HISTORY AND CHRONOLOGY

Corriganville The Ray Corrigan Ranch was a movie location ranch which was ranked among the most utilized ranches in motion picture history, but, like all the rest, it ranked far behind the Iverson Movie Ranch which was the most used (probably 3 or 4 times more utilized than any other individual site). The site of the Ray Corrigan Movie Ranch has historical significance far and above the show business side. The original "El Camino Real" route through California passed through the property and a stagecoach stop sat on the property.

From 1870, the property was owned by Jonathan R. Scott. After Scott's death, his three children became the owners.

In 1937, Ray "Crash" Corrigan purchased from the Scott estate the 1,500+ acre ranch for $10 in cash and a deed for $9,000 at 6% interest. In later years, additional acreage was added to the property until the ranch totaled 1,611 acres, more or less.
Ray "Crash" Corrigan stated: The Corriganville Ranch started off--and one day as I was on location at an adjoining ranch on the Los Angeles side of the Santa Susanna Mountains and I didn't have anything to do for a couple of hours, so I just wandered up the hill. I looked over on the other side and I saw the most beautiful piece of land and nice green oak trees and so on. And I thought I better investigate it a little further as it looked like a better location than the one we were on making a picture. At that time, I forget what we were making, but it was one of The Three Mesquiteer westerns, on the Iverson ranch. That was before Corriganville Ranch. So, any way, I look at the other side and when I got off the picture, I had that thing in mind and I went on over and looked up the owner to see if that piece of property was for sale. So I found that it belonged to an estate that had given up this entire piece of land which consisted at that point in time of 1900 acres and it was given to an attorney by the name of John C. McScott and when I talked to the attorney and asked him if it wanted to sell it. "Yes, son, it's for sale." And I said "What would like to have for it?" He said, "Well, I don't really know, but I would sell it for $10,000." And I said, "WHAT? You want $10,000 just for that? Why 1900 acres in those mountains isn't worth anything!" And he said, "Look son, if that's too much money, get the hell out of my office." So, anyway, I said, "Excuse me sir, it seems like a lot of money." And the attorney said, "Well, that's not much money, son, as you can figure it is only $7 an acre." I said, "Oh, excuse me sir."

RKO was the first studio to come in, and they made a western, starring George O'Brien.

At the time that the property was purchased, there were only two buildings on it: a cabin and a ranch house.

A September 30, 1937 newspaper article stated that "work crews with bulldozers were already grading the property for three 50-foot wide macadam insert roads".

In 1937, the construction of the first barn on the property began (see photo to left), near the ranch house (see photo to right).

The cave entrance set had been built (current location of the false cave entrance is shown in the photo to the left) and used as early as 1940.

Then, during 1943, Corrigan began construction of a western town which he named Silvertown. The town as we generally know it was completed by 1954.

The artificial lake and stunt rock were apparently added sometime around 1942/1943. They were not constructed yet at the time of the filming of "Perils of Nyoka" in 1942 (lensed between March 20 and May 2), but were appearing in films released in 1943. The original lake dated back to 1937 as a newspaper article that year stated that dredging for a lagoon was begun then. That lagoon was the precursor of the latter lake. When Corrigan opened the property as an amusement park in 1949, he named the lake "Robinhood Lake" and the surrounding forest area "Robinhood Forest". The name "Robin Hood" was apparently taken from one of the Robin Hood movies filmed at the ranch (probably The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, according to research performed by Gregg Anderson, historian for the Corriganville Preservation Committee).

Running from Robin Hood Lake, past the camera housing, between the insert roads, and past the rear side of Silvertown was Rainbow Creek.

The first main set on the ranch was Vendetta Village, built for the production of the Howard Hughes film Vendetta which was begun in 1946. It was situated between Fort Apache and Silvertown. When the ranch was opened to the public, Ray renamed it Corsican Village. This village was removed after Bob Hope took over ownership of the property.

For the 1948 Fort Apache, during the Summer of 1947, 20th Century-Fox built the basis of a western fort, latter added to by other companies, on a plateau above the town. This fort was the main set for the television series The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin. By November 1967, most of the set had been dismantled. A shooting range was later installed.

Probably erected by the same production crew that built Fort Apache, the dugout relay station was constructed nearby the fort. It was located north of the fort and in the filming days, three roads from near the fort converged at the relay station. Nowadays, if you exit the Fort Apache area and head up the Burma Road, the relay station site is not far away and is on the left.

The side street between the hotel (sound stage) and the bank in Silvertown, on the south side of the street, was the location of the Mexican Village area.

On the outskirts of the town, to the east, were an outlaw hideout shack near the base of the promontory rock, and a church/school house. From the west side, the building was a church; from the east side, it was a school house.

Near Robin Hood Lake (see left), on the north side, is a rock and tree, so situated, that it was known as Canyon Rock" and/or "Hideout Rock" (see right). The Durango Kid would enter between the rock and tree in his normal guise and reappear as the Kid. And near to this site is where the cave entrance was built.

Built around 1942/1943, probably by Corrigan at the same time as the building of Silvertown, there was an underwater camera housing for filming underwater scenes on the western side of Robin Hood Lake. A bridge crossed over this cement structure.

On the eastern end of Robin Hood Lake, another cement bridge was built, many times covered in wood for western films. Near this bridge was the "Swordsman Manor", a set built for "The Swordsman" (1947) and also seen in "Kidnapped" (1948).

As on many of the other sections of the ranch, this area had at least one outlaw shack.

Insert roads were built over many areas of the ranch. On the south side of Robin Hood lake was a fairly elaborate one, while on the north side there was another one (and in sections, two parallel ones). The far eastern edge of the property, many roads were built (and it was in this area that an entire western town was built and burned to the ground for the film Man From Colorado). On the south side of Silvertown was an insert road while on the north side were two parallel ones with additional ones crisscrossing from the Fort Apache plateau down to Silvertown. The roads stretching away from Fort Apache eastward were not used as frequently as the other roads, and near that area were additional outlaw shacks.

In early 1955, Corrigan leased the property to Outdoor Amusements Inc. By December 1955, Jack Wrather (who also purchased the Lone Ranger television series that year) and a group of businessmen gained control of Outdoor Amusements. They soon changed the name of the ranch to The Lone Ranger Ranch at Corriganville. Within a couple of years, Corrigan stated that Wrather did not take care of the property--many buildings were ruined and brush was not taken care of. Corrigan sued Jack Wrather, The Lone Ranger people, and their corporation, Outdoor Amusements Inc. and before it got to trial, Corrigan settled with Jack Wrather who relinguished his rights in Outdoor Amusements Inc. and all of his stock options to Corrigan. Outdoor Amusements Inc, now controlled by Corrigan, continued to run the amusement park.

It has been claimed that over 3,500 films and television shows were partially or wholly lensed at this location from its beginnings in 1937 to its "near death" in the mid 1970's. Corrigan stated that 1/3 of all westerns were shot there, wholly or partially. It is doubtful if that many were shot at the ranch. It is believed by myself and others that 850 to 1000 films and several hundred television shows is a more realistic total. The recording of the names of these shows is an ongoing project as films and video tapes are watched and sources are checked (be sure to visit the Filmography).

In 1965, Rita Jane Corrigan Stiltz, ex-wife of Corrigan, purchased the ranch from him. She then sold the property to Edwin Gottlieb for $2.8 million. Gottlieb sold the ranch to Bob Hope for $3.5 million. The Valley Times for April 10, 1965, reported, "Corriganville, world famous for its unique form of Western entertainment, is closed." In the same article, Ray Corrigan is quoted as saying, "If the new owners reopen the ranch to the public as a tourist attraction and bring happiness to people from all over the world, then I'll be happy." The Corriganville signs came down and Hope Town signs sprung up. The ranch was closed to the public a year later. Hope held ownership on the property until the 1990's. Only about 200 of the original 2000 acres have been preserved, but those acres include all of the major filming areas.

During Bob Hope's ownership, on September 25, 1970, a firestorm swept through the ranch, destroying a majority of the Silvertown sets. To see the ranch after the fire, watch Vigilante Force (1976) starring Jan-Michael Vincent and Kris Kristofferson. On November 1, 1979, an arson fire destroyed the remaining Silvertown sets except for the cement pads, the foundation of the barn, and a few walls.

On May 1, 1949, Corrigan opened the property to the general public as an amusement park, and it remained open until 1966 when Bob Hope closed the ranch. I personally visited the property a few times during that period and many times since.

It is again open to the general public as Corriganville Park.

According to a October 6, 1956 TV Guide article, there were 100 caves and 11 miles of rugged trails. The Burma Road from Fort Apache was also known as Eagle Pass.

Adjacent to the Corriganville property to the south is the railway link from Chatsworth to Simi Valley. It was often utilized by film crews working at the Ranch.

TOUR:

Where the Hopetown housing tract now sits was where the original amusement park entrance to Corriganville was located. From Kuehner Road you would enter through the gates. The parking area was to the right and the rodeo arena was to the left. Up the hill straight from the entrance you would walk or take the shuttle.

Just prior to reaching the top of the hill, there were at least two roads heading to the left which took you to the dugout relay station.

At the top of the hill, the first sight to appear before your eyes was the entrance to Fort Apache.

Just beyond Fort Apache, on the left, was the Corsican Village.

South of the Corsican Village, you came to Silvertown.

silvertown

Traveling east from Silvertown, on the road north of the Rainbow Creek, you would pass the fake cave entrance and the hideout rock before encountering Robin Hood Lake and Forest.

Just beyong the eastern edge of Robin Hood Lake, near the East Bridge, was the Swordsman Castle/Manor.

NOTES:

1. Gregg Anderson, "Corriganville History", Westerns & Serials, Issue #51, n.d. This article states the 1937 date and the price of $11,354.

2. Tinsley Yarbrough, "Corriganville", Western Clippings, #7 Sept./Oct. 1995. This article states: "Purchased for $10-$12,000 by Crash Corrigan in 1937.

3. Don Creacy, "I Remember Corriganville", Under Western Skies, No. 30, n.d. This article states in a quote made by Ray "Crash" Corrigan in 1976: "In 1937 I bought the ranch, all 2000 acres of it". His son, Tom, stated: "$12,000 ... in cash", while a quote by Eddie Dean stated, the property was purchased "around 1937 or 38".

4. Ray "Crash" Corrigan in a taped interview in 1976 stated that he bought the property for $10,000 and paid $1,000 a year for ten years.

DATEEVENTDESCRIPTION
by 1937PurchasedRay "Crash" Corrigan purchases the ranch
1937Barn #1Construction of the first barn on the property begins
by 1938Filming beginsFilming begins at Ray Corrigan Movie Ranch
by 1941Fake CaveBy the time of the filming of the Jungle Girl serial, the fake cave entrance was built
by 1943SilvertownConstruction began on the sets
by 1943Robin Hood Lake
Stunt Rock
First known appearance in a film
1946Corsican VillageBuilt for the film Vendetta
by 1947Swordsman ManorBuilt for the film The Swordsman
Summer 1947Fort ApacheProduction on the film Fort Apache began in June 1947 and filming at Corriganville occurred over a two week period in September
May 1, 1949Ranch OpensCorriganville opens to the general public
1955Ranch LeasedOutdoor Amusements Inc. takes over the ranch operations
1957Lone Ranger Ranch Jack Wrather gains control of Outdoor Amusements and renames the ranch, The Lone Ranger Ranch
1958Corriganville ReturnsRay Corrigan sues Outdoor Amusements and Jack Wrather and regains control of his ranch.
1960'sFreewayThe Simi Valley Freeway is built, dividing the ranch in half
1965SoldCorriganville purchased by Bob Hope and renamed Hopetown
1966Ranch ClosesHopetown closed to the public
Sept. 1970FireWildfire destroys most of Silvertown, from the bank to Ray's House
Nov. 1979FireAn arson fire destroys the soundstage, barn #2, church/school house, outlaw shack, and remaining structures of Mexican Village
1997HomesSingle family homes are constructed on the portion of the ranch used for parking during the amusement park days
May 2, 1998Reopens as Park200+ acres of the originial ranch reopens to the public as a park