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Laurel Canyon Photos & History

Laurel Canyon Photos and History

Laurel Canyon is a secluded valley that supplied water to farms at the base of the canyon and some hillside grazing to sheep ranchers. One of the earliest farming estates was owned by Charles F. Harper, near the entrance to Laurel Canyon. Harper was a Civil War veteran who immigrated to California and made his fortune in the hardware business. He retired in 1895 and moved to Hollywood, where he "enjoyed the evening of his days" on his 480-acre estate in Laurel Canyon. Photos of Charles Harper and his home are on the website.

Laurel Canyon photo

Laurel Canyon Development 

Significant development of the canyon was set in motion by Charles Spencer Mann, an engineer and real estate investor. Mann and his partners bought property along Laurel Canyon Boulevard and up in the hills. Some of the first tracks to be developed in the Lookout Mountain bowl were Bungalow Land and Wonderland Park, both of which were moderately priced with narrow lots and a network of trails.

Photo of Laurel Canyon

Lookout Mountain Inn

In 1910, the Lookout Mountain Inn was built on a hill at the top of Lookout Mountain. This was a popular place for Hollywood residents to dine, provide they wish to drive the steep narrow road to the top. When they did, they were treated to a tsty chicken dinner.

As was the custom in these days, restrictive covenants were attached to the new parcel deeds. These were thinly veiled attempts to limit ownership to white males of a certain class. While there are many references to the bigotry of land developers in our area, it would appear that some residents were also prone to bias and lawlessness.

Laurel Tavern Photo

Celebrities in Laurel Canyon

Wealthy residents were also attracted to Laurel Canyon. With the creation of the Hollywood film industry in 1910, the canyon attracted a host of celebrities, including Wally Reid, Tom Mix, Clara Bow, Richard Dix, Norman Kerry, Ramon Navarro, and Errol Flynn. Laurel Canyon was the BelAir of its day, and many of these actor's English Tudor and Spanish style homes can still be seen in the canyon today.

When Harry Houdini and his wife, Bess moved to Laurel Canyon, he was already wealthy and famous. He had come to California to further his fortune in the Hollywood film industry. In actuality, he had spent little time at his lavish estate on Laurel Canyon Boulevard before he died. His wife, Bess, lived out her days at the estate's guest house, using the mansion to conduct seances with her dead husband.

The rustic style of turn-of-the-century Laurel Canyon was rediscovered by musicians during the 60’s and 70’s. 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.

Laurel Canyon Photo

Laurel Canyon Fires

A large brush fire destroyed 36 homes, started by an incendiary of unknown origin on Lookout Mountain Avenue. According to an official 1959 report , it was difficult to defend due to "Narrow, tree-filled canyons with streets comprising the entire floor area. ... The steep canyon walls are covered with dense, virgin brush. ... Nearly every possible building site is occupied with a home whose average age is over twenty years and has curb frontage on narrow streets or drives." Similar conditions exist today. Another fire occurred in 1991 but wasn’t as severe as the 1959 fire.

Laurel Canyon Photos

The largest collection of Laurel Canyon photos is on the website. All the photos are available for purchase.




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