Mountain Oaks – The Lost Resort
The neighborhood of Mountain Oaks is a true gem in the Crescenta Valley. Mountain Oaks is located at the very bottom of New York Avenue, below Crescenta Valley Park. It’s a small community – just a handful of homes – tucked into the lush folds of the Verdugo Mountains. The scattering of old oak-shaded homes is perched on the sides of a small canyon in a semi-circle overlooking a large flat meadow. It’s a paradise, with a fascinating history, an idyllic present and an unsure future.
What we know about the past of Mountain Oaks is fairly murky. The story is pieced together from gossip, scraps of verbal memories, and a couple of published interviews with descendents of the original owners. The known history of Mountain Oaks starts in 1929 when Emmet and Helen Kadletz, along with a partner, purchased the 45-acre parcel, formerly the site of a supposed speakeasy. The Kadletzes had owned a string of unusual businesses before this, including a mortuary, a Turkish bath and a miniature golf course, and they envisioned starting another unusual business.
They wanted to develop a resort somewhat on the business model of the time-share resorts we see today. The land was split into 400 tiny lots, termed “tent lots.” They reserved one large lot – the flat meadow area, about 13 acres – as a recreational common area for the community. One could purchase one of these tent lots, and that gave the owner access to the recreational area. The sales of the small lots gave the Kadletzes part of their income, and funded improvements to the recreational facilities. A few of the tiny lots were cobbled together into large enough holdings to build homes on, and those are the houses that are there today, 12 in all. Right after they bought the property, the Depression hit, which made for slow sales of the tent lots, but the Kadletzes went on with their development plans anyway.
A grand stone archway was built at the entrance to Mountain Oaks, large enough for two cars to pass through. On the other side of the archway was the great meadow, 13 acres of naturally flat land on which the Kadletzes built many amusements. There were, at various times in the resort’s history, a baseball diamond and a golf course, stables, riding areas and a rodeo ring. A stream trickled down from the Verdugos into the meadow, and some waterfalls and dams were built behind which trout were stocked. Mature oaks and sycamores on the edges of the meadow shaded picnic facilities. Concession stands were built for drinks and ice cream, and serving counters surrounded large barbeques.
There was a horseshoe pit, and a huge free-standing fireplace for nighttime gatherings. A big wooden dance floor with a bandstand completed the recreational opportunities of the meadows. On the edge of the meadows the Kadletzes built a large swimming pool into the side of the hill with bleachers on one side. Men’s and women’s locker rooms were below the pool. “Crystal Pool” as it was known was often opened to the public and competed with the popular Indian Springs pool in Montrose.
But the crown jewel was the Mountain Oaks Lodge, which had been the rumored speakeasy. This massive two-story structure was perched high up above the meadow, reached by a wide grand stairway that wound up the hill between electric lights mounted on tall stone pilasters. A wide porch entered onto the main floor, which consisted of a big dance hall lit by three chandeliers. On one wall was a gigantic stone fireplace, flanked by a bandstand, a kitchen and a bar. Upstairs were rooms for cards and gambling, along with living quarters for the family.
The resort scheme, successful at first, slowly lost steam. The Kadletzes held on, but eventually sold their interest in the land.
Developers have drooled over the pristine land many times in past decades to no avail. Today the entire area is private property, and access is reserved for the lucky few that live there.
I’ll continue the story next week.