1913 – George Harris
10110 Commerce Avenue, Tujunga – map
Nearly a century ago, developer Marshall Hartranft hired editor/idealist William E. Smythe to publicize the section of Crescenta Valley’s Rancho Tujunga called Glorietta Heights. Partly inspired by the book A Little Land and a Living, Smythe had already formed, in 1908, the Utopian movement “Little Landers”. The decision to create a farming cooperative under this banner outside Los Angeles seemed natural. Too bad the Landers were unaware the area’s rocky terrain would rule out any serious attempts at agriculture. (There were ultimately four Little Lands communities. The others were near San Diego, outside of San Francisco, and in Idaho.)
George Harris, also known as “Nature Builder”, designed this, the community’s meetinghouse, using stone quarried locally. Besides all those rocks (and there are A LOT of them), there’s an immense fireplace (more rocks) and a wooden-beamed ceiling. Outside were originally three fountains on the corner. The lowest one to the ground was for dogs, the middle one was for horses, and the highest one was for people. Those fountains are long gone.
Dedicated in 1913, the building became the center for community activities. Originally known as “The Clubhouse”, the building was soon named Bolton Hall after the author of A Little Land and a Living, a Socialist/writer/reformer/philosopher whose name was actually Bolton Hall.
Following a brief ownership by the American Legion, the structure served as Tujunga’s City Hall with a two-cell jail upon the community being incorporated in 1925. (Tujunga bought the jail cells for $1 a piece. After officials realized the cells couldn’t fit through the hall’s doors, another twenty feet or so were added onto the back of the structure for accommodation.) Once Tujunga became part of Los Angeles in 1932, Bolton Hall housed L.A.’s Department of Building and Safety and its Health Department.
The Fireplace (The desk and lamp were handmade by the architect, George Harris)
The structure was vacated in 1957 when a new municipal building was put up. Talk of demolition began in 1959 and, despite being among the first monuments certified in 1962, Bolton Hall’s future was touch and go until 1967. That’s when a federal fund matched restoration money raised by The Little Landers Historical Society. However, it took another thirteen years before rehabilitation work actually began, by which point the structure was in pretty shoddy shape.
Bolton Hall re-opened June 27, 1981, and is now the home of the Sunland-Tujunga Little Landers Historical Society. It’s open Sundays and Tuesdays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is free.
Up next: Plaza Church