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HISTORY

Oakridge Estate History Poster

History of Marwyck Ranch
1936 – 1943

Let’s step back in time to the 1920’s and 1930”s; silent movies, flappers, the 1929 collapse of Wall Street, thoroughbred horse racing explodes - Seabiscuit and War Admiral entertain millions, the “talkies” and Hollywood celebrities begin to build their “retreat” homes which were built as their “second” homes in the San Fernando Valley. The Stars were drawn to this agricultural paradise to escape the intense pressures of their movie work. These Northridge ranches become increasingly popular. Producers, directors, actors and actresses acquired large tracts of land becoming the owners of “celebrity ranches”. Typical ranches, five to 35 acres or larger, not only contained agricultural crops and livestock but these properties incorporated large homes mirroring the architectural styles of the Hollywood lifestyle with swimming pools, tennis courts, horses, and landscaped grounds. In the late 1930’s, with the Great Depression in full effect, horse racing was booming. Hollywood was splurging on new houses, ranches, cars, race horses, diamonds and furs. More...

Barbara Stanwyck
1907 – 1990

Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Catherine Stevens in Brooklyn, New York on July 16, 1907. When she was four years old her mother died after being knocked off a trolley by a drunken passenger. Her father abandoned the family, so she and her siblings were placed in foster care. Years later while living with her older sister Millie, who was a showgirl, Barbara learned to dance. She bounced in and out of school until age 14 then quit school to pursue what she felt was her destiny. Her dream was to become a star. While performing in a chorus line the great Broadway producer David Belasco noticed her, changed her name to Barbara Stanwyck and cast her in his play "The Noose." The play was a smash hit and Barbara became a star at age 20. The 1927 Broadway stage play, “Burlesque”, sky rocked her career as a cabaret dancer and actress.

On August 26, 1928, she married comedian Frank Fay and soon departed New York for Hollywood. Immediately Barbara's movie career exploded with leading roles in "The Locked Door" and "Mexicali Rose." More...

Zeppo Marx
1901– 1979

Herbert Manfred Marx was born in New York City on February 25, 1901 and he was the baby of the Marx family. He was nicknamed Zippo by his famous brothers because he liked to do acrobatics like the chimp named Zippo did in its act. He objected and altered it to “Zeppo.” When Gummo joined the Army in 1919 he joined his brothers in vaudeville and appeared as a straight man and romantic lead in Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, Monkey Business, Animal Crackers and The Cocoanuts. He also appeared in A Kiss in the Dark with Adolphe Menjou. He was known as the handsome brother and considered the funniest of the brothers although he always played the straight man.

Offstage Marx had exceptional mechanical skills and he owned a company that produced airplane parts for the war effort during World War II called Marman Products Co. in Inglewood, CA. It was later known as the Aeroquip Co. They produced a motorcycle called the Marman Twin and the Marman clamps used to hold the atomic bombs during the raids over Japan in 1945. More...

Harry S. Hart
1894-1966

The Harry S. Hart Story
October 15, 1894 – April 19, 1966

The following information and excerpts taken from The Blood-Horse 1936 – 1941 and the LA Times 1964 clearly depict the horse training skills and Marwyck Ranch design brilliance of Harry S. Hart.

Harry S. Hart was born in Brooklyn New York. In his early teens he traveled to Canada with his brother Ernie trying to become jockeys. Ernie became a top rider but Harry considered himself one of the worlds’ worst. He turned to training horses in his late teens enjoying marked success during World War I and during the early 1920’s. Hart then trained horses in Kentucky in the mid1920’s and 30’s. Like many of his time, Harry was a regular at the old Tijuana Mexico track racing his own stable and training for prominent owners throughout the United States. Could this possibly have been how he met some California thoroughbred breeders and “Hollywood Stars”? More...

Oakridge Architecture

Design of the residence as an English manor with French Normandy and Tudor Revival stylistic elements is attributed to Paul Williams and Robert Finkelhor. To date, the exact role of each architect is unconfirmed, it is possible that both contributed to its design.

The Residence exemplifies the variety of Period Revival styles used in Williams’ and Finkelhor’s residential designs.
Primary and secondary sources do not reveal that Finkelhor and Williams collaborated on projects. A building permit dated, January 27, 1937** and a Los Angeles Times article dated January 31, 1937 titled “Movie Stars File Plans for Homes Near Van Nuys” list Robert Finkelhor as the architect. Williams is credited as the architect in Victoria Horne Oakie’s books Jack Oakies Oakridge and Life with Jack Oakie and in the L A City Historic-Cultural Monument application for the site, in addition to the Arts, Health, and Humanities Committee Report recommending its designation. “Stanwyck Residence” is included within Williams’ portfolio of projects in the book Paul R. Williams Architect, a Legacy of Style by Karen E. Hudson (New York, NY: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1993)

CHATTEL ARCHITECTURE, PLANNING & PRESERVATION, INC.

The 1937 LA City building permit can be viewed in Historic Documents.

Research on the backgrounds of both architects is continuing. Updates will follow as documents are located.
For additional information regarding the architecture of the Stanwyck residence visit www.paulrwilliams.org. Click on Gallery/Stanwyck and the main photo to view essays on the residence.

Robert Finkelhor
1899-1957
Robert FinkelhorAlthough Finkelhor did not rise to the same level of fame as Williams, he was also involved in designing large residences and celebrity estates. Finkelhor was born in Jeanette, Pennsylvania in 1899, studying architecture at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburg. 25 In addition to serving in both World Wars he was a member of the AIA from 1920 to 1923. Finkelhor spent the early portion of his career in Pittsburg and Washington, D. C. and designed Air Force offices in the Pentagon. He later moved to Los Angeles and began working as head of the architectural department for builder Paul C. Shitice in 1924. Photo of Robert Finkelhor, Lieutenant Colonel U. S. Air Force courtesy of Kotzin Family. More...

 

 

 

Paul Revere Williams
1894 - 1980

Paul Revere Williams was born in Los Angeles on February 18, 1894. He was placed in foster care at age two after his parents died. His foster mother devoted herself to his education. Williams’ dream was to become an architect but a high school teacher advised him against it because as an African-American he would have difficulty attracting clients in the white community and the black community could not provide enough work. Paul was not deterred and did not give up his goal.

He attended USC, graduating in 1919, earning academic accolades and recognition. In 1922 Williams, opened his own archiitectural firm. He became the first African-American member of the American Institute of Architects in 1923. During the 1920's and 1930's he had great success designing homes for wealthy clients in Bel Air, Brentwood and Beverly Hills.

He was sought after by entertainment industry leaders and became know as “Architect to the Hollywood Stars.” He designed homes for Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz, Cary Grant, Groucho Marx, Humphrey Bogart, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Tyrone Power and many other celebrities. More...

Jack Oakie
1903 – 1978

Jack Oakie was born Lewis Delaney Offield in Sedalie, Missouri. He grew up in Muskegee, Oklahoma, thus acquiring the nickname “Oakie”.

Oakie initially worked as a runner on Wall Street then began appearing in amateur theatre and comedy. He made his professional debut on Broadway in 1923 in George M. Cohan’s production of “Little Nelly Kelly”.

From 1923 – 1927, he worked in various musicals and comedies before moving to Hollywood at the end of the silent film era. He appeared in five silent films between 1927 and 1928. As the age of the “talkies” began, he signed with Paramount Pictures and in 1929 made his first talking film, “The Dummy”.

The Paramount contract ended in 1934 and Oakie decided to freelance. He appeared in 87 films during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Oakie is most noted for his portrayal of Benzino Napaloni, the boisterous dictator of Bacteria, in Charlie Chaplan’s production of “The Great Dictator” (1940). He received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. More...

J. H. Ryan Story / Northridge Farms

1943 -1961

Northridge Farms EntranceTHE J. H. Ryan Family Story
Ryana, Northridge Farms and Lindley Ridge Ranches
NORTHRIDGE FARMS TIMELINE
Originally Marwyck Ranch

Excerpts and quotes have been taken from articles provided by Lexington, Kentucky’s Keeneland Library, the Blood Horse and California Thoroughbred Breeders Association’s digests and reference materials: The Thoroughbred (July ’41-July ’45), The Thoroughbred of California (August ’45 - December ’96) and California Thoroughbred (January ’97 – present).

1937 – 1943 Marwyck Ranch operates in Northridge California, 120 acres, “cost of land and improvements, aside from Marx and Stanwyck homes, is $185,000.” (November)

Marwyck Ranch was a premier Thoroughbred breeding farm owned and operated by The Devonshire Company comprised of Barbara Stanwyck, Marion and Zeppo Marx and Harry S. Hart of Swing Along Stud Farm. Harry was a well known Kentucky horse trainer and inventor of the Fleet Foot horseshoe. More...

Photo: Entrance to Northridge Farms
10127 Reseda Blvd Northridge Photo by Bob Hopper
11.11.51

Movie History

Marwyck Ranch and Northridge Farms were popular filming locations for many movie studios. As our research continues, we will be adding to this movie list:

The Marriage Business, 1938

Sporting Blood, starring Clark Gable, 1951

My Brother Who Talked to Horses, 1946

The Story of Seabiscuit, starring Shirley Temple, Barry Fitzgerald, 1949

The Blue Grass of Kentucky, 1950

Money from Home, starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, 1953

If you know of other filmings at Marwyck Ranch or Northridge Farms, please contact us so we can continue adding to this list.

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