Due to it’s more remote location than most of the park’s other attractions it receives a bit less traffic than the park’s more southern attractions. If you are venturing to Ubehebe Crater you will most likely be coming from Scotty’s Castle or Furnace Creek. I will provide directions from both locations.
From Scotty’s Castle: From the entrance to the castle turn right on to Scotty’s Castle Road, follow it for 2.94 miles. At the fork in the road turn right on Ubehebe Crater Road. Follow Ubehebe Crater Road for 6 miles to the parking area.
From Furnace Creek: From the Visitor Center parking lot turn left (north) on Highway 190. Follow Highway 190 for 17.11 miles. Turn right on Scotty’s Castle Road and follow it for 33.36 miles. Turn left on Ubehebe Crater Road. Follow Ubehebe Crater Road for 6 miles to the parking area.
Ubehebe Crater is a rather large crater at half-mile wide, and 800 feet deep. In the last year there has been some controversy over the age of the crater. Original estimates had places the crater between 2,000 – 7,000 years old. New findings have shown that the crater is more likely closer to 800 years old. If the new evidence is correct it is likely that sometime in the future lava may again flow from Ubehebe, as it may be restive, with plenty of hot magma waiting to escape from beneath it.
The crater was formed when magma came close to the ground surface and the heat of the magma turned groundwater that was in the area into steam. This caused the throwing of a large quantity of pulverized old rock and new magma across the alluvial fan on the valley floor. The magma rose through a fault that lies along the western base of Tin Mountain. Movement on this fault was responsible for uplift of the entire Cottonwood Mountains range.
For those that are interested in hiking there are three trails from the parking area. One will lead you around the rim of the crater, another will lead you to the bottom, and the third will take you to the smaller Little Hebe Crater.
Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park is one of the many highlights of the park. It was named after Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, the vice-president of Pacific Crest Borax in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. Located in the Amargosa Mountain Range between Furnace Creek and Pahrump, NV along State Route 190, it is one of the easier and more visited locations in the park. The site is well marked with a parking area, and restroom facilities. From the parking area there is a short uphill climb to reach the main overlook.
Nine million years ago an ancient lake covered the area around Zabriskie. During the millions of years that the lake existed, sediments collected at the bottom of the lake in the form of saline muds and gravel. The animals that once traversed over this area included camels, mastodons, horses, carnivores, and birds.
What we see today when visiting Zabriskie is a direct result of the climate becoming more and more arid, which caused the lake to dry up. During the same time that the lake was drying up the valley began widening and sinking, and Black Mountain began lifting up. This caused the land to tilt, and erode into the badlands formation that we see today.
View 2012 Wildflower Sightings in a larger map
Wildflowers are beginning to bloom in Indian Wells Canyon near the trail head to Owens Peak. While there is not an abundance of them, they are beginning to cover some hills quite well.
Black Canyon & Inscription Canyon are located in the Black Mountains near Barstow, CA. There are a few different ways to reach the area, if you are 4×4 enabled I recommend the route from Hinkley, CA. Below you can view a map courtesy of Google of this particular route, as well as step by step directions.
This area of the Black Mountains has a lot of history in it. From the ancient petroglyphs that line the canyon walls in the thousands, to the Panamint City stage stop, Native American ruins, and much more. We will get more into each of these as I take you down the route piece by piece.
The adventure begins in Hinkley, CA. Hinkley was made famous world-wide from the movie Erin Brockovich, which featured Julia Roberts as an attorney assistant fighting PG&E over the ground water contamination in Hinkley. The town of 1915 has had 196 cases of cancer found in their residents over the last 12 years as a direct result of PG&E’s contamination. Now as you drive through Hinkley, don’t blink, or you might miss it. This small town doesn’t have much to it, however it does have a small gas station and market, which gives you the perfect opportunity to stop and fill up before heading into the wilderness.
Next stop is Harper Dry Lake, which is one of the largest dry lakes in the Mojave Desert. In the 1940′s and 50′s the dry lake was used by aerospace companies as a landing strip. Today it is a popular site for parasailing, camping, and off-roading. There have even been talks of a power plant or even a commercial space port being constructed here.
Once you reach the dry lake, I highly recommend a side trip to the marsh. There is a road baring to the left right before the dry lake, take that and follow it for a short distance to the marsh. Here you will find a sanctuary for many birds including but not limited to White-faced Ibises, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, White Pelicans, Tricolored Blackbirds, Black-crowned Night Herons, warblers, sparrows, blue birds, Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Prairie Falcons, and Ferruginous Hawks.
Besides birds, you will also find other wild life at the marsh including multiple lizard species, coyotes, jack rabbits, bobcats, desert tortoise, and the Mojave Ground Squirrel.
Once you have crossed Harper Dry Lake you will descend into Black Canyon. From this point you will want to pay particular attention to the rock walls around you. You will immediately start coming across many petroglyphs. Archaeological evidence reveals that this region had humans living here for over 8000 years. Many of the geometric petroglyphs in this canyon are carved in the Great Basin curvilinear and Great Basin rectilinear styles and are traced to the Shoshonean Period of the Western Great Basin, AD 1000 to Historic times. Some of the other petroglyphs have a higher amount of re-varnishing and are traced to earlier hunter/ gatherer times. This area was utilized by the Shoshone, Southern Paiute and the Kawaiisu.
Continue the drive through Black Canyon. A few miles in (sorry, I’m not sure of the exact mileage) on the right hand side of the road you will come across the ruins of the Black Canyon Stage Stop. The stage stop was used in the mid-late 1870′s during the mining boom at Panamint City. Because of the violence, and chance of stage-coach hold ups in the area Wells Fargo refused to service Panamint City. This caused the mine owners to create their own stage service to deliver their ore to the train to Los Angeles. The route used led their drivers directly through Black Canyon where this stage stop was created. It is said that once the stage stopped running through the area the building was likely used as a home for miners. All that remains of the stop today is the lower portion of the walls.
Roughly 1 mile from the Stage Stop ruins you come upon Black Canyon Well. It’s unknown when the well was dug, or by whom. It first appeared on a map in 1915, but it’s likely to have been dug in the 1870′s when the stage-coach came through. Water is still in the well to this day, but I highly doubt that it’s consumable based on its appearance.
From the well you still have several miles before reaching Inscription Canyon. As I stated earlier watch the walls around the canyon, as you will continue to find various petroglyphs along the way.
Once once you reach Inscription Canyon there is a parking area. The road leading through Inscription Canyon is blocked off from vehicles, but you are free to walk through the area. Inscription Canyon is a relatively small canyon, however close to every square inch of it is covered in petroglyphs. There has been some vandalism to the site, but minimal compared to the petroglyphs site in Titus Canyon (Death Valley area).
From Inscription Canyon you can continue and explore much more of the Barstow wilderness area.
Leadfield, CA is located in the Grapevine mountains within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park. The only route to Leadfield begins 6.2 miles down Route 374 from Beatty, NV or 13.2 miles from the Beatty Cutoff in California. Turn onto the one way Titus Canyon Rd., and follow it for 13.5 miles. Please note that Titus Canyon Rd. is recommended by the Park Service for high clearance 4×4. Based on my experience with the drive I’d say that the Park’s recommendation is a bit exaggerated, and a high clearance 2 wheel drive would have no problems making the trip.
The story of Leadfield begins in 1905, twenty years before the town site would be plotted and officially be dubbed Leadfield. In the fall of that year two miners, W.H. Seaman and Curtis Durnford would stake 9 lead-copper claims which were the Romeo, Juliet, Sunset, Last Bit, Bustler, Humming Bird, Red Rube, Copper King, and Bobbie.
In December of 1905 W.H. Seaman, Curtis Durnford along with Clay Tallman (Rhyolite Attorney / Real Estate Promoter) formed the Death Valley Consolidated Mining Company. In May of 1906 the Death Valley Consolidated Mining Company was ready to begin shipping its ore to the smelters in Rhyolite. They soon realized that shipping the ore was not financially feasible, and they wouldn’t be able to turn a profit. After just six shorts months the mines at the future site of Leadfield would be abandoned.
The future site of Leadfield stayed quiet for the better part of 18 years. In the spring of 1924 that would begin to change when three prospectors would make a claim on the mountaintop that overlooked the future Leadfield town site. The claim would be for Canyon Gate No. 1, the prospectors were Frank J. Metts, Lawrence Christiansen, and Ben Chambers. The three men would go onto locate many additional claims in the area.
At some point that same year the three men would be introduced to Jack Salsberry. Salsberry had owned the Carbonate lead mine in the Panamint Mountain Range, and backed a copper venture in Ubehebe in 1906. Salsberry would end up purchasing 22 claims from Metts, Christiansen, and Chambers. From those 22 claims, Salsberry would form four companies, Western Lead, Leadfield Carbonate, New Road, and Burr Welch. On August 17th 1925, Western Lead Mines (WLM) would file their incorporation papers in San Francisco.
Once WLM incorporated the word spread quickly about the claims in the Grapevine Mountains, and soon miners, business men, and swindlers began to flock to the area. In late November two-dozen people had arrived and began living in Leadfield. The town site was being surveyed, and 42-claims had been located. A road was beginning to be constructed up Titus Canyon. In December the road toward Beatty began construction. Lots in Leadfield began selling for between $150-$250.
In January of 1926 C.C. Julian would arrive in Leadfield. Julian had recently dissolved his company Julian Petroleum as well the IRS was after him for $792,000 in back taxes, and he was brought up on mail fraud charges which would be dropped in exchange for hiring the federal investigator that was investigating him. On January 21st Julian would buy into WLM and become one of four partners, and later become President of WLM.
By the end of January it was estimated that 150-250 people where living in Leadfield. Telephone and telegraph wires had begun to be strung from Beatty, NV to Leadfield.
February 1st would see the beginning of Julian’s famous advertising scheme to get unsuspecting investors to buy up WLM stocks. Julian’s advertisement read more like newspaper articles, than advertisements. Headlines on Julian’s ads read, “Death Valley and Her Hidden Treasure, That’s my Baby Now”, “Step on Her, Now”, “Hot Dog”, “Not Bad Business”, “Come Up or Shut Up, That Choo Choo Leaves for Western Lead”.
By late February, Leadfield was looking like a town. Hotels, mercantile stores, restaurants, a barbershop and bathhouse, saloons (though not called saloons at the time due to prohibition) all began to line the main street thought town (Chambers St.). Rumors ran amok of an airport, a 50-ton mill, and a 20-room hotel being built at Leadfield. None of which ever happened.
In March Julian put together a weekend extravaganza in Leadfield, with the purpose of showing investors and potential investors the town and mines. That weekend in March over 300 people arrived in Beatty via the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad, and automobile. On Sunday a cavalcade made its way down the long and winding road to Leadfield. Visitors were sent on tours of various WLM audits, and were permitted to take sample sacks home with them (it is thought that whatever they found in their sacks was likely brought in from other locations, however that has never been proven).
The Monday after the extravaganza proved to be successful for Julian and WLM. The stock prices on the Los Angeles Stock Exchange for WLM soared to $3.30 a share. That was however short lived as the following day it had leaked that the California Corporate Commission was investigating Julian and WLM. Trading prices dropped to $1.88. On Wednesday the California Corporate Commission launched their attack on WLM, and by Thursday the Los Angeles Stock Exchange had to set up barricades to keep angry WLM investors at bay as prices for WLM stock dropped to $.90, and closed at $1.75. Friday WLM fell to $1.33, and closed at $1.50.
WLM wasn’t the only mining company in town, but little had success in Leadfield. A mill nor ore bins had ever been erected at Leadfield, despite many promises. Julian at one point even advertised that steam boats would eventually come up the Amargosa River, and be able to dock near Leadfield. Anyone that has ever seen the Amargosa River knows that this is not possible as majority of the Amargosa flows underground, and the parts that are above ground you’d have a hard time putting any boat on, much less a steam boat.
April 5th would begin the California Corporate Commission hearings on Julian and WLM. The hearings would last until April 27th, at which time the state would rule again Julian and WLM. Despite the ruling business would continue as usual for WLM until May 27th when the Chief Deputy Corporate Commissioner handed down the decision to stop the sale of WLM stocks in California once and for all. That same day WLM was stricken from the Los Angeles Stock Market. While this was a huge blow to Julian and WLM, it didn’t slow him down.
WLM was still listed on the Reno Stock Exchange, but was listed at $.65, not even half of the original asking price on the Los Angeles Stock Exchange. Julian continued to try to keep things going, accumulating a large portion of the low priced WLM stock. Not everyone had given up on Julian yet, as he still had a good number of prospectors, townspeople, and even some investors behind him.
Other mining companies would come and go in Leadfield, none of them would ever ship any ore including Julian’s WLM. In August Leadfield’s post office would officially open. 200 people at the time would receive their mail in Leadfield. The post office would stay open until February of the following year, when only one person was left to receive mail in Leadfield.
As for Julian, he went on to be indicted for mail fraud in 1931. That same year he was also arrested for kidnapping and threatening a former employee. In 1932 he would file for bankruptcy claiming $3,057,430.53 in liabilities and no assets. In 1933 he would jump bail on the mail fraud charges and flee to Canada. On March 23rd 1934 Julian was found dead in a Shanghai, China hotel from a fatal dose of amytal.
At the Leadfield town site today you will find a few still standing metal buildings, dug outs that had once been used for housing, the concrete slab from the power plant, stone walls, wooden floor boards, as well as many rusty cans and a rusted automobile frame. All of the mine entrances have been blocked off by the Park Service, but are still evident. The current road driven through the town-site is the same road that was once the main street through town (Chambers Street).
Gypsite, CA is probably a place that you’ve never heard of. I know that I hadn’t. On this beautiful Sunday afternoon I set out on a mini adventure which lead me to Red Mountain and Randsburg. I decided on my way home that I would take the dirt road that runs along the Southern Pacific Railroad. From Saltdale I drove roughly 3 miles along the tracks, it was about this time that I noticed a good amount of rubbish laying throughout the desert. I decided to get out and have a look, along with the rubbish there were a number of wooden foundations, fencing, a couple of fallen buildings, and a mine entrance all within a short walking distance. I had no idea that a town/settlement had existed in this location, and I couldn’t find anything for it on any modern maps. When I returned home I consulted a map of the area from the 1940′s, and sure enough, there is was, Gypsite, CA. I later found that plugging Gypsite, CA into Google maps will find the location, but it’s not marked otherwise.
So what’s the deal with Gypsite? Gypsite was founded in 1909 by a man named Charley Koehn (Yes, the same man who Koehn Dry Lake is named after). Koehn had found gypsite near his homestead, and quickly placed a claim on it. A calcining plant was built near the site about a year after the discovery. From 1910-1930, Koehn would lease out his claims to various companies including the Crown Plaster Company, Alpine Cement Company, or Alpine Lime and Plaster Company.
In 1912 a gunfight took place at Gypsite, a group of claim jumpers hired a number of gunmen to force Koehn off of his claims. Koehn won the gun battle and stayed put on his claims. This didn’t end the trouble for Koehn however, Alpine Cement Company would take Koehn to court over contracts and percentages seeking damages of $50,000.00. Judge Campbell Deaumont would hear the case, and put it on hold until further study could take place. In May 1923, Koehn would be arrested for attempting to bomb Deaumont’s house. Koehn pleaded innocent to the charges despite bomb making material being found in his car. Koehn was found guilty and sentenced to prison at San Quentin. He died there one day before his scheduled release in 1938.
George W. Abel mined Koehn’s claims from 1926-1935, he created and sold a product called Mojave Desert Agricultural Gypsum which was used as a soil conditioner in agricultural production. The end would come when the Lost Hills deposits in the San Joaquin Valley would increase production and caused less of a demand for Abel’s product.
It’s interesting that this information isn’t more well-known in the area. After all without Charles Koehn, and his Gypsite settlement Koehn Dry Lake would be called something different today.
Saltdale, Ca is located between Cantil and Garlock off of Redrock Randsburg Road. If you are coming from Highway 14 turn onto Redrock Randsburg Road, and follow it for 6.3 miles. Keep an eye out for Saltdale Road, and turn right onto it. Cross the railroad tracks and you have found the ruins of Saltdale. From Highway 395 turn on Garlock Road and follow it for 8.3 miles. At the fork in the road continue straight on Redrock Randsburg Road for 5.8 miles. Turn left on Saltdale Road.
Saltdale is not an area that you hear much about, or anything about for that matter. I’ve driven past this ghost camp 100′s of times in the last 4 years never knowing that there was anything of interest here. I had noticed recently through my website statistics that some visitors have come here searching for information on Saltdale. Because of this I decided to use my trusty friend Google Maps to see if anything remained there of interest. Sure enough I was able to see that a number of ruins remained. So on this lackluster Tuesday afternoon I hoped in the car and made the 20 minute drive to Saltdale.
The first happenings around what would become Saltdale began between 1909 and 1913, when 60 claims were filed by Thomas Thorkildsen and Thomas H. Rosenberger. While most mining claims in this area were for gold, the claims filed here were for salt. Located on the Koehn Lake is a ”moist” playa, in which shallow ground water rises to the surface, carrying with it salt, which is deposited in the desert playa lake. In 1913 most of Thomas Thorkildsen and Thomas H. Rosenberger claim’s in the area had been sold to Diamond Salt Company of Los Angeles, whom in return sold them to The Consolidated Salt Company in 1914.
By October of 1914 The Consolidated Salt Company was shipping 240 tons or more of salt per week. By June of 1915 that weekly number is estimated to have increased to 720 tons. In 1916 the company went from a staff of 30 men to 65 men, and the company built a 4-story mill. That same year they ran into some issues because Southern Pacific wasn’t able to supply enough cars to haul all the salt being processed away, which caused close to a five month shipping backlog. 1916 also was the year that the Saltdale Post Office was established.
Between 1916-1918 two prospector by the names of T. Y. DeFoor and Philo H. Crisp located 111 claims on the Kohen Lake. They sold each of these 20 acre claims for $2.50 each to the Fremont Salt Company. Fremont Salt Company built a plant on the east side in 1917.
During this same period Consolidated had went from employing 65 men, down to only about 6. However there was still a good amount of families living in the Saltdale area, this caused Kern County to establish the Saltdale School District in 1920. No school-house would ever be built, and by 1921 the Saltdale School District would be absorbed by the Garlock School District just one year later.
1924 would see the return of the school back to Saltdale. Consolidated set aside a shack next to the plant that would double as a school-house. Saltdale’s school would become the poorest ranked district in the county.
Henry Fenton, the owner of Western Salt Company would arrive on the scene at Saltdale in 1927. Western Salt purchased Long Beach Salt Company, which bought out Fremont Salt Company. The Fremont plant would be dismantled, and they consolidated with the Consolidated plant. Around this same time a business district would pop up in Saltdale consisting of a company store, post office, service station, and the school (which underwent a major face lift including an expansion, and a paint job).
The nearest town to Saltdale with a significant population was Randsburg, which was nearly 16 miles away. Because of this Saltdale suffered from not have a justice of peace, constable or jail. Crime was easy to commit here, and in one single night in 1928 the company store was robbed multiple times. It was said by one of the town figureheads that they, “feel sure it was strangers and we feel sure no one around here would commit a felony”.
In 1931 Southern Pacific built a modern loading platform to handle the shipments of salt, gypsite, and pumice.
In 1933 the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 was based which made salt no longer a mineral which could be acquired with mining claims. That same year 36 association placer claims were filed by the Long Beach Salt Company on Koehn Lake, allegedly for placer gold. They say that the 1930′s were prosperous for Saltdale, but things took a turn for the worst in the 1940′s and 50′s.
By 1949 only 3 works remained at Saltdale, and the Post Office was closed in 1950. The school district was completely dissolved in 1951. The mill was modernized in the 1950′s however it didn’t bring new jobs as it was able to be operated by just a handful of men.
In 1975 the mill would be closed, and Saltdale would slip into oblivion.
Today the remains of Saltdale are quite evident (despite my not thinking so originally). The loading platform sits directly across the railroad track along with a few old railroad cars. A walk down what would have likely have been the main business district you will find the floor boards of numerous buildings are still in tact, while the walls and roofs of these buildings lay collapsed beside them. Foundations lay scattered throughout the desert from various unknown buildings. Railroad ties lead out into the salt bed, but have been eaten badly by the salt that lies beneath them. As you approach the mining area you will find one structure that remains, but is well on it’s way to the same fate that the rest of the buildings and the town have already succumbed to, collapse.
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.