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Near Los Angeles, Visit the Ranches of Classic Movie Stars, from McCrea to Stanwyck

In 1936, 28-year-old Barbara Stanwyck, one of the most popular and powerful actresses of her generation, joined with her friends Zeppo and Marion Marx to build two homes and a ranch, which they named Marwyck, on 130 acres in Northridge, located 22 miles north of Hollywood in the rustic San Fernando Valley

The architect (in collaboration with Robert Finkelhor) was Paul R. Williams, a favorite of L.A.’s elite. The surviving work of Williams, who also designed Desilu Ranch, is still prized today. For $30,000, Stanwyck, who grew up as an orphan in Brooklyn, commissioned a five-bedroom ranch house styled as an idealized Tudor English farm. She couldn’t believe her good fortune. “How did I ever get out here with all this grass? About the only grass I ever got close to before was on the backdrop of a show,” Stanwyck said, according to Victoria Wilson’s biography, Steel-True

Marwyck was originally intended to rank with the finest horse-breeding campuses of Kentucky. Down a slight slope from her home and pool, where a suburban development now stands, Stanwyck and the Marxes grew alfalfa, built stables, and laid out a three-quarter-mile running track. The facility was also rented for Hollywood shoots—you can see Marwyck and the two homes in 1940’s Sporting Blood, and in 1949 Shirley Temple celebrated her 21st birthday there on the set of The Story of Seabiscuit.

That’s Stanwyck pictured above, being photographed in her dining room for a magazine story. Stanwyck loved entertaining her famous friends; for her first Thanksgiving at Marwyck, she invited Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, who brought a crew to build a barbecue pit in the fields. In 1939, just a few years after purchasing Marwyck, Stanwyck married hearrthrob Robert Taylor, who had a ranch of his own that has also been developed for houses.