Purchased in 1921 for a reported $425,000, Rancho Paramount, as it was known, became the property of Paramount Pictures. In 1943, the ranch was auctioned off to Eiser Wickholm for only $39,500, after Paramount had invested $60,000 in rebuilding the western street sets. Wickhom subdivided the property and sold parcels to investors.
Originally a part of the Rancho Las Virgenes Spanish grant, the property went through the hands of several individuals until "Jigs" Waring sold the land to Paramount. The size of the parcel was between 2,700 and 4,000 acres, depending on the source quoted.
The ranch included the western sets, a colonial New England set, a fortress, and all of the supporting needs of the ranch: barns, stables, craft shops, and commissary.
Photo to right from "Wells Fargo"
An outside view of a standing set on the ranch
In 1952, William Hertz purchased 326 acres of the southern portion of the ranch for $52,500. The original western sets were on the northern portion of the original property and had already been dismantled. On Hertz's property, some of the craft buildings still remained.
Hertz and his son, Robert, built his own western town around some of these craft buildings and leased the town out to the film industry.
When RKO sold its Encino Ranch in 1953/54, Hertz purchased some of the buildings and moved them to his western town.
Where the Dr. Quinn church once stood, Hertz built a fort set.
Ill health in the late 1950's forced Hertz to sell the property for $200,000. The Paramount Sportsman's Ranch then built an auto race track on the property. Charlie Aldrich and some fellow stunt performers from Corriganville performed at the ranch for up to 2 years in the early 1960's.
In 1962, Dee Cooper, movie bad man, leased the property through 1978. In 1980, the National Park Service purchased the land and surrounding acreage in the amount of 436 acres, and rebuilt the western town. It is this rebuilt town that was home to the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman television series. (Note: The rebuilding upgraded the structural integrity of the buildings while keeping their original looks.)
During the Hertz and later years, the ranch was home to many of the television westerns of the day including "Cisco Kid", "Have Gun, Will Travel", "Gunsmoke", and "Bat Masterson". For the 1976 television movie, "Helter Skelter", the ranch stood in for the Spahn Movie Ranch.
Of the entire Paramount Ranch, only the Hertz acreage remains, the remainder having been subdivided and homes built upon it.
NOTE: The Park Service has a listing of films lensed on the property.
Photos of the old Paramount Ranch western sets:
Photos of the current Paramount Ranch western sets:
The following two panoramic shots were taken in March 2000
and are copyright 2000 by Jerry L. Schneider:
"The Virginian" (Paramount 1929) Directed by: Victor Fleming. Cast: Gary Cooper, Walter Huston, Richard Arlen, Mary Brian, Chester Conklin, Eugene Pallette, E. H. Calvert, Helen Ware, Vic Potel, Tex Young, Charles Stevens, Jack Pennick, George Chandler, Willie Fung, George Morrell, Bob Kortman.
"Santa Fe Trail" (Paramount 1931) Directed by: Edwin Knopf and Otto Brower. Cast: Richard Arlen, Rosita Moreno, Eugene Pallette, Mitzi Greene, Junior Durkin, Hooper Atchley, Luis Alberni, Lee Shumway, Chief Yowlachie, Blue Cloud, Chief Standing Bear, Jack Byron.
"The Avenger" (Columbia 1931) Directed by: Roy William Neill. Cast: Buck Jones, Dorothy Revier, Edward Piel Sr., Otto Hoffman, Sidney Bracey, Edward Hearn, Walter Percival, Paul Fix, Frank Ellis, Al Taylor, Slim Whitaker.
"Phantom Thunderbolt" (KBS/World Wide 1933) Directed by: Alan James. Cast: Ken Maynard, Frances Dade, Frank Rice, William Gould, Bob Kortman, Harry Holman, Frank Beal, Wilfred Lucas, William Robyns, Nelson McDowell.
"Cassidy of Bar 20" (Paramount 1938) Directed by: Lesley Selander. Cast: William Boyd, Frank Darien, Russell Hayden, Nora Lane, Robert Fiske, John Elliott, Margaret Marquis, Gertrude Hoffman, Carleton Young, Gordon Hart, Edward Cassidy, Jim Toney.
"Bar 20 Justice" (Paramount 1938) Directed by: Lesley Selander. Cast: William Boyd, George Hayes, Russell Hayden, Paul Sutton, Gwen Gaze, Pat O'Brien, Joseph DeStefani, William Duncan, Walter Long, John Beach, Bruce Mitchell, Frosty Royce, Jim Toney.
"Breaker! Breaker!" (AIP 1977) Directed by: Don Hulette. Cast: Chuck Norris, George Murdock, Terry O'Connor, Don Gentry.
"Shame, Shame On the Bixby Boys" (Terry Fraze Prod. 1978) Directed by: Anthony Bowers. Cast: Monte Markham, Sammy Jackson, Donald Barry, Marshall Reed, Dee Cooper.