Wednesday, April 4, 2012

BTTF#12: Edward Everett Horton's Encino Ranch Estate and the 101 Freeway; How A Celebrity Lost His Ranch to Suburbanization



Welcome aboard the Delorean! Marty McFly here to take you on a journey to the affluent and trendy community of Encino. 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 sometime in 1926 (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 the Edward Evertt Horton Ranch Estate known as "Belly Acres" or "Belleigh Acres" at 5521 Amestoy Avenue in Encino.

Before we discuss the estate of Mr. Horton, lets talk about the comic actor Mr. Horton. He was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 18, 1886. He had a long career in film, theater, radio, television, and voice work for animated cartoons. His career started in 1906 in small roles in Vaudeville and Broadway production. By the 1920s, he was getting roles in Hollywood films. He acted in more than 120 films during his career including noteworthy films such as  The Front Page (1931), Trouble in Paradise (1932), Alice in Wonderland (1933), The Gay Divorcee (1934), Top Hat (1935, one of several Astaire/Rogersfilms in which Horton appeared), Danger - Love at Work (1937), Lost Horizon (1937), Holiday (1938), Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944),Pocketful of Miracles (1961), and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). He last appeared in a non-speaking role in Cold Turkey (1971).

He also developed his own "double take" as explained by Wikipedia:
Horton's screen character was instantly defined from his earliest talkies: pleasant and dignified, but politely hesitant when faced with a potentially embarrassing situation. Horton soon cultivated his own special variation of the time-honored double take (an actor's reaction to something, followed by a delayed, more extreme reaction). In Horton's version, he would smile ingratiatingly and nod in agreement with what just happened; then, when realization set in, his facial features collapsed entirely into a sober, troubled mask.
He also played many roles on Television including the TV show, I Love Lucy, where he played the character "Mr. Ritter" in 1952. In addition to Film and Television, he lent his hand to radio including a role as "Chief Screaming Chicken" on Batman as a pawn to Vincent Price's Egghead in the villain's attempt to take control of Gotham City (Wikipedia).

Mr. Horton passed away at the age of 84 on his Encino ranch estate on September 29, 1970. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6427 Hollywood Boulevard for his many contributions to the film industry. 

Moving on to his Encino ranch estate, he purchased six acres in 1926 in the very rural Encino area at 5521 Amestoy Avenue naming it the "Belly Acres" or "Belleigh Acres" (according to the Paradise Leased website). (I am not sure about the total amount of acres owned as I have researched that Mr. Horton has owned between 6, 22, and 140 acres. So maybe over time, Mr. Horton sold various parcels that reduced his total holdings). One other side note, Horton hosted many social and community events at Belly Acres. The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald rented a guest cottage for a time in 1938-39. Marjorie Lord and Vivian Vance also lived in the guest cottage at one time (according to Wikimapia)Images of his property are shown below.
From the Los Angeles Public Library: Exterior front side view of the house and lawn of actor Edward Everett Horton on Amestoy Avenue in Encino. The estate consisted of 140 acres, which were being farmed on November 7, 1937.
From the Los Angeles Public Library: Exterior of the house and lawn of actor Edward Everett Horton on Amestoy Avenue in Encino. (This appears to be sometime in the 40's or 50's by looking at the car in the image).
From the Los Angeles Public Library; Hollywood Citizen News/Valley Times Collection: Exterior view of Edward Everett Horton's Encino home. It contains 17 rooms, 14 practical fireplaces, a banquet hall which measures 40 by 34 feet with a 16-foot ceiling, and a music room which measures 28 by 34 feet. Photograph dated October 18, 1962.
With the expansion of the San Fernando Valley in the late 50's and early 60s, the 101 Freeway expanded North right through the backyard of Mr. Horton's estate. Mr. Horton had no choice but to sell a portion of his ranch for the development of the 101 Freeway. As a consolation, the City of Los Angeles renamed the portion of Amestoy Avenue as Edward Everett Horton Lane near his main home. Images below from my favorite website, Historicaerials.com, show the estate pre and post 101 Freeway. 
From Historicaerials.com: This image from 1952 shows a very rural Encino with no 101 Freeway. I left the labels "on" in this image to show where the 101 Freeway was built in relation to Mr. Horton's estate. His estate is in the center left portion just above the 101 Freeway. On a separate note, at the very top of this image is the old RKO Movie Ranch.
From Historicaerials.com: This image from 1972 shows the completed 101 Freeway.  By now, the Encino area is becoming much more developed with "pockets" of ranch homes remaining like Mr. Hortons. You can see how the 101 Freeway essentially created a division with Mr. Horton's estate and his access to the neighborhoods south of the 101 Freeway. However, he did have a convenient concrete bridge to cross the 101 Freeway. 
From Historicaerials.com: This image from 1977 shows that Mr. Horton's ranch was completely demolished to make way for condominiums. However Amestoy avenue where his home was located above the 101 Freeway was changed to his name as a form of gratitude. 

The image above from 1960 shows Mr. Horton complaining about all the noise from the 101 Freeway while he is reading in his garden. You can see the 101 Freeway in the background where it makes a banked right turn heading towards the 405 Freeway. Also in the background is the pedestrian bridge across the 101 Freeway that I dont think anybody uses. Seriously who walks in Encino especially across the Freeway? But it does provide access to the various parks for those across the Freeway so the planners were at least being considerate.

Now its time to go back to the future into the Delorean and check out the former Edward Everett Horton estate today:
Courtesy Google Maps
101 Pedestrian Bridge from Edward Everett Horton Lane 
101 Freeway from Pedestrian Bridge
101 Freeway from Louise Ave Bridge. Pedestrian Bridge near Horton estate is in background
Edward Everett Horton Lane Street Sign (only 1 exists)
With all due respect to Mr. Horton, there were many other ranches that were lost because of the San Fernando Valley post World War 2 expansion otherwise known as suburbanization. These ranches were demolished and razed to make way for the various freeways that outline the San Fernando Valley which essentially allows everyday residents to work, travel, play, escape, etc. Additionally, this allowed for the growth of the San Fernando Valley and nearby areas bringing much needed flow of people and goods thus prospering trade and commerce while enriching the lives of everyday people. So the next time you travel down the 101 Freeway in Encino which will probably be jammed, dont forget to look for the pedestrian bridge and thank Mr. Horton for allowing the 101 Freeway to be built in his backyard (I dont know if Mr. Horton really had a choice but it sounds like a good ending tribute). 

You can read more about San Fernando Valley history here

Sources:



3 comments

Darin Graves February 2, 2013 at 11:05 PM

Great history about the Valley. Always will love the SF. Our SF!

SFValley blog February 3, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Thanks Darin. My goal is to document the rich history of the SFV. Feel free to provide any stories for any of the topics discussed on this blog.

Lemora July 4, 2014 at 7:40 AM

Thank you for your painstaking research on this blog! My best friend in the 1950's, Randi Olson, was related to Mr. Horton. The Ventura Freeway was open for business in 1959. For years, in the sixties, you could see his two story house, with a second story veranda, sitting smack up against the freeway on the north side as you drove past. My family lost our Sarah Street home, via Eminent Domain, to this freeway. We moved out on September 27, 1956, and construction began later that fall, after all the buildings were relocated. I love your old photographs. Thank you!

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