Somewhere between the 405 and the Pacific Ocean, up on a vibrant green hill dotted with fir and eucalyptus and willow trees, is the home of a man from America’s past.

The Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades is 186 acres of grassy yards and walking paths that line the hills and ridges around the house. The Sunday we went, the parking lots were full, and yet there were no big crowds anywhere. Families were spread about the area having picnics, playing Frisbee, taking a stroll.
After our picnic, we queued up for the tour of Will Rogers’ ranch house, recently renovated and furnished almost entirely with the famous owner’s belongings.

I wasn’t really familiar with Will Rogers prior to the tour, but the outstanding state park ranger who gave the tour of Rogers’ house was a fount of information and told us quite a lot in his short introduction.

Will Rogers was the most popular entertainer in America back in the 1930’s. He was a performer and a writer, with many quotes to his credit, including: “Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” It was in the 1920’s that he purchased this beautiful property on a hill and build a modest ranch to retreat to with his wife and children. The main room of the house is filled with Rogers’ collection of now quite valuable western art and artifacts, and here was Ranger Tim, equipped with a firearm and walkie talkie, discussing the origins of the furniture and rugs. It’s so enjoyable to hear someone talk about a subject they are clearly enthusiastic about.

We toured the other furnished rooms in the house before taking a short hike along a path that went above the main grounds, and looped around the hills leading toward the ocean and Inspiration Point. An expansive view of Los Angeles, from the snowy peaks beyond downtown to the shoreline of Marina Del Rey and Malibu await those who venture up this dusty trail.

The front yard of Will Rogers’ house was at one time a three hole golf course, so it is wide and clear. At one end is an old horse stable, which visitors can wander through. Although there are no horses there now, the structure holds the aura of its 1930’s past with a carefully crafted rotunda and even an old truck to climb on. In the blacksmith/carpenter shop nearby is a very old, broken down car that you can get up close to and look inside. At the other end of the property is a polo field which Rogers built to enjoy playing polo with other celebrities of his day. Polo tournaments are still played here in the spring.

There are meadows reaching up the sides of the hills as well as more paths, for walking and bike riding, that wind through the tall grass and disappear around corners.

It may have been extra crowded the day we visited the park because, unbeknownst to us, it was announced that the Governor was considering closing this park for budgetary reasons. I hope something can be worked out.

Notes:

Will Rogers State Historic Park 1501 Will Rogers Park Road Pacific Palisades, CA 90272, phone: 310-454-8212, http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=626 , park open during daylight hours, tours of ranch house Tues. – Sunday 11am, 1pm, 2pm. $7 parking fee.