Great Enterprise of the Universal Film Manufacturing Company in California Rapidly Taking Form.
The Universal's long heralded city, the aim for two years of Carl Laemmle and his associates, is rapidly becoming a concrete reality. In the new site in the San Bernardino Valley [sic] there is rapidly rising a city capable of accommodating 15,000 souls, built for the express purpose of making motion pictures, the first city of its kind ever constructed by the hand of man.
This city has one peculiarity which marks it out from every other municipality. It is a chameleon, or a changeable city. When the plans for it were made the architects, landscape artists, engineers and directors were told to keep this one idea uppermost: the greatest usefulness with the least amount of construction. For that reason every building which has been put up or which is planned is designed to have a four or five fold usefulness. Every facade of every building is of a different type of architecture and usually represents a different kind of usefulness. For instance, a building designed primarily for a saddlery shop and a blacksmithy has one front elevation which looks like this kind of a building. From the other three angles it has the appearance of a Gothic hunting lodge, military barracks and a Wild West ranch. In addition to this any one of these front elevations can be changed in thirty-six hours to represent an entirely different kind and character of building.
This idea has been carried out throughout the entire city and landscapes have been treated in the same way--that is, viewed from one side they present a certain aspect; from the opposite direction the character, climatic or sectional, is of an entirely different sort. This will enable a director who under ordinary circumstances would have a certain number of good locations in such an extremely favored site as Universal City to construct from ten to twenty more scenes with the same locations, which can be changed under the skillful guidance of the general manager.
There is work and work galore in Universal City before it will begin to represent the elaborate and crafty plans of Mr. Laemmle and his lieutenants. In the first place after the plans of the city had been made the different streets had to be paved, and it was all done with asphalt and macadam. Every stream and gully had to be spanned by a bridge or viaduct and here comes the first intimation of how changeable the complexion of the city can be. Every bridge is so constructed that it can take on the aspect of a Japanese arch bridge, a Roman stone paved bridge or a steel cantilever bridge, or in fact any other kind of a bridge for which a director has need in the production of a scenario.
All of the streets had to be scientifically paved and piped for gas, electricity and sewer mains. The main boulevard of the city is six miles long and this taken in conjunction with other main streets and cross streets will give the reader an idea of the amount of work which the Street Department alone had to do. The piping for water alone was an important item, for every building is so equipped, and the city itself is probably supplied with the best water which can be obtained in California. Its reservoir is fed by seven artesian wells which give water 99 per cent. pure at the rate of 300,000 gallons per day. The roadways of the city are peculiar in that they are made in different widths and the styles of top dressing so that there will be as great a variety in this respect for the director to choose from as possible.
The zoo, which will be housed in especially constructed buildings and cages, has been taken intact from the ranch and with the additions which have since been made to it it is now the largest and finest privately owned menagery in the world today.
The administration building will cost $30,000 and its four facades are all different, representing different styles of architecture and apparently different exteriors. The laboratory which is being built has also the same peculiarity of exterior appearance and will cost $25,000. An exhibition theater which takes on either the appearance of a city or a country theater at the behest of a director will cost the company just exactly $8,000. There are barracks for the housing of the Universal's troop of expert cavalryment and a bunk house for the cowboys. All of these are modern, clean, sanitary and wholesome and beside this they can be used for many other things from the moving picture standpoint.
One of the most picturesque spots in the city is the Indian village, which is the largest in America and is inhabited by a tribe of redmen who are encouraged to pursue their life and adorn themselves as grotesquely as possible.
The wonderful revolving stage is one of the most up-to-date features of this city. The location of the stage has been chosen with a view to vistas which can be seen through the windows.
The wardrobe department is a building standing alone and occupies a floor space of 50 x 100 feet. It contains a wardrobe of every conceivable sort which is valued in the rough at about $35,000. In addition to this the costume shops which are nearby are so arranged that they [can work] to turn out the designs which are required by every [period] dress from the era of palm leaf girdles to the present [?]. [The] costume shops contain twenty electrically operated weaving machines and the work is supervised by one of the best known costume designers obtainable, who is able to outfit a picture in the proper costumes demanded by any age.
There are two hospitals and infirmaries thoroughly equipped with every medical equipment for surgical and pathological remedy and these are under the direction of the two Universal physicians, Doctors Lloyd Mace and F. Lamberson, assisted by a corps of trained nurses. Treatment in these hospitals is also defrayed by the Universal.
The first notable incident of the mobility of the new city was shown in the preparation of a thrilling scene for "Trey of Hearts." The director knew of just the proper location for a fire and for a daring rescue by means of a rope acting as a pendulum, but sad to relate this scene is in Jersey City, N. J., and that was three thousand miles away. It was out of the question to take a company that distance in order to stage this one scene, and even then the city fathers of the city on the heights would not have consented to the total destruction of one of their office buildings even for the edification of ten million moving picture fans, who are following the destinies of this stirring serial drama. The only thing to do was to reconstruct the scene from buildings already standing and this was done in three days, and the result was so perfect that New Yorkers who gazed upon it in wonder were compelled to pinch themselves before they could realize that they were in California and not New Jersey, but the scene was speedily burnt to the ground and this newest of cities, the Chamelon, once more resumed its work-a-day color. [October 3, 1914, The Moving Picture World]
Big Undertaking Conducted Rapidly by Large Force of Employees
Many Improvements in Big Plant.
The work of removing Universal City from its temporary location a few miles outside of Hollywood, California, [Providencia Ranch] to its permanent site on the new ranch, purchased by the company for that purpose is going forward with a rush. Under the direction of Wallace Kerrigan, buildings that have long seen service in the production of the famous Universal dramas and western comedies, are being razed to the ground, loaded upon big auto trucks and flat-topped wagons and hauled over two miles of mountain roads to the new ranch.
The first part of the original city to be moved to the new site was the Zoo, and the day of its removal was one of intense excitement to everyone about the ranch, particularly to Mr. Kerrigan and to James Barnes, the head animal trainer for the Universal Company. Lions and tigers, leopards and coyotes, bears and wolves, together with the hundred odd animals that go to make up the menagerie were loaded cages and all, upon the trucks and driven growling and roaring along the canyon road to the New City. The roads are rough and rutted and for the most part built "on end," and a dozen times as the wagons lurched and twisted this way and that, the danger of overturning the wagons or of tipping off the cages was imminent.
As for the construction of the New City, itself, only by actual observation can any time be gained as to the speed with which it is going up. Already the new cages and pens for the animals have been partitioned off for the thoroughbred English saddle-stock, corrals strung for the heavier draft animals and hay barns stand finished and partly filled with bales. The foundations for fully one-half of the buildings have been started and the frameworks for the greater part of these are already being raised, while several of the buildings stand completed and ready for occupancy. William Horsley has charge of this work.
Among these is the quarters for the Universal crack cavalry troop. It consists of a long, well-lighted living room and equally large, light bunk room, concrete floored baths and lavatories and everything that Manager Bernstein of the Hollywood Studios, could think of to add to their comfort. Electricity is used for lighting, and running water has been piped in from a clear, cold spring in a neighboring canyon. Needless to say the boys are overjoyed and are waiting anxiously for the orders to move in.
A quarter of a mile of concrete side walks has been laid and many times that amount soon will be in. A temporary cook house has been erected to serve until the permanent dining room has been completed.
The old original Universal City will soon be a thing of the past, but, like the Phoenix of old, up from the ashes is arising the head of a newer and better Universal city, destined to be the western home of the leader of film manufacturing companies. [The Moving Picture World]