Ahmanson Ranch – A Land of Many Lives
BY CLARE STONICH
Ahmanson Ranch, a stunning expanse of 2,893 acres, hugs the edges of our community, providing us with gorgeously golden scenery. The ranch is surrounded by Agoura on the west, Simi Valley on the north, Woodland Hills on the east and Calabasas on the south, and includes wetlands, canyons, seasonal waterfalls, mountains and an upland pasture. The land is inhabited by a number of species, including mountain lions, coyotes, golden eagles, and red-legged frogs. Despite the fact that many use it for horseback riding or hiking, very few are aware of its rich history. Originally, the land was the domain of the Native American Chumash people, serving as at least one large settlement. By the late 1700s, the Spanish colonists took over and the land was part of the 113,000-acre Rancho San Jose de Gracias de Simi. Beginning in the early 1900s, the land was used for filming movies, commercials, and television shows.
The undeveloped rolling hills of Ahmanson Ranch served as an ideal playground for filmmakersdue to its close proximity to the movie industry in Los Angeles. Iconic films, such as The Thundering Herd (1933), Charge of the Light Brigade, starring Eroll Flynn (1936) and Gone with the Wind (1939), were filmed there during Hollywood’s Golden Age of the 1930s-1950s, when Lasky Company owned the land. Jesse L. Lasky was a Hollywood film producer and a key founder of Paramount Pictures with Adolph Zukor. The company had acquired the land, soon deemed Lasky Mesa, in hopes that it would serve as a wide, open space in which they would take more artistic liberties and bring life to their films.
In 1963, the land was purchased by H. F. Ahmanson Company for the purpose of building a large residential subdivision. Howard Ahmanson, the banking heir, used to go out, accompanied by friends and hounds, and hunt down coyotes in the oak savanna. The plans for development never got off the ground, but it remained on ongoing threat for a long period of time. Plans for the area became more ambitious in 1983, when a planned community was proposed for construction. Fortunately, many groups protested the plan and won the battle against development in 2003. Presently, Ahmanson Ranch is more often recognized as Las Virgenes and East Las Virgenes Canyons. After being saved from development by Washington Mutual, the park was opened to the public. The land was deeded to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the State of California for protection, preventing it from becoming hundreds of homes, a golf course, and a shopping complex. Because of this, Ahmanson continues to serve as a naturally breath-taking expanse of wildlife. In the past few years, movies, such as Mission Impossible 3 and Pineapple Express, have been shot on the land, along with music videos, commercials, and other forms of entertainment due to the massive amounts of open space. Despite the land’s many previous owners and numerous attempts at developing it, Ahmanson remains as it should—a marvelous ranch that serves as a home to a number of species. As a community, we are blessed to live in close proximity to one of Hollywood’s most historical movie ranches and one of California’s most beautiful public preserves.
YOU’LL PROBABLY RECOGNIZE THIS FAMILIAR SETTING IN THIS ONE REPUBLIC VIDEO… “GOOD LIFE”
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