Over the weekend Patrick and I visited Corriganville Park, the former location of Corriganville, a western backlot and amusement park of sorts from 1949 to 1965.
Corriganville was built by movie and TV actor Ray Bernard, but better known as Crash Corrigan. After going on a hunting trip in Simi Valley with fellow actor, Clark Gable, in 1935, Corrigan fell in love with the area. In 1937, Corrigan purchased over 1,000 acres of land, and built his home there. He eventually went on to build an entire western backlot, dubbed Silvertown, and many films and TV showers were filmed there, including Fort Apache, The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, How the West was Won, Lassie, The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, and more. In 1949 Corrigan decided to open his backlot to the public, and the area turned into an amusement park on weekends, while still being a fully functioning backlot during the week. Think of it like a blend of Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios.
He also allowed film crews to build their own sets, as long as they left them standing after filming, which is how the area got a “Corsican Village” after Howard Hughes’ 1950 film Vendetta.
After selling Corriganville in 1965 to Bob Hope, the area suffered two fires, one in 1971 and another in 1979, leaving almost nothing standing. Today, Corriganville is a park, and visitors can walk among the concrete foundations and visit what remains of a man-made lake that was originally used for the Jungle Jim series, but was used in for a variety of films, including Creature from the Black Lagoon and The African Queen, as it featured a camera house built under a bridge with thick glass windows, allowing for underwater filming.
The low walls above are what remains of the stables, that housed both workhorses as well as horses used in films.
Above are shots of the man-made lake Corrigan had made, the structure with the small windows is the camera house used to film underwater sequences.
I was lucky enough to find two vintage photo postcards of Corriganville awhile ago, one which features buildings from Silvertown, and other of the village built for Vendetta.
About half of a mile from Corriganville Park is the Santa Susana Railroad Depot Museum. In addition to having information about the railroad, the also have a model of what Corriganville looked like as well as vintage souvenirs on display.
So, aside from being a unique piece of California and movie history, Corriganville is also a place my dad visited as a child, and I am pleased to share this photo of him and his friend Danny (Danny is on the left, my dad behind him) holding up Crash Corrigan himself! Corrigan also signed the photo.
Corriganville Park is located about 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, and is free to visit. The Santa Susana Depot has a suggested donation of $1.00 to visit, and is located a half mile from Corriganville Park. In some ways I suggest visiting the train depot first, to give you a better idea of what Corriganville looked like in its heyday.
December 2019 Update: Corriganeville stood in for Spahn’s Movie Ranch for Quentin Tarantino’s film Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. The crew recreated the facades of Spahn Movie Ranch for the film, but you can spy the walls of the old stable, and the prominent rock formation.
Like Corriganville, Spahn Movie Ranch suffered from a fire, which leveled the site in 1970, the year following the Manson Family murders. Today the land that was once Spahn Movie Ranch is part of Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park.