La Tuna Canyon’s Belmont Country Club – Part 1

As a history addict, I’m always on the lookout for clues to the past. Whenever I pass an empty lot, I look for old foundations. Whenever I pass a freshly dug hole, I examine the hole and the excavated dirt for old junk. Sometimes what I see leads to a forgotten story of our past. This is one of those times.

For years now, while traveling down La Tuna Canyon Road I’ve been seeing indications of the hand-of-man in an uninhabited portion of the north side of the canyon. As you head down the road from the Foothill 210 Freeway crossing, you wind down the steep curvy road until you finally reach a flat portion. The “round house” on your left and the debris basin on your right are your landmarks. Directly across from the round house (literally a white two-story house built perfectly round) on the other side of the canyon are indications of some sort of development. A couple of stone wall portions are perched on the hillside along with a fairly tall cement staircase leading … nowhere. The eroded edge of a road section hangs on the edge of the streambed. It’s intriguing. What was it? Perhaps a large home wrecked by fire or flood?

Turns out these are the only traces of the opulent Belmont Country Club, a playground for wealthy Los Angeles residents built in 1926. The first indication of the club’s existence comes from a news article about La Tuna Canyon Road being paved from Vineland in Sun Valley, all the way to the grounds of the country club, in anticipation of its opening. (At that time, La Tuna Canyon Road to La Crescenta didn’t exist. La Tuna Canyon Road only went from Vineland to the entrance to the country club. Essentially it was the residents’ own private driveway.)

Although it was apparently first begun in 1923, the Belmont Country Club opened to great fanfare in 1926. Initially I imagined this was another high-end speakeasy, just like our own speakeasy Verdugo Lodge that later became Mountain Oaks. But unlike Verdugo Lodge, which flew below the radar with no advertising, Belmont Lodge was all over the newspapers and it hosted many public events, so maybe it was legit.

The Los Angeles Times began trumpeting the opening of the Belmont in February 1926. A full ad showed photos of the almost completed club building. It was two stories, concrete in construction, and massive, representing an investment of $100,000. Its Spanish styling included huge arched entryways and windows and the requisite tiled roof. Interior features were a grand ballroom, separate lounges for men and women, dining room and kitchen, along with a number of “sleeping rooms for members that desire to spend occasional nights at the club.”

Outdoor activities included tennis on several courts and a large swimming pool. Picnics and hikes were foremost in the advertising as this was at the tail end of “the golden age of hiking” when hiking was a very popular sport.

“Naturally scenic surroundings and heavily wooded canyons” promised the newspaper. “Spreading shade trees, plenty of tables, cold mountain spring water and miles of interesting trails for hikers make this a wonderful place to spend the day.”

But the jewel in the crown was the 18-hole golf course. It was designed by William Watson, the then-famous golf course designer. The Scottish Watson (he grew up on St. Andrews, considered to be the birthplace of golf) began designing top courses at the turn of the century and in his career designed over 100 courses. Among his famous course designs locally are Brentwood, Annandale, Hacienda and Hillcrest, as well as Minikahda and Interlachen in Minnesota and Belvedere in Michigan.

It’s not stated in the advertisements how much a membership cost in the Belmont Country Club. It did state, however, that memberships were available “at a very low fee and on easy terms of payment to selected applicants only.” Hmm. “Selected applicants only” … I wonder what that meant?

Next week, more on the spectacular Belmont Country Club and why it isn’t there anymore.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical
Society of the Crescenta Valley
and loves local history.
Reach him at