Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The William S. Hart Museum

We have been here in California on this adventure for a while now.  I've heard about the bison that are near by and that it might be a fun place to take my Activity Days group.  A piece of my heart will forever be in Yellowstone.  I love that place so much.  When I hear bison behind a fence it doesn't thrill me.  I was wrong.  This place is so much more than bison behind a fence.  We went to the William S. Hart Museum and I am so glad we did.  Just as a fun side note, Disney has a near by movie ranch.  That ranch is where these bison came from. 

I can see this place being a place the local school kiddos load up on a bus a visit once a year.  Its history perfectly preserved in the middle of what I feel like is a really big little city.  Another great thing about this place is the cost.  If you travel to California you know it has a magical way of draining your wallet.  I remember being so surprised at how much it was costing us here to park the car.  This museum, ran by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, is free! Free to park, free to explore and they even have a free grassy area if you want to bring a picnic.  They only ask that when you visit you wait patiently for a guided tour that starts at noon on weekdays and 11:00 am on weekends, and re occurs every hour on the hour after that until closing time of 3:00 and 4:00 pm.  

William Surrey Hart began his adventure as a stage actor.  As a teenager living in New York he worked as a hotel messenger.  Sometimes he recieved tickets to the stage shows and knew that was the place for him. Hart didn't begin his film acting until he was around 50.  He had a friend, Thomas Ince, who had a studio in Santa Monica. He came out west to join him and shortly after made about 70 films.  He quickly rose to the top as one of the most popular actors in the silent film era.  His last movie, Tumbleweeds in 1925, even added a bit of his voice in an early part.  Times change and many of these silent movies are lost forever.  You can see one here and hear the stories.  Its a time I didn't know how much I didn't know about.  

Stained wood beam.
Detail on doors.
The Spanish Style Colonial Revival home he loved was designed by famed architect Arthur Kelly.  Just off the top of your head you wouldn't see this place and know it though.  Arthur Kelly also designed the Playboy Mansion.  Both buildings are completely different styles but each with an impeccable attention to the smallest detail.  The wood beams above were stained with the tiny details and each door had an Indian picture that each told its own story.  The tiny details were incredible. 

Will Rogers and Charlie Russell
Hart was loved by many people.  His friends would often give him art designed for or of him and he got quite a collection.  He didn't want his collection broken up and had that put in his will.  There is a large collection of bronze statues, paintings, artifacts and pictures to look at as you walk through listening to the tour.    

Gift for Mr Hart from Will Rogers
As soon as the hospital notified staff of his death the house was locked up tight.  Everything was kept as close as possible to how it was right down to a deeply yellowed roll of toilet paper still resting in his bathroom.  I'm not sure all the ins and outs of it but his son decided to donate everything to the NHMLA collection of museums and now it is here for us to enjoy.  I got the feeling that it wasn't an uncontested donation but I don't have anything to base that on beyond the tone and body language of the tour guide.  

Outside the mansion is a small ranch type zoo to see.  It has the basics like llamas, donkeys, deer, cows and chickens.  You can stop and get some food to feed them from a small vending machine for some change.  Its a fun way to end your exploration and maybe a last stop before the small gift shop. 

There is more information than I could possible cover here and really it would be so much better to see and hear the stories in person.  He had a strong love for horses and even had his horse named Frtiz buried on the property.  You can see his love for these animals through out the home. 

The home is loaded with things that step you back in time.  There was an old swim suit placed on a bed.  We were told to guess what it was.  It is a far cry from the suits we wear today.  If you really asked me it looks itchy but I'm guessing we might have been thicker skinned back then in a lot of different ways.  


 This safe was used in a lot of movies.  What makes it special?  Its a prop.  There is no safety in this safe.  As you walked from room to room you could see little mementos he kept from his films.  Some of them small like this safe and some of them large like an entire costume he wore in one of his favorite films. 


Guess who this is a picture of!? I looked and looked and couldn't make sense of it.  In the bottom of this photo is the scribbled words: From Wyatt Earp to his friend William Hart, Oct 8, 1923.  I remember the stories about a rough and rugged man in the west and didn't see it in this calm photo here.  Wyatt Earp tried to persuade his good friend, Mr. Hart, to make a movie about his life and set all the stories straight.  The movie never came to be though. 

The William S. Hart Museum is off the beaten path tucked up in Newhall California (24151 Newhall Avenue Newhall, CA 91321 in you're looking).  Its less than an hour from the big city of LA.  They don't get the big city crowds and it is a nice break from all the busy rush of the theme park towns.  Its definitely worth the stop and for sure worth the price of admission.

I left the place inspired to stop at more of these tiny museums. I never would have stopped here if I didn't drive by it once in a while.  We could have left California and missed out on something really cool.  Do you have any favorites we would love to see?  Let us know and we will add them to our list of places to visit.  And if you are in town looking for a break from the rush visit this place and let us know what you think. 

Happy trails and Merry Christmas.

❤ Misty







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