Thursday, May 1, 2014

Photo Essay: Mountain Oaks Resort, Abandoned & Illegally Subdivided

In the post-Prohibition, pre-Depression era 1920s, Mountain Oaks – at the end of New York Avenue just south of Crescenta Valley Park – was the site of a thriving "resort"...



...which was rumored to be a cover for such illegal activities as gambling and drinking alcohol...



...and, generally, partying.



The Kadletz family bought the mountainside property and carved it up into 400 tiny lots...



...each measuring about 10x10 feet.



If you owned even just one of those lots (upon which there wasn't room to do much of anything but set up a tent camp)...



...you got access to the entertainment and facilities of the resort. Some people bought multiple lots to create a parcel big enough for vacation cabins.



Over time, actual houses were constructed in this lovely, secluded area in the 1930s...



...the last having been built in 1948.



There were 14 houses total (now 12), and most of them have been renovated, updated, upgraded or expanded upon in some way since.



Although the houses – and their residents, many there for decades – remain, there are only a few traces of the resort itself, which was abandoned in the 1960s.



A sprawling meadow used to contain a golf course.



The large pool is overgrown...



...overshadowed by trees...







...practically buried in dirt and weeds.



The City of Glendale annexed Mountain Oaks in 1952...



...but considered it an illegal subdivision...



...non-conforming to the zoning code.



Current residents can stay there...



...but they can't build...



...leaving many of those tiny lots vacant...forever.



Amidst the houses today are ruins galore...



...including those of the old lodge...



...which witnessed many a party...



...on both of its two stories...



...with a gentleman's club upstairs...



...and a ballroom downstairs. If there really was a speakeasy at Mountain Oaks, this was probably it.



The lodge also housed the Kadletz family...



...as well as the caretakers of the property.



The lodge also featured entertainment outdoors...



...with a bandstand...



...featuring various musical acts.



You can still see the Jeep trail where caterers would drive up to deliver the refreshments for the party.



Walking through the old picnic grounds...



...and baseball field...



...you can still find the outdoor fireplace...



...which once warmed those who occupied the outdoor dancefloor at night.



Tucked away in the Verdugo Mountains, the residents of the Mountain Oaks privately-owned tract are exposed to threat of fire, the mature live oak trees that surround them easily converted into kindling. Although they are under constant watch by the fire department, they also have their own water supplies, touting their own fire hydrants at the highest elevation in the area.

Banded together in a Homeowner's Association, they're not exactly living off the grid – not exactly living in a state of lawlessness – but they're not exactly governed by the City of Glendale in the same way that other neighborhoods are. Even the property lines of Mountain Oaks are unclear.

The community has managed to halt development of this pristine area – including a proposal to build a high school and condos – but its status as "private open space" makes the legality of such plans a bit murky. By keeping the status quo, they're not really protected by Los Angeles or Glendale or an organization like the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

It feels like they're holding onto the past, onto the resort's former glory, onto a past that never quite was. After all, once the Depression hit, all of the plans for the resort never came to fruition, and the Kadletz family merely held on by renting the place out for company picnics, until eventually losing interest and abandoning it, leaving it to those who'd purchased their own tiny lots.

It's a ghost town in its own way, in an eternal state of arrested development, not allowed to grow, but too precious to leave behind...