In 1927, Paramount Pictures purchased land in Agoura Hills, California in the Santa Monica Mountains, where they constructed the original movie sets of Paramount Ranch, which were known for representing everything from colonial Massachusetts to ancient China, becoming widely used in a number of classic films, such as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Gunfight at the OK Corral.” The legendary TV series “Gunsmoke” also filmed at the ranch.
In the 1950s, William Hertz purchased the ranch from Paramount (although their name stuck) and brought in sets from RKO Pictures’ former Encino Ranch, which would become the basis of the “Western Town” at Paramount Ranch. This opened up the property to a new generation of Westerns and the ranch flourished.
With Hertz’s health in decline, he would sell the ranch to an auto racing company. However, after two fatal crashed in 1957, the racing company folded.
In 1980, the ranch was adopted as Paramount Ranch Park, part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Due to this change, the ranch became open to the public and free of charge, which is a very unique quality for movie ranches in Southern California, as most those remaining are privately owned and closed to the public.
While many of the buildings did change over the years, the National Parks Service restored the “Western Town” to it’s former glory and resumed using it as a filming location, including notable appearances on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” “The X-Files,” “Carnivàle” and “Westworld.” Countless films also shot at the ranch, including “Reds,” “The Flintsones in Viva Rock Vegas,” “Bone Tomahawk,” “The Great Outdoors,” “American Sniper,” “House II: The Second Story” and many more. Even when filming was taking place at the ranch, it still remained open for public visitation.
Unfortunately in November 2018, the ranch fell victim to wildfires and nearly every building was burnt to the ground. The same fires damaged some of the “M*A*S*H*” set at Malibu Creek State Park. This has actually happened to several sets around Southern California over the years, with many often being rebuilt. Paramount Ranch is no exception. Plans have been announced to rebuild the sets, with a target to re-open around late 2020.
We had the good fortune of visiting the ranch on multiple occasions before the fire, so here we’ll take a look at pretty much everything that could be seen around the Western Town set.
LOCATION: 2903 Cornell Rd, Agoura Hills, CA 91301 (now demolished)
Here is entrance the entrance to the ranch.
A map of the grounds.
The “Chins” building, seen on the TV series “Carnivàle.”
The church, seen on the TV series “Westworld.” It was the sole building to survive the wildfire.
A look inside the church.
The general store.
A house at the ranch, which was actually used as a residence by staff.
The saloon and gazebo, where the climax of Season 1 of “Westworld” takes place, with Dr. Robert Ford, played by Anthony Hopkins and Dolores, played by Evan Rachel Wood, causing a dramatic scene.
The hotel, seen on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”
A glimpse inside.
The barber shop.
Another general store.
The train depot, seen on “The X-Files.”
A covered cafeteria area with picnic tables, where film crews could eat their meals.
We are hopeful that the sets will be reconstructed in time, but until then, we hope this article serves as a document of what was.