Old Trapper's Lodge: Mid-20th Century Folk Art with a Nod to Knott's Berry Farm
In the interior of Pierce College in Woodland Hills, California, there is a fascinating collection of statues, fake tombstones and other examples of folk art. These are what remain of Old Trapper’s Lodge. It was created by John Ehn (1897-1981), who was a trapper before moving to California, who opened a motel near the Burbank airport at Arvilla Avenue and San Fernando Road called the Old Trapper’s Lodge in 1941. There is a story that John had originally hired Claude Bell (Knott’s Berry Farm artist and creator of the Cabazon/Pee Wee Adventure dinosaurs near Palm Springs) to make a statute of himself for the motel, but after about three days, he felt he could do it by himself and took over. There is no record that this actually happened but seeing the statutes, it’s hard not to believe that John Ehn was at least inspired by Claude Bell’s work.
I’m pretty grateful that the statutes exist. There’s a lot of folk art that is disappearing due to neglect and it’s good to see that these have survived (at least for now). They are so fun to visit in their tongue and cheek depictions of a fictional west. Some of the statutes wouldn’t pass the politically correct test today, but I tried to keep in mind that they were built in the 1950’s and have a pretty ridiculous feel to them.LWolf, Enthusiast, Haikugal like this
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