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Our Mission Will Rogers State Historic Park The mission of California State Parks is to provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation. If you want to be “ successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in California State Parks supports equal access. Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who need assistance should contact the park at (310) 454-8212. This publication can be made available in alternate formats. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (916) 654-2249. CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS P.O. Box 942896 Sacramento, CA 94296-0001 For information call: (800) 777-0369 (916) 653-6995, outside the U.S. 711, TTY relay service www.parks.ca.gov Discover the many states of California.™ Will Rogers State Historic Park 1501 Will Rogers State Park Road Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 (310) 454-8212 Cover photo courtesy of Larry Underhill © 2001 California State Parks (Rev. 2011) what you are doing.” – Will Rogers W ill Rogers State Historic Park honors one of America’s most-quoted, best-loved humorists. A sought-after source of wisdom, honesty and common sense, Will Rogers holds a place in the public memory more than three-quarters of a century after his tragic death in 1935. Here in the central Santa Monica Mountains, peaceful views of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean combine with the practical experiences of a working ranch to bring to life an American icon who “never met a man [he] didn’t like.” In 1944, Will’s widow, Betty Rogers, deeded this 186-acre ranch to the State of California to be enjoyed as a public memorial to her late husband. most of present-day Los Angeles, from the San Gabriel mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Abundant coastal resources enabled both Chumash and Gabrieleno/Tongva people to live relatively peaceful, healthy lives until the 1800s brought Spanish colonization. From 1827 until the early 20th century, this area belonged to The family with Sealyham dog Jock and Brahma calf Sarah, 1929 the vast Rancho Boca de Santa Monica. The founder of Bel Air Estates (named after Mr. Mexican government granted Antonio PARK HISTORY Bell and later renamed Bel-Air). Ignacio and Francisco Javier Alvarado Before European settlement, the land Due to its very steep and rugged canyon grazing rights to the land; later the land comprising the Will Rogers Ranch sat terrain, the area that is now Will Rogers State itself was granted to Ysidro Reyes and along the territorial frontier separating Historic Park remained almost untouched until Francisco Marquez. the Chumash and 1922. That year, while Rogers and his family Part of the acreage Gabrieleno/Tongva were still living in Beverly Hills, Alphonzo Bell “My ancestors didn’t come over on the eventually came into the native groups. The sold Will the first 200 acres of the land that possession of philanthropist, Mayflower, but they met the boat.” Gabrieleno/Tongva would become his beloved family ranch. oilman and real estate Will Rogers region covered developer Alphonzo Bell, Ranch site, ca. 1927 Photo by Larry Underhill Photo by Larry Underhill THE RANCH the family For years Will had Will and Betty had four children. Three longed for a quiet of them—Bill, Mary and Jim—made retreat— a place appearances in some of Will’s films. Bill later where his family could owned and published a local newspaper, the Beverly Hills Citizen. In 1943, Bill resigned live more simply, and during his first term in Congress and where he would have reenlisted in the plenty U.S. Army to fight of room “Outside of traffic, there is nothing under General for his that has held this country back as George Patton in treasured much as committees.” World War II. horses. Will Rogers Will and Betty’s In what is only daughter, now Pacific Mary, worked as an actress until Will’s death Palisades, he saw his in 1935. Jim Rogers eventually joined his dream come true. The home he built there brother Bill at the Citizen. Jim also owned reflects his roots: first and foremost, Will several ranches to the north of Los Angeles. Rogers was a cowboy who loved horses. To create the steep switchback roads leading up to the canyon mesa, Will used mule-drawn grading equipment, now on display in the historic hay barn. At the top he built a six-room “getaway” cabin and a barn to keep his horses. In 1930, Will moved his family from Beverly Hills to the house and the landscaped grounds he had helped design. By 1935 a series of additions had expanded the cabin to a sprawling home with 31 rooms, 11 baths and seven fireplaces. On the grounds, 13 outbuildings stand among the rolling lawns, pastures, riding arenas and a large, well-used polo field. In 1971 the Rogers family’s enlarged ranch house received a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. “A man that don’t love a horse, there is something the matter with him.” - Will Rogers Tragically, Will and Betty’s fourth child, Fred Stone Rogers—named for a long-time family friend—died of diphtheria shortly before reaching his second birthday. entertaining, ranch-style Will and his family provided an easygoing brand of hospitality at their ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains. Will’s guest list of personal friends and worldfamous celebrities included Walt Disney, Clark Gable, the Charles Lindbergh family and Rogers family’s famous dog iron brand artists and pilots of the day. Typical of the legendary California lifestyle, the Rogers clan often entertained on their outdoor patio, where everyone could enjoy the fresh ocean breezes. Inside the ranch house, family and friends gathered in the cozy parlor to sing and make live music together. Meals were prepared in the family’s comfortable, all-electric kitchen. Guests could enjoy whatever activity pleased them: outdoors they could ride horses or play polo; indoors they could examine Will’s collection of signed firstedition books from authors ranging from Harry Houdini to Theodore Roosevelt. The upstairs rooms, now filled with The Cherokee Kid, photographs ca. 1910 and memorabilia of this close-knit family, look out onto the grounds and ranch buildings— maintained much as they were when the family lived at the ranch. EXHIBITS AND PROGRAMS Visitor center—Begin your journey into the history of Will Rogers’s ranch with a selfguided tour at the historic Guest House, built in 1928. The converted garage holds exhibits and a mini-theater featuring films of Will Rogers, the top box-office attraction of his day. Interpretive items are available in the sales area. “Every man has wanted to be a cowboy. Why play Wall Street and die young when you can play cowboy and never die?” lessons on Western history. Topics include horses, ranches - Will Rogers and the West, Native American culture, and California history. To schedule school Historic house museum—Volunteers and programs, group tours and guided nature walks, staff lead guided tours of the Will Rogers call (310) 454-8212, ext. 103, in advance. ranch revival-style home. Inside, view the Historic Landscape Tour—Enjoy a walk around largest collection of Western art in the the park to view exhibit panels and displays California State Park System. that share family recollections, photographs In addition to the collection of Native and some of Will Rogers’s most famous quotes. American textiles and artifacts, the openExplore the stables and riding arenas, hay barn, gabled interior rooms hold California blacksmith, carpentry shops and craftsman-style “I love a dog, he does nothing for pastures. furnishings. political reasons.” Nature Walk—Discover the park’s Numerous paintings, prints - Will Rogers scenic beauty by taking a 1.25mile hike to enjoy the native and sculptures by plants and wildlife. Pick up a trail guide in the such early 20th-century Western artists as visitor center Charles Russell, Ed Borein, and Joe DeYoung sales area. are also on view. Rotating exhibits of the extensive collection make repeat visits well SPECIAL worth the time. Groups of 20 or more must EVENTS make advance reservations by calling the Polo park at (310) 454-8212, ext. 103. In the 1930s, Call or visit the park website at Los Angeles had www.parks.ca.gov/willrogers for tour hours 25 polo fields. and directions to the park. Today, enjoy The Wilson Library & Reading Room— the thrill of Will Located in the museum, this unique gift from Rogers’s favorite the private collection of Mr. and Mrs. Leland sport on the Wilson holds over 1,900 books—some last remaining rare. The library is open to the public by polo field in Los appointment only to provide opportunities Angeles. for continued research on Will Rogers and Depending his era. on the weather, School tours—Park interpreters and docents matches are take K-12 students on tours that provide ”America is a land of opportunity and don’t ever forget it.” held most weekends from mid- Will Rogers April to early October. Visitors are encouraged to bring a blanket to sit on and refreshments to enjoy while watching a polo chukker. For a current polo schedule, visit the website www.willrogerspolo.org. The Dog Iron Polo Cup, held annually, benefits the Will Rogers Ranch Foundation (WRRF). Horseback Riding The polo field, stables and riding trails demonstrate Will Rogers’s love of horses. The equestrian concession offers trail rides and riding lessons to the public. To schedule a trail ride, call (310) 662-3707 or visit www.willrogerstrailrides.com. Movies in Will’s Backyard In August every year, come see one of Hollywood’s brightest stars under the stars at an evening showing of classic Will Rogers films sponsored by the Ranch Foundation. A calendar of events—such as art shows, 1920s and 1930s music, polo and Western events—may be viewed at www.willrogersranchfoundation.org. Will Rogers’s roping horse, Soapsuds TRAILS Several trails circle the park or lead into adjoining property. Among them, the strenuous Backbone Trail leads hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians through the Santa Monica Mountains for 67.8 miles to Point Mugu. Inspiration Point sits on a moderate two-mile loop; on clear days, you can view Catalina Island and the Los Angeles Basin. floor of the ranch house is accessible; a film of the second floor is available for viewing. The Inspiration Loop Trail begins at the riding arena; it is accessible for nearly 1/2 mile on compacted soil. Accessible parking is not available at the trailhead. For accessibility questions, please call the park in advance at (310) 454-8212, ext. 106. For accessibility updates, call (916) 445-8949 or visit http://access.parks.ca.gov. ACCESSIBLE FEATURES The visitor center, picnic area, routes of travel and parking are accessible. Some slopes may require assistance. The first “The Income Tax has made more liars out of the American people than Golf has.” - Will Rogers PLEASE REMEMBER • All natural and cultural features are protected by law and may not be disturbed or removed. “All I know is what I read in the papers.” - Will Rogers • Dogs must remain on a six-footmaximum leash at all times and are allowed only on the Inspiration Loop Trail. • Picnic permits are required for groups of 25 or more. Call (310) 454-8212, ext. 106. • Chairs may not be placed on the ranch house lawn. Use the polo field for sports and games. • Smoking is not permitted on trails or at the ranch. • The parking lot closes at sunset. • Bicycles are not allowed on singletrack trails, except the Backbone Trail. Observe signs. • Stay on designated trails to avoid contact with poison oak, rattlesnakes and ticks. Riding corral, ca. 1928 • Carry water to prevent dehydration—temperatures can exceed 100 degrees. • Do not hike or bike alone. Inform someone of your plans and let them know when you will return. Carry a mobile phone if possible. NEARBY STATE PARKS • Topanga State Park 20829 Entrada Road Topanga 90290 (310) 455-2465 • Malibu Creek State Park 1925 Las Virgenes Rd. Agoura 91376 (818) 880-0367 • Malibu Lagoon State Beach/ Adamson House 23200 Pacific Coast Hwy. at Cross Creek Rd. Malibu 90265 (818) 880-0363 This park receives support in part through a nonprofit organization. For information, contact the Will Rogers Ranch Foundation P.O. Box 502 Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 (866) 688-7487 www.willrogersranchfoundation.org who was will Rogers? Will Rogers—cowboy, humorist, Broadway and film star, newspaper columnist, radio commentator, humanitarian and one of the best-known celebrities of the 1920s and 1930s—was one of America’s first multimedia stars. His talents were many, and his loyal friends numbered in the millions—thanks to the reach of radio airwaves. William Penn Adair Rogers, born in 1879, was named for a famous Cherokee leader. Will grew up on his family’s ranch on the sprawling frontier governed by the Cherokee Nation near today’s Oologah, Oklahoma. His family heritage was of both Cherokee and European descent. Will’s father, Clement Vann Rogers, successful at ranching, agriculture and banking, would later become a Cherokee senator and judge who helped write the Oklahoma Constitution. Cowboy life became Will’s passion. At an early age, Will learned to ride horses and to use a lariat; he was soon wrangling longhorn cattle across the range from Texas to Kansas. Will entered and won many a roping contest; before long these competitions became profitable. As “The Cherokee Kid,” Will’s mastery of horsemanship and roping introduced him to the environment of circuses and Wild West shows that traveled the world. As word of his unique sense of humor “We will never have true civilization until we spread, Will became a “hot property” on have learned to recognize the rights of others.” vaudeville stages across the country. He - Will Rogers had a hilarious grasp of current events, and he was not afraid to name names when making a point about politicians and controversial topics. The behavior and habits of those in power were comedic fodder to Will; he was both revered and dreaded. Politicians and businessmen either hoped or feared that he might mention their names while skipping his lariat across the stage. Will’s fresh take on what was really happening across the U.S.—and who was responsible for it—enlightened his audiences and helped them live through tough times. People were reassured to know that the Great Depression, which put millions of people out of work, was not their fault, and they loved Will Rogers for saying so. Like it or not, Rogers could not be reined in. His outspoken candor, gently chiding wit and practical advice earned him the title “Cowboy Philosopher.” Will’s stage career eventually brought him, his wife Betty, and their three children—Bill, Mary and Jim—to California, where he would have roles in 50 silent films and 21 “talkies.” Over the years, Will wrote more than 4,000 nationally syndicated newspaper columns and produced regular weekly radio “fireside chats” that kept America informed and entertained. Will was a world traveler and an early proponent of aviation who took many international flights. On August 15, 1935, Will Rogers and renowned pilot Wiley Post died in a plane crash near Barrow, Alaska. When the word got out, there was a period of national mourning and a feeling that when death silenced Will’s voice, it took with it the voice of the people. However, the memory of Will Rogers still lives on—in books, films, postage stamps, a bronze statue in the National Statuary Hall of the Capitol Rotunda, and the many buildings, foundations and parks named in his honor. In Will’s own words, “You must judge a man’s greatness by how much he will be missed.” By that criterion, Will Rogers was a truly great man.