News Ticker


BTTF# 9: Tower of Wooden Pallets, 15357 Magnolia Blvd. Sherman Oaks Historical Cultural Monument # 184 (site of)

Courtesy of (left image) and LA HCM (right image)
Welcome aboard the Delorean! Marty McFly here to take you on a journey to the hip and affluent community of Sherman Oaks. The Delorean has the required plutonium plus some random garbage in the Mr. Fusion reactor ready for this trip. The time circuits are set to 1951 (actual date unknown) and the flux capacitor is.........fluxxing. The engine is running (not stalled this time) so we need to hurry. Hang on, as the ride can be a little bumpy as we travel back in time to 15357 Magnolia Blvd Sherman Oaks CA 91403. This address was the location for the one and only Tower of Wooden Pallets.

Before we even begin to discuss the history of this site, I believe this is what makes the San Fernando Valley great and in fact, the United States of America. We are privileged with freedom to do what ever we damn please which includes stacking pallets in your backyard. Most people will probably say this is the dumbest thing ever and I dont necessarily disagree but at the same time, I like this guy. He was a bona fide nut who didnt give a damn and wanted to do what he pleased. He didnt conform to any status quo or to try to keep up with the joneses which is why we are proud to discuss about Daniel Van Meter who in 1951 started collecting pallets from the local Schlitz brewery located at 7321 Woodman Avenue Van Nuys CA 91405 near Saticoy and also the railroad tracks which were not too far from the GM Plant and the Budweiser Brewery (two worthy topics to discuss in a future BTTF series). 

The Schlitz brewery opened its state-of-the-art 35 acre brewery in 1954 and closed in 1990 laying off 390 workers which was replaced with Copart Van Nuys Yard at 7519 Woodman Van Nuys CA 91405. I dont know how Van Meter collected pallets in 1951 when the Schlitz brewery opened in 1954 so just going with what my sources tell me. 

Van Meter acquired these pallets because he noticed them building up at the local Schlitz brewery which union workers refused to repair because they wanted the company to hire workers from another union to make the repairs. So the pallets began to stack outside the Schlitz Brewery. Then executives from the East were coming to visit the plant and the supervisor didnt want them visible during their visit. Van Meter got word of this and offered to take some home. Five truckloads of pallets arrived which Van Meter stacked so could look out across the Valley. And that's what he did best, stacked them till they reached 22 feet high in a cone shape consisting of 2000 pallets which was completed in two years time. Floyd B. Bariscale said it best about Van Meters property at Big Orange Landmarks blog:
Van Meter had moved to the property in 1947. The land was once part of an apricot ranch owned by actress Louise Fazenda (you may remember her from such films as Schultz the Paperhanger, Tea: With a Kick!, and Are Waitresses Safe?). Going back to the 1800s, the land was owned by the McMasters family. The Van Meter boys (Baron moved there, too) ultimately turned their land into a veritable junkyard – later visitors mentioned seeing there a dozen scrapped cars, a gas pump, a 1938 city bus, washing machines and water heaters, an old outhouse, a battleship turret, and wooden wagons, not to mention the menagerie of cats, dogs, chickens, turtles, pigeons, and a raccoon.
Taking Van Meter two years to build, the Tower of Pallets, when finished, reached twenty-feet tall and twenty-two-feet wide at its base. There was a thirteen-foot wide opening at the top. The open room inside, full of patio furniture and all sorts of detritus, according to legend, marked the grave of a three-year-old who died and was buried there in 1869. Soon after Daniel finished the tower, building inspectors arrived and, stumped, classified the giant pallet cone as a fence. 
The story doesnt end there and this where things really get interesting and make Van Meter almost look like a genius. From Richard Simon at the L.A. Times in an article titled, Tower of Tranquility: Unusual Sherman Oaks Landmark Provides a Refuge From Turmoil on February 15, 1988:

In 1977, the Fire Department declared the tower "an illegally stacked lumber pile" and a fire hazard.
A year later, it was named a landmark by the city Cultural Heritage Commission, joining such other historic-cultural monuments as the Watts Towers, the Hollywood sign, the Venice canals, a 1,000-year-old oak tree in Encino and the S.S. Catalina.
"Maybe we were drunk," a former commissioner joked when asked why the tower was designated a landmark.
'One of the Stranger Things'
The Tower of Pallets, as it is known on the official record of city landmarks, is one of the lesser-known and, in the words of another former cultural heritage commissioner, "one of the stranger things" that the commission has declared a historic-cultural monument during its 25-year existence.
But to its creator, 74-year-old Van Meter, the tower is a special place to get away from the turmoil of urban society.
"I have a place where it is quiet, despite the apartments, the noise of the boulevard and the hum and screeches of the rat race on the freeway 200 feet away," he said.
At night, Van Meter said, he climbs to the top of the tower and looks at the moon and the stars. "To me, this is a spiritual place."
And there you have it, since this site became an LA HCM, it could not be destroyed without providing sound justification to the heads of the commission. At the time the L.A. Times article was written in 1988, Van Meter's home was the only remaining single-family residential property left with his neighbors consisting of a condominium complex, fire station, office building, and a private school. So imagine, being the single owner of a large plot of 1.44 acres being surrounded by a diverse set of neighbors. I cant imagine the traffic down that street was pretty. Another odd characteristic of Van Meter was that he was a collector of all sorts and a hoarder ad described in the quote above. Time to head back into the Delorean to get an idea of how cluttered this site was from back in the mid 2000's, check the pics below. Thanks to the wonders of technology, I was able to secure an aerial shot of this place via Bing Maps. 

Courtesy Department of City Planning in 2004

Courtesy The Itinerant Blog

Captured from Bing Maps on Sept 1, 2011, actual image date is unknown

Courtesy Department of City Planning in 2004

Lets hop back into the Delorean to check out this site in its present form. If you have read the other BTTF series, you will know where this is headed. 

Van Meter died in June 2000 at the age of 87 and his heirs reached an agreement with developer, Westgate Group of Los Angeles and sold for $4.5 million. By 2005, the tower was still standing but had dwindled since 1950 and was not sturdy. According to Steve Harvey at the L.A. Times, the structure was down to five feet tall in 2002. But Westgate still couldnt demolish because of that pesky HCM designation. Keep in mind this site was granted the special status in 1977 which allowed it to stand in existence for almost 30 years. This site was deemed "without artistic merit" and finally approved to be razed. From Joe Dungan at the L.A. Nuts
A determination of the artistic merits of the pallets has been playing out since Van Meter's death. A 2004 environmental impact report included an analysis of the tower from an artistic and historic perspective. The analysis deemed it historically insignificant and artistically uninventive. The historian I met said that, on occasion, museums and galleries raise funds to disassemble, transport, and reconstruct large pieces such as this at their venues. To date, no such facility has stepped up to do this. Except for a 2005 Los Angeles Times article about them, there has been little mention in the media about the tower's threatened destruction. Unlike other historic monuments that are faced with demolition, no outraged preservationists, prominent scholars, or concerned citizens appear to be doing anything to save the pallets.
And just like other sites of historical significance, this site was demolished to make way for the typical apartment complex in this case called The Magnolia. So you have the wonderful opportunity to rent a unit on the former site of Van Meter.

Van Meter wrote it best and with foresight when he was securing his HCM designation:
… in a few years this piece of the good earth may be covered by apartments for the storing of surplus people. In the meantime, pray, let this strange structure be, let it continue to be a haven of rest for an individual – that endangered species – who once knew how sweet was our Valley.
On a completely different note not relevant to the SFV, while researching Van Meter, I found some interesting views as he mentioned the following in the Simon Feb 15, 1988 LA Times Article:
A founder of the American Independent Party and supporter of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace's 1972 presidential campaign, Van Meter loves to talk politics. In an interview, he complained about President Franklin D. Roosevelt taking the country off the gold standard and contended that the federal income tax is illegal.
Do you ever wonder why the price of Gold has gone up for the past 11 years straight and gold commericals and stores have popped up everywhere, its because there is no gold standard and the dollar has been devalued since Roosevelt. This is coming from what some might call a weirdo back in the 80's

Courtesy of
You can find more San Fernando Valley history at the BTTF page.


Share This:

Marty Mcfly

Anything and everything about the San Fernando Valley. This blog will take you back in time when the valley was covered with dirt and orange groves to a leader in the space race to its current status as America's suburb. Come along and join me on this adventure, I guarantee you have been influenced/impacted by the San Fernando Valley in one form or another even if you have never visited or heard of the SFV.

1 comment to ''BTTF# 9: Tower of Wooden Pallets, 15357 Magnolia Blvd. Sherman Oaks Historical Cultural Monument # 184 (site of)"

  1. Thank you so much for writing this, a wonderful read.


  • To add code Use [pre]code here[/pre]
  • To add an Image Use [img]IMAGE-URL-HERE[/img]
  • To add Youtube video just paste a video link like