Anyone who knows me or who has followed this site for a while knows that one of the true loves in my life is “Ann Land.” This is what I have affectionately come to call the walnut ranch in Encino, California that Ann Dvorak and husband Leslie Fenton owned from 1933-1945. In 1934, they developed around two acres of the land into a compound with a modest house, servants quarters, pool/guest house, green house, cow stables, and the obligatory Southern California pool. The ranch itself was 35 acres, and the then remote home seemed like a lovely oasis for the couple, who preferred to keep to themselves.
When Ann and Leslie separated in 1945, Ann subdivided the ranch and sold it to three separate buyers, with the house going to singer Andy Russell and his wife Della. Before the decade was out, the walnut trees disappeared to make way for a gaggle of post-War ranch homes and the 101 Freeway. In 2006, I was fortunate to befriend the fourth owner of the property who allowed me and my husband to get married on the property in October 2007.
Our fair Ann posing for the Warner cameras in 1935.
Ann was photographed extensively on the property, particularly by Warner Bros., so it’s well documented. Over the years, I had pieced together exactly what area the ranch encompassed, using real estate records and tract maps. The highlighted area on this tract map shows what land Ann and Leslie gradually acquired over the years.
Image Courtesy of Los Angels County, Department of Public Works
Even though I had been able to pinpoint the parcels that comprised Ann Land, I always want to see a view of it, in order to get a real sense of what the ranch was like and if it was as remote and hard to find as was reported back in the day. For many years, the closest I was able to get to this sort of view was through a late 1930s WPA Land Use Survey Map (The lone square on the top half of the left side is Ann Land).
Since 2009, the Historic Aerials website has been adding aerial photos of locations around the country and is a fantastic resource for property research. For many years, the earliest view of Ann Land they offered was from 1952, which is cool and all, except the subdivision and construction has begun and one could only get a partial sense of what the area was like when Ann lived there. Last week, while training a new librarian at work about property research and using Ann Land as an example, BAM! There it was. A beautiful 1947 view of Ann Land in all its pristine walnut ranch glory. I gasped and did a happy dance, and the new librarian is probably now convinced she is working with a bunch of lunatics.
It’s quite possible you’re now thinking that this is the blog of a raving lunatic, and I can live with that. But for those of you who are into this sort of thing, the un-watermarked view (I paid Historic Aerials 20 bucks for that) is at the top of the post with the neat and orderly lines of walnut trees gracing the landscape. Directly above is a version where I have outlined the parcels Ann and Leslie owned and circled the area that contains the buildings. It is fairly remote, so it makes sense that visitors would have trouble finding it, including the 1940 Census taker who appears to have skipped it altogether. Here’s a closer view:
Finally, just to get your bearings, below are a couple of views with the streets outlined.
Even with this image, it’s still amazing to fathom that this area which is book-ended by Ventura Blvd. and the 101 Freeway was once such a remote rural area. What does it look like today?
Image Courtesy of Google Earth
Yeah, just a wee bit different from when Ann Dvorak called the place home. Thanks for letting me geek out about aerial photography. Wishing all you Ann fans a stress-free holiday season kickoff!