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December 07, 2021

Photo Essay: The Ranch Where 'Golden Age' Western Movie Star Joel McCrea Became a Real-Life Cowboy

South Pasadena-born Joel McCrea might be best known for his portrayal of Buffalo Bill in the 1944 film of the same name, and perhaps he's gone down in history as one of the most handsome and under-appreciated Western stars out there. 

He'd been a leading man since 1930 (in The Silver Horde)—but his first Western film wasn't until 1937, when he starred in Wells Fargo with his wife, Frances Dee. 
   
They'd gotten married in 1933—and that same year, at age 28 McCrea became a real-life cowboy with the purchase of Belgian immigrant August Dumortier's former ranch, which had first been settled in the mid- to late-19th century in the far southeast corner of the former Rancho Simi

December 05, 2021

Photo Essay: Hark! The Blow-Mold Choir Sings at Lilley Hall (Or, "The White Christmas House")

In 1954, Joseph J. Lilley saw the release of the classic holiday film, White Christmas, for which he served as musical director and vocal arranger. 

 
That same year, he bought a two-story Tudor Revival home built in 1927 in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Toluca Lake, just on the other side of the Hollywood Hills in the San Fernando Valley.

December 02, 2021

Photo Essay: The First California Mission Named After a Female Saint (And the Only One on a University Campus)

At some point, I'll get to visit all of the California missions. But for now, I'm slowly ticking them off my list as the opportunities present themselves. 

 
My August trip to San Jose brought me to Mission Santa Clara de Asis—the eighth out of the 21 total, but the first mission to honor a woman. 

November 29, 2021

Photo Essay: Good Fortune Helped This California 'Mission By the Sea' Survive Seismic Surges and Secularization

Incorporated in 1866, Ventura is a 152-year-old coastal city along California’s Mission Trail.

 
In fact, the Old Mission San Buenaventura—in the city's historic downtown, just a little more than a half-mile inland from the nearest beach, as the seagull flies—really put Ventura, California on the map. 

November 21, 2021

Photo Essay: Where An Esoteric Brotherhood (With a Fake Backstory?) Helped Introduce Egyptian Culture to America

One of the most mysterious places in San Jose, California is the 5-acre Rosicrucian Park—created by Harvey Spencer Lewis, president of the American outpost of the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC).

The Rosicrucian movement had gotten a following in 17th-century Europe but had declined in the 18th century, perhaps with the dawn of Enlightenment. 

But then as occultism experienced a revival in the 18th century, so did Rosicrucianism—but only in Europe. 

H. Spencer Lewis set out to spread the teachings of European Rosicrucians across the pond, here in this country. And Rosicrucian Park became ground zero for its lessons, rituals, and library holdings. 


November 19, 2021

Photo Essay: San Diego's Last Operating Homestead Ranch (And Its Ties to German Heritage)

There's a ranch in Encinitas, California that was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year for how original its condition is...
  

November 15, 2021

Photo Essay: The Greek Theatre, Upon Griffith Park's 125th Anniversary

Colonel Griffith J. Griffith donated the 3000-acre parcel of land that's today known as Griffith Park to the City of Los Angeles back in 1896—125 years ago. But in 1919, he also carved out some money for two specific construction projects inside the park boundary: Griffith Observatory and a Greek-style outdoor amphitheater. 
   

November 12, 2021

Photo Essay: Exploring the Third Dimension In Depth at LA's 3D-Space

The 3-D Space museum first opened in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park—just downstairs from the Echo Park Film Center in the circa 1932 Alvarado Arts Building—back in 2018. 
 

It had been on my list to visit since then, but I ended up missing multiple exhibits there before it was forced to close for the COVID-19 pandemic

November 10, 2021

George Key Ranch, One of OC's First Sunkist Orange Groves, Is Open to Visitors Again for the First Time in 7 Years

Last week, I got a hot tip that George Key Ranch Historic Park in Placentia, California was reopening for first time in seven years, after closing from damage sustained in the 2014 La Habra earthquake. 



November 06, 2021

Photo Essay: Descending 185 Feet to Join An Elite Membership of Tunnel Explorers

I've already posted about a couple of adventures I've had recently with Rim of the World Historical Society, based in the mountain communities of the San Bernardino Mountains. 

But I haven't shared why I joined the historical society in the first place—and it starts with Huell Howser, the local celebrity of regionally-focused TV shows that highlight various California landmarks and attractions. 

One of the sites he visited for one of his episodes of California's Gold was Lake Arrowhead, California—not just the town, but specifically the lake. 

And specifically part of the manmade lake's infrastructure—starting at a stone structure that contains a 19th-century elevator down a 185-foot vertical shaft that leads to "Tunnel #1."