California Historic Landmark number 716 sits at Foothill and Vaughn streets in Sylmar. It echoes from the past. A long echo that bounces of the dry nearby hillsides and speaks in low tones. It marks the property of famed movie icon D. W. Griffith and ‘Griffith Ranch’. D. W. Griffith became a San Fernando Valley fixture and is known for his story telling and camera techniques in film making. He bought the property in 1912. Many films were shot on the large ranch including ‘Custers Last Stand’ and the racist and obviously controversial ‘Birth of a Nation’ which is Griffith’s 1915 Civil War film.
Fritz Burns bought the D.W. Griffith Ranch in 1948 at Griffith’s retirement and became a fixture in the San Fernando Valley as well. He founded Panorama City and also instituted a Christmas custom by bringing Santa Claus and reindeer at every Christmas to the local stores. He did this for almost thirty years. He kept the reindeer — numbering over one hundred — at the Ranch.
A pool was put in at the Fritz Burns Griffith Ranch property in the nineteen fifties. It gets hot out in the valley and he frequently had many guests. Fritz Burns held huge BBQ parties and swimming was always a part of this. Fritz Burns was a developer and worked with the Kaiser family developing many parts of the residential Los Angeles area. Ultimately, Fritz Burns died in 1979. The property had sat vacant and the reindeer had gone. It had been that way for a few years leading up to Fritz Burns’ death. Skateboarders found it.
Rick Stine and others had talked about the Ranch pool for years. It was described as perfect. When we were working on the book ‘Back in the Day’, several of the skaters told stories about this spit gutter pool. Memories had the pool above Bronson Canyon. Recently, I was speaking with John Swope and he put me in touch with his friend Randy. Randy was skating pools all over the San Fernando Valley in the early to late seventies. He was at the Ranch pool regularly. We discussed its location. He knew about where it was and gave me some coordinates. Forty plus years had gone by. I talked to Rick and we decided that we had to go look for the Ranch pool.
On Thursday morning, we drove out and started trying to find the area.We hiked around for awhile and kept looking at the Brad Bowman color shot trying to match up the hillsides in the background. After a bit, we came upon an old bulldozed area. There were bits of plumbing pipe, floor tiles and debris. We looked for about an hour for some tile and coping but realized that Randy was probably right when he told us that he thinks they just pushed the nearby building into the pool and covered it with adjacent dirt from the hillsides.
Thanks to Randy and Swope for the intel. Thanks to Rick Stine for sharing in the adventure. Thanks to William Sharp for the images and thank you all for reading. Skate – Ozzie