Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting a local museum – the Hart Ranch and Museum – with a great group of friends. The Hart Ranch and Museum is where western movie pioneer William S Hart retired after a successful career making silent movies. I admit, I had no idea who he was. I mean I know that everything out here seems to be named after him, but other than that — no clue.
Jack Stewart was our tour guide and he did a wonderful job sharing Hart’s story. The museum’s website (www.hartmuseum.org) describe Hart and his ranch in the following manner:
William S. Hart was born in Newburgh, New York on December 6, 1864.Hart started his acting career in his twenties. At the age of 49, Hart came west to Hollywood to start his movie career. During the next 11 years, he made more than 65 silent films, the last being “Tumbleweeds” in 1925.
In 1921, Hart purchased a ranch house and surrounding property. He built a 22 room mansion which today houses Hart’s collection of western art, Native American artifacts, and early Hollywood memorabilia. Hart lived at the ranch nearly 20 years until his death in 1946. In his will, Hart gave the Horseshoe Ranch to the County of Los Angeles. It was to be set aside for the use and enjoyment of the public, at no charge.Today, the Horseshoe Ranch consists of 265 acres. Both the ranch house and the Hart residence are open to the public. An assortment of animals reside at Hart Park, including a small herd of bison which were a gift from the Walt Disney Studios in 1962
The home is a beautiful and we learned that at the time, Hart forked over a good $100K to have the home built. That’s a pretty good amount of coin if you consider that it was nearly 90 years ago. There’s this beautiful texture on the walls, which are all decorated with amazing paintings by Charlie Russel and Fredric Remington. And a great room upstairs that houses gifts and possessions Hart enjoyed. We learned that the museum is a static museum – this means if something is broken, it is not replaced, it is simply removed from the museum, so guests are careful not to touch anything. We also learned that Hart authored numerous books containing stories that he and his sister would write for both boys and girls. Hart seemed like a pretty cool guy – too bad United Artists didn’t do his final movie, Tumbleweeds, justice. Apparently Hart was mad at the movie industry and produced his own movie which was distributed by United Artists. The movie didn’t do great in the box office and Hart sued United Artists – and Hart won the case in the 1940s. I guess the last laugh was his though, because when he died, he willed his ranch to the county on 3 conditions – that it would become a museum, that there would be no charge for guests to visit, and that there would be absolutely NO filming. Thank you William S Hart for opening your home to us!