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Arts and Entertainment

Photos: A Former Nazi Compound In Pacific Palisades Slated For Demolition

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Several buildings from a compound once built by Nazi sympathizers in Pacific Palisades is being torn down later this month and we took a look around before the demolition.

The run-down, abandoned buildings of Murphy Ranch, just north of Will Rogers State Historic Park, will be taken down by the city come February 23. While some of the graffiti-covered structures have already been demolished, the city plans to tear down other remaining buildings that are considered unsafe, and add metal plates and other measures to keep trespassers out. Of course, news of the imminent destruction of the historic site has only drawn more visitors to the already popular, though technically off-limits, hiking destination. And LAist decided to join some of those visitors in exploring Murphy Ranch.

The 55-acre property was bought in 1933 by Winona and Norman Stephens, after being encouraged by a German known only as "Herr Schmidt," who was a prominent member of a white supremacist group. Schmidt convinced them to build a self-sustaining safe haven where Third Reich sympathizers could live until Nazi rule was established in the U.S. For the compound, they built several buildings, including a power station, a barn, water and fuel storage tanks, and garden beds. They also planned to build a four-story, 22-bedroom mansion. But on December 8, 1941—the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor—their grand plans came to a halt when it was raided by the U.S. government and Schmidt was taken into custody. The Stephens ultimately sold the property and it later became an artists colony in the 60s and 70s. A fire in 1978 burned through the site and it was abandoned, later to be explored by curious hikers, taggers and other explorers.

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A bird's eye view of power station at Murphy Ranch (Photo by Annie Lesser/LAist)
When we recently visited Murphy Ranch there was a wide range of people there, including families, dog walkers, artists and several high school kids "looking for a place to smoke weed." Others seemed to just enjoy hanging out at the site while blasting some early 90s hip-hop. Others used the structures for sound recordings, video shoots and photography. We wandered through and around what remained of the structures, including the power station, a dilapidated barn and a fuel storage tank. In addition to tons of graffiti, we also saw the rusted out remains of a truck, and what remained of the mostly demolished water storage tank.

As we started to head out, park rangers did arrive to clear the remaining visitors and dole out tickets for trespassing, which we thankfully avoided.


Rangers kicking out visitors to Murphy Ranch (Photo by Annie Lesser/LAist)
If you do plan to hike Murphy Ranch before February 23, keep in mind that it is considered trespassing and rangers are on increased alert these days. You can find out more about the hike here.