Exploring King Gillette Ranch
In all my explorations of Southern California one place I’ve seen little of is the valley. It’s a bit far from where I live and, frankly, it didn’t seem to offer much but record breaking heat. Lately, things started to change. I started to hear about more and more places located in the wide swath just north of LA. I decided there was nothing to do but start exploring and last Saturday, that’s just what I did.
Nestled in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains in the city of Calabasas is King Gillette Ranch. This 588 acre parcel was once the ranch of the famed razor magnate and is now a park. I can’t recall how I first heard about this unique spot but I knew instantly I wanted to see it. Home to a Spanish Colonial Revival mansion designed by the famed Wallace Neff this historic site was right up my alley.
Saturday turned out to be the perfect day to visit. An overcast sky threatened rain that never arrived leaving the park with few visitors. It was quiet and cool – the perfect atmosphere for exploring. Our first stop was the Anthony C. Beilenson Visitors Center housed in the ranch’s barn.
The barn has been beautifully restored and contains several exhibits devoted to the surrounding area. Here you’ll find out about native plants and animals, the native settlers of the region, current environmental issues and even a bit of Hollywood history. The area’s been home to several productions from the silent era to the present day and I was happy to discover it once housed Mr. Blanding’s Dream House.
After strolling around the visitors center we decided to continue on in search of the Gillette mansion. On our way we came across a flock of happy ducks enjoy their day.
Soon enough we came upon the mansion. Sadly. it has yet to be restored to its former glory.
The rambling structure is so huge I couldn’t manage to capture it in one shot. I would imagine that’s also the reason it hasn’t been restored. Built in 1926 it’s suffered years of neglect and I imagine the restoration costs are astronomical.
Adjacent to the house is a former Claretian seminary. Built in the 1950’s it’s a lovely compliment to to the mansion.
Although the structures are now part of the park system it appears some are used for the production of the Biggest Loser. Yes, it turns out King Gillette Ranch is where the TV show is filmed. Not a fan of that particular program I chose to ignore its footprint and instead focus on the historic aspects of the park.
King Gillette Ranch is a fascinating part of Los Angeles history tucked away in the valley. No matter where you live in the area it’s worth a visit.