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Thursday, August 30, 2007


Corriganville Ranch 1957
Collection - The Museum of the San Fernando Valley
Gift of Gary Fredburg 2007

In the days of Spanish colonization, California's rugged coastline proved impassable from Malibu to the Oxnard plain. Explorers were forced to find routes north and west through the San Fernando Valley into Ventura County. Until the construction of the Conejo Grade in 1937 (now U.S. Highway 101), it was virtually impossible to descend by car into Camarillo from what is now Thousand Oaks.
Eventually, the now historic Spanish roadway, El Camino Real made its way across the year-round ford at Campo de Cahuenga, and bumped its way across the San Fernando Valley into a very treacherous Santa Suzanna Pass. That narrow access, where U.S. 118 cuts through into Ventura Country, was once one of America's most dangerous but strikingly beautiful roads.
In the 1930s, the motion picture industry was well on its way to dominate the economy of the Valley. Location scouts searched all of Southern California for exotic places, suitable for the backgrounds of films. The northwest Valley, Canoga Park and the Santa Suzanna pass proved highly desirable.
In the late 1930s, Ray "Crash" Corrigan purchased a less than successful ranch in the Santa Suzanna mountains above the sleepy little farm town of Chatsworth. By 1938 the property was being used for the creation of films.
The "cliff hanger" series, Jungle Girl utilized the cave set that Corrigan built on the property. The huge Chatsworth boulders were great backdrops for western gunfights and cowboy stunts. A Corsican village was built at the ranch for the film Vendetta as well a manor house for The Swordsman.
One wonders if the volunteer soldiers who accompanied Colonel Carlton and the famous Kit Carson on their way to fight the nomadic peoples of Arizona and New Mexico, would have recognized the Fort Apache made in 1947 at the Corrigan Ranch. Carson stayed at the Mission San Fernando when plans were being made to build Union forts across the desert.
In 1949, Crash Corrigan recognized that a growing population in the San Fernando Valley desired places for amusement and recreation. He opened Corriganville Ranch to the public. Across the Valley, in his new Burbank studios, Walt Disney watched Corrigan's frontier village with curiosity. By the 50's the ranch had changed and re-changed hands. In 1966, Bob Hope bought the site but soon lost interest in his investment. The trick of creating an amusement park within a working film studio was still to be perfected.

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