Established in 1927, Paramount Ranch is now part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, owned by the federal government and managed by the National Park Service. The Western town was built in 1953 while the ranch was still privately owned.
NPS reported November 9: "We are sorry to share the news that the Woolsey Fire has burned Western Town at Paramount Ranch in Agoura."
HBO issued the following statement: "Paramount Ranch was one of the locations used during seasons one and two of Westworld, in addition to the primary location at Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita. Westworld is not currently in production, and as the area has been evacuated, we do not yet know the extent of the damage to any structures remaining there. Most importantly, our thoughts go out to all those affected by these horrible fires."
When Paramount Pictures leased the ranch in 1927, they began an era of film production that continues today. You can experience the area where Bob Hope starred in "Caught in the Draft" (1941) and Sandra Bullock had a leading role in "The Lake House" (2006). In the 1950s, Western Town was created for television shows, such as "The Cisco Kid." More recent television productions at Paramount include "The Mentalist," "Weeds," and Hulu's "Quickdraw" (2013-2014).
Paramount Ranch offers several miles of easy to moderate scenic hikes through chaparral, riparian, and valley oak savannah plant communities. Equestrians and mountain bikers may access these multi-use trails. Wildlife sightings might include red-tailed hawks, acorn woodpeckers, blue heron and deer.
Stroll through Western Town and enjoy a shaded picnic area. This real-life motion picture set is altered slightly with each production, yet retains a Western motif.
Western Town is not the only icon of Paramount Ranch ... be on the lookout for our two native oak species — coast live oak, and valley oak. Experience the rare valley oak savannah, which may become extinct within decades due to the effects of climate change.
In 1927, Paramount Pictures purchased 2,700 acres of the old Rancho Las Virgenes for use as a "movie ranch." For 25 years, a veritable who's who of Hollywood practiced their craft at Paramount Ranch including director Cecil B. Demille and actors Bob Hope, Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert. The diverse landscape was the real star of the show. It offered film makers the freedom to create distant locales such as colonial Massachusetts in "The Maid of Salem" (1937), ancient China in "The Adventures of Marco Polo" (1938), a South Seas island in "Ebb Tide" (1937) and numerous western locations including San Francisco in "Wells Fargo" (1937). The art of illusion was mastered on the landscape.
The golden era of movie making at Paramount Ranch came to an end when changes to the studio system prompted Paramount Pictures to sell the ranch. Paramount Ranch found renewed life as a film location when William Hertz bought the southeast portion in 1953. An ardent fan of movie westerns, he built a permanent western town utilizing Paramount Pictures' old prop storage sheds. As a result, television companies began producing westerns at the ranch such as "The Cisco Kid" and Dick Powell's "Zane Grey Theatre." William Hertz sold the property in 1955. The Paramount Raceway opened a year later, and some considered it one of the most challenging in the U.S. It was closed 18 months later after two fatal crashes in December of 1957. The raceway was featured in "The Devil's Hairpin," filmed in 1957. Most of the track still winds through the grass and oak woodlands of the park.
From 1957 to 1980, the ranch changed ownership several times, but filmmaking continued. After purchasing a portion of the original Paramount property in 1980, the National Park Service revitalized the old movie ranch. From 1992 to 1997, Paramount Ranch was used as the setting for the television show, "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman." Whether watching filming or exploring the area, experience the drama and grandeur of the Santa Monica Mountains.