On January 10, 2016 I visited Murphy Ranch in Rustic Canyon, Los Angeles. The ranch was built by Winona and Norman Stephens in the 1930s who were sympathizes of the Silver Legion of America. This legion was an underground American fascist organization and the ranch they built in the Los Angeles hills was meant to serve as a fortified world headquarters after the expected fascist global conquest. Well that sounds interesting, doesn’t it, why is there an old Nazi Compound in the hills of Los Angeles? I wondered about this for awhile until I read the book, Southern California: An Island on the Land, by Carey Williams that talks about how the Los Angles area was a hot spot for weird and unusual cults in the United States as it was a growing city that had its’ history erased and gave any group of people the opportunity to live freely as they wish. But of course, the Murphy Ranch did not last for that long for the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor all 50 members of the ranch were detained by the local police department.
Now eighty years after the construction of Murphy Ranch, it still barely stands as the remnants of a giant self contained compound that now serves as an interesting place to hike to and as a canvas for taggers and graffiti artists. Just as many parts of Los Angeles’ history are covered up by myths and the omission of the Mexicans and Chinese help in building and inventing Los Angeles as an island of the land, Murphy Ranch stands as a testament to how Los Angles has been home to so many different cultures and beliefs, yet the only one that prevails is of the white upper and middle class. Also, it came to mind that just as many murals painted during the FDR era were whitewashed over because of their contents, the odd past of Murphy Ranch, is covered up by graffiti as it turns into a cool, old, abandoned place that serves not as a reminder of the bizarre history of Los Angeles, but rather as a place for the younger generation to feel rebellious by smoking marijuana and tagging old rusty houses with for the most part meaningless garbage.
If anything is to be learned from Murphy Ranch it is that all of Los Angeles’ awful history gets covered up by the arts as the Mexicans were romanticized to the level of tourist attraction with Olvera Street and how an abandoned fascist compound can become an all important stop on every modern hipsters list. As of 2015, the city of Los Angeles owns the land the ranch sits on and even though there have been many plans to demolish the buildings, they still stand. So if you are interested in checking out Murphy Ranch you should go in the near future, as it may not last that much longer.