Paramount Ranch: Set to Screen

Over the last week my friend Mel (of Deela Designs) was staying with us. Mel is a fellow cosplay friend, with a passion for all things nerdy, and during her stay we had many fun adventures, including a visit to Paramount Ranch. Like me, Mel enjoys HBO’s Westworld, and after she heard about my visit to Paramount Ranch, she wanted to see it for herself. As luck with have it, her visit coincided with a unique tour of Paramount Ranch called “Set to Screen” which gave us the rare opportunity to actually step inside some of the buildings.

The tour is lead by a volunteer ranger of the National Parks, as Paramount Ranch is indeed a National Park, and takes visitors on an hour long tour of the buildings, and includes showing photographs from the various TV shows and movies that have filmed there. Unlike many backlots, which uses facades for exterior shots, and sound stages for interior shots, most of Paramount Ranch’s buildings are practical, so they can be filmed from both the outside and the inside. But Paramount Ranch isn’t without its very own sound stage as well! Which I had no idea existed, as it is inside an old barn. The sound stage was home to some of the interior sets for Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman when it shot at Paramount Ranch during its run from 1993 to 1998. During the show, it developed a westward expansion of the railroad plot, and was in need of a train station, which it built, and left. However, the church that sits in the field is not the one from Dr. Quinn, but, like the train station from Dr. Quinn, was built for Westworld, but left at the request of the park. Apparently HBO was a little reluctant to leave it, so they altered it by removing the steeple, taking off the shutters, and repainting it, so it didn’t look as iconic at first glance. I also learned more about how movies and TV shows work with already established buildings to change them to look totally different. For example, the large orange building was given a brick facade when this area was used in another HBO series, Carnivale, but was of course removed so the building could return to its western esthetic. I highly recommend taking this tour, which is free, you just have to stay tuned to the events page for the Santa Monica Mountains. The tour is an hour, and only involves walking around the western town portion of the park, which is small, with no steep inclines. If you take the tour, please remember to be respectful of the buildings as they are almost 100 years old, and just barely standing, and let’s face it, they aren’t going to get too much funding from the government who is basically having a mini war with the National Parks, but you can do your part by donating if you visit Paramount Ranch, as they have a small donation box near the entrance.

You can check our previous visits to Paramount Ranch here and here.

Outfit
Hat: Playclothes, Burbank, California
Top, Boots, & Purse: Buffalo Exchange
Tie: The Blues, Redlands, California
Skirt: Dolly & Dotty

Westworld

Being the fan of westerns that I am, I was immediately taken in by the new HBO incarnation of Westworld. Even though I enjoyed the original 1973 film, it wasn’t without its flaws, which is why I was open to a new take on it, and I can say the show did not let me down, and ended its first season with me begging for more. Parts of the show, including its jaw-dropping finale were filmed at the very accessible Paramount Ranch (which we visited before, back in 2015, you can view that post here) so I felt it was time for a revisit! I also took along my friend, Kaitlyn, also a fan of the show, who had never visited Paramount Ranch before.

If you didn’t read my previous post on Paramount Ranch, but are familiar with the 1990s TV show Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, then this will look very familiar, as it was used for Colorado Springs. It was also used in the sci-fi sudo-western, Firefly.

Between our first visit and this one, little changed, with the exception of fresh paint and the addition of the church, which was used in Westworld, and I was delighted to find still there.

Keep reading for more images of Paramount Ranch!

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Paramount Ranch

One of the many things I love about California is its rich history with the film industry. The movies were born here, and there is a wide array of places to visit that offer glimpses into the magic of movie making, as well as thousands of locations to visit. Some are boasted on large billboards, while others are tucked away. One of these hidden gems is Paramount Ranch.

In 1927 Paramount Pictures purchased a massive plot of land in Agoura Hills. With its sloping hilltops and looming Santa Monica Mountains the area offered solitude from the bustling city outside and thus a perfect place to film. Many sets came and went, and in 1953 Paramount sold the land to William Hertz, who built a permanent western set on the land, but sold the property in 1955. After changing hands multiple times, the National Parks Service purchased much of the original 2,700 acres that Paramount had owned, including the western film set. The set was maintained, as it continued to be used for filming, most notably as the stand in for Colorado Springs in the 1990s series, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

If you visit, you can see that the buildings have seen better days, but it still feels rich with history, and is still recognizable as the growing town in Dr. Quinn. I was able to spot out her clinic, Bray’s store, Jake’s barber shop, the bank, Robert Lee’s home, and even the area where Grace had her outdoor restaurant.

I had a total geek-out moment when I spied Dr. Quinn’s clinic. I remember watching Dr. Quinn with my mother, and loving it. Visiting locations, be it a filming location or a historical location, makes me immensely happy. I swear, as I have mentioned before, I get some sort of history geek high off of it. I’m all like “THIS THING! It happened HERE! Important/famous people stood RIGHT HERE!” Yep…

We had so much fun walking around the buildings and I took loads of photos! So keep reading for a peek at the western town of Paramount Ranch.

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