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POSTWAR LAUREL CANYON HISTORY AND PHOTOS

             ** Click Here To View Photos **

With the end of World War II, another wave of development took place  Laurel Canyon was no exception.  . As in previous growth spurts, this phase was driven by a population shift to the Sun Belt and the emergence of new industries, including steel production and aeronautics. The style was definitely modern with many homes built on previously unbuildable lots, including homes built on stilts on steep hillsides – a radical concept for the time. 

All around our neighborhood, hillsides were graded and suburban-style tract homes were built. It is a wonder that the shady, country-like atmosphere has survived at all.

The Fifties postwar period also produced The Beat Generation, and Los Angeles supported a lively coffee house and Jazz music culture. One of the poets in this movement and a Laurel Canyon resident was Wulf Zendik (1920-1999).  During this period :Laurel Canyon became a haven for many of the Beat Generation

In July, 1959, a disastrous fire struck Laurel Canyon, destroying forty-three homes, three hundred acres of valuable watershed and leaving hundreds of people homeless.  After three days of battling the flames, the two hundred firefighters and countless volunteers brought the fire under control. 

Twenty years later, on September 16 1979, the four hour long Kirkwood/Laurel Canyon fire destroyed twenty-three homes.  

In a counterpoint to all this modernism and development, the rustic style of turn-of-the-century Laurel Canyon was rediscovered by musicians during the 60’s and 70’s. Laurel Canyon was second only to Haight-Ashbury as a Mecca for Hippies. This is “where Joni Mitchell was living when she wrote 'Ladies Of The Canyons' and 'Clouds'; and, Graham Nash wrote 'Our House' when he was living here with her. Frank Zappa's infamous home during the sixties was located on the NW corner of Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon, where now is a vacant lot. He eventually moved because every nut in town knew where he lived.” Other rock stars included Jim Morrison, John Mayall, Carole King, The Mamas and The Papas, Dusty Springfield, Brian Wilson, and many others. The 2001 film Laurel Canyon is an homage to this legacy.

Laurel Canyon was the physical focal point of the blues-inspired Psychedelic rock movement, and Frank Zappa's rented cabin at Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon Boulevard was the center of Laurel Canyon's crazed rock scene. The people who made appearances at the lower cabin that was home to silent film star, Tom Mix, and at the upper Tree House that was designed by famed architect Robert Byrd in the 1920's included, John Mayall, the famed GTO's (Girls Together Outrageously), the 'Plaster Casters', Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Love, Janis Joplin, James Taylor, Mick Jagger, Mary-Ann Faithful, Jeff Beck and many others.

'It was also during this period that frequent cabin-guest Jimi Hendrix briefly resided in the Errol Flynn mansion to the north of the property. The mansion was once a home for 'wayward women' and was also occupied in earlier years by notables ranging from Bugsy Siegel to W.C. Fields. The mansion is currently owned by Rick Rubin, cofounder of Def Jam Records. 

Of course, with music came drugs. The LAPD's narcotics unit had targeted Laurel Canyon as a special enforcement area, but not before the infamous murders of four drug dealers in 1981 on Wonderland Avenue, just a few houses away from then Governor Jerry Brown's home. The porn star, John Holmes, aka Johnny Wadd, was implicated at first, but then a Palestinian immigrant named Eddie Nash who owned the Kit Kat Club strip joint was arrested and later acquitted.  

The years since 1980 have seen a gradual gentrification of the canyon. Older homes have been bought by new residents and remodeled. Wonderland School, which is the pride of the community, is packed with the children of a new generation of parents. 

 

To read more about Laurel Canyon history or view Laurel Canyon photos, go to hollywoodphotographs.com.

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