Home » southern california » Little Landers

Little Landers

Bolton Hall, Clubhouse of Los Terrenitos (“Little Landers”)

Bolton Hall was named after a man called Bolton Hall. It was built in 1913 in Tujunga as the clubhouse of a utopian community called Los Terrenitos, or Little Landers. It was one of two communities inspired by the teachings of William E. Smythe. (The other was at San Ysidro, just across the fence from Tijuana, Mexico.)

According to a prospectus issued by Smythe in 1913:

The Little Lander is his own boss. His notion is not an acre nor half an acre, but “so much land as one individual or family can use to the highest advantage without hiring help.” No landlords or tenants, no employers or hired hands! Men work lovingly for themselves, while the best of them work but grudgingly for others. In moments of exaltation the Little Lander loves to think of himself as the Spiritual Man of the Soil—the man who works in conscious partnership with God in finishing the world. His own man on his own place, he works more in the spirit of the artist than of the farmer.

Bolton Hall Clubhouse As It Was in the Beginning

Any agricultural surplus from the small plots was donated to a cooperative: “The wagon calls to collect his vegetables, fruit, flowers, eggs, poultry—whatever he has to sell—and ship it to town, where it is received by the market manager and disposed of direct to consumers…..”

In many ways, the Little Landers were kin to the Distributists in England who followed the writings of G.K. Chesterton and the Catholics influenced by Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. Unfortunately, like almost all utopian communities, the Little Landers of Los Angeles lasted only for a few years. In 1917, Little Landers Incorporated was disestablished for failure to pay taxes. By 1925, almost all of the original settlers had left.

Unfortunately, the soil of the Tujunga area was not conducive to farming, so the dreams of small-plot farming did not come to pass, not here anyway.

Today all that remains is the Bolton Hall Clubhouse, which is a fascinating museum of local life. Martine and I spent an afternoon chatting with the docents inside the stone building, which was surprisingly cool considering the external temperature (90º Fahrenheit or 32º Celsius).

If you have any feeling for the area in which you live, I recommend supporting small local museums, which usually have fascinating stories to tell of the people who first settled an area and how their descendants fared.