Offbeat L.A.: Old Trapper’s Lodge- A Bizarre Old West-themed Sculpture Park in Woodland Hills

The Fight Between Peg Leg Smith and Big Bear (Photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

The fight between Peg Leg Smith and Big Bear
(photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

Gun Packin' Mama

Gun Packin’ Mama (photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

Hidden away in a remote corner of Pierce College in Woodland Hills is a trippy little secluded park filled with odd life size sculptures depicting scenes from the Old West. These sculptures are simultaneously delightful and slightly creepy – the kind of thing that often has young children clutching parents legs and sobbing their eyes out. Created by self-taught artist John Ehn, this surreal collection was originally  started to drum up business for the motel he owned in Burbank called Old Trapper’s Lodge. John had purchased the motel in 1941, but by 1951 he realized that he wanted more publicity for his business. Legend has it that he hired the sculptor Claude Bell, who later created the Cabazon Dinosaurs, to make a piece for the Lodge’s front yard. After watching Bell for awhile, a lightbulb apparently went off over Ehn’s head and he realized, “Hey, I can do this!”

Ironfoot Eva (Photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

Ironfoot Eva
(photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

So starting in 1951 at the age of 54,  John Ehn created sculpture after sculpture all representing characters out of the Old West. He recreated tall tales, such as the battle between Peg Leg Smith and a Native American named Big Bear and fashioned his own tongue-in-cheek graveyard called Boothill. His statue entitled Kidnap has a screaming, scantily clad white woman being forcefully carried away by yet another Native American, this one with rippling chest muscles. The base of this piece is covered with angry, contorted faces, many baring their teeth. John worked for the next 30 years, until his death in 1981, filling the front yard, the motel grounds and his home and office with his bizarre pieces of folk art.

The Old West Comes to LIfe (Photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

The Old West Comes to LIfe
(photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

After John’s death, his large family, which included 20 grandchildren, held onto the motel property for a few years. Eventually they were forced to sell the land in the mid-80s for the soon to be built Burbank airport. The family distributed many of John’s smaller pieces amongst themselves, but they were offered to set up the larger ones in Alvin Cleveland Park, located in the far, rear corner of Pierce College. Tucked away, behind pine trees and overgrown bushes, they can barely be seen from El Rancho Drive, where the agricultural students have a working cattle and horse farm. Parting the low hanging pines to view Boothill Cemetery while inhaling the rural perfume of horse manure may finally put you in an Old West state of mind.

Kidnap (Photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

Kidnap
(photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

Here Lies Red Finn (Photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

Here Lies Red Finn
(photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

 

Old Trapper’s Lodge: located at Pierce College on El Rancho Drive, near DeSoto, next to the Equestrian Center, Woodland Hills, CA 91371

 

 

The Crossroads of the World, The Bunny Museum, Rubel Castle, Storybook Architecture, Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village, The Nethercutt Museum

Nikki Kreuzer

About Nikki Kreuzer

Nikki Kreuzer has been a Los Angeles resident for over 30 years. When not working her day job in the film & TV industry, she spends her time over many obsessions, mainly music, art and exploring & photographing the oddities of the city she adores. So far she has written 110 Offbeat L.A. articles, published at the Los Angeles Beat. As a journalist she contributes regularly to LA Weekly, Blurred Culture and has also been published by Oddee.com, Twist Magazine, Strobe and Not For Hire. Nikki is also a mosaic artist, radio DJ and published photographer. Her photography has been featured in exhibit at the Museum of Neon Art, in print at the LA Weekly and in exhibit at the Neutra Museum in Los Angeles. She has recorded with the band Nikki & Candy as bassist, vocalist and songwriter, directing and appearing in the 'Sunshine Sunshine Santa Claus' music video for the band. She co-hosted the monthly radio show Bubblegum & Other Delights on Dublab.com for over two years. Her acting credits include a recent role in the ABC-TV show 'For The People', 'Incident at Guilt Ridge', 'Two and a Half Men', the film 'Minority Report' and 'Offbeat L.A.', a web series, written and hosted by Nikki Kreuzer. Her writing, radio and video portfolio can be found at OffbeatLA.com, her photography work @Lunabeat on Instagram and her music history posts @NikkiKreuzer on Twitter. Find Nikki & Candy music on iTunes, Amazon or at NikkiandCandy.com.
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