history of runyon canyon

Runyon Canyon Park was bought by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the City of Los Angeles in 1984 from its last private owners, Adad Development, for use as a city park. "No Man's Canyon" was the English name first given to the gorge which lies above Franklin at Fuller Avenue, and extends north to Mulholland Drive. It is reputed to have been a seasonal campsite for local Gabrielino/Tongva Indians, who hunted in the area known to them as the Nopalera. In 1867, "Greek George" Caralambo, aka Allen, received the 160-acre (0.65 km2) parcel by Federal patent in appreciation for his service in the US Army Camel Corps. Allen became famous by association when legendary bandit Tiburcio Vasquez was captured while hiding out at his abode in 1874. Alfredo Solano, a prominent civil engineer, civic leader, symphony patron and one of the founders of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, purchased the canyon the year after Vasquez was hanged in 1876. Solano held the canyon as an investment before his widow, Ella Brooks Solano, sold the majority of the land to Carman Runyon in 1919.

Runyon, recently retired from a successful coal business in the East, came out with his new bride to enjoy the California climate. Unfortunately, the marriage failed, and Carman moved to Hollywood and met and married Ellen Hunt. The new Mrs. Runyon was an accomplished horsewoman and the Runyons purchased the canyon to use for riding and hunting, building a small bungalow near the Fuller Avenue entrance. Runyon lent his name to the canyon, the road and Carman Crest Drive before he sold the estate in 1930 to John McCormack, the world-famed Irish tenor. McCormack had fallen in love with the estate whilst here filming "Song O' My Heart" (1929), an early all-talking, all-singing picture, and his salary for the picture went to purchase the property and build the mansion he called "San Patrizio", after Saint Patrick, which he and his wife lived in until they returned to England in 1938. Remains of terraced gardens and buildings can be seen below the Vista gates.

McCormack toured frequently and in his absence the mansion was often rented out to celebrities such as Janet Gaynor and Charles Boyer. The McCormacks made many friends in Hollywood, among them Will Rogers, John Barrymore, Basil Rathbone, C. E. Toberman and the Dohenys. After his farewell tour of America in 1937, the McCormacks deeded the estate back to Carman Runyon expecting to return at a later date. The war intervened, however, and, his health broken by a wartime concert tour, McCormack died in 1945.

Huntington Hartford, heir to the $100 million A and P Grocery fortune and patron of the arts, bought the property in 1942, moving into the mansion and renaming the estate "The Pines". Frank Lloyd Wright and his son Lloyd Wright, who had offices in Hollywood, were commissioned to draft ambitious plans for developing the lower canyon as a 'cottage hotel' and erecting on the ridge above a daringly futuristic "play resort" country club. When neighborhood opposition to the design put the project on hold, Hartford had Lloyd Wright design and build a pool pavilion on the crest of the hill at Inspiration Point, facing Hollywood. Schemes were later proposed for galleries in the canyon, but after 1955, Hartford began to spend more time in New York where his Gallery of Modern Art was eventually built. In the mid 40s, Hartford wrote an adaptation of "Jane Eyre" called "Master of Thornfield", which ran for 2 weeks in Cincinnati and starred Errol Flynn as Mr, Rochester. This partnership led to Flynn staying in the pool house briefly in 1957-8 and is the origin of the legend that "The Pines" was Flynn's estate. In 1964, Hartford offered the property as a gift to the city, but this was turned down by Mayor Sam Yorty. As Lloyd Wright recalled in 1977, "Here was this very wealthy man and he wanted to give something very stunning to Hollywood. The Chambers of Commerce, the hotel owners and the various businesses were jealous of the park, and with the help of the City officials, the City refused to give us permits. Hunt was so angry that he wanted to get out immediately and sold the property at a low price to Berman, who then destroyed the mansion and let the place run down."

ules Berman, who had made a fortune importing Kahlua, saw the estate potentially as a "Tiffany development, a beautiful subdivision of 157 luxury homes". After purchasing the canyon in 1964 he razed Son Patrizio and the guest houses to the ground to avoid paying taxes on the deteriorating structures. His "Huntington Hartford Estates" development, trading on the name of its famous former owner, encountered resistance led by park activist Daniel deJonghe. The project was stopped in 1978 before building had even begun. The Lloyd Wright pool house remained standing until 1972, when a fire in the canyon destroyed all but its natural stone foundations.

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