Bilbo Baggins at home at Bag End
Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit from "Lord of the Rings," would be right at home in the Cal West Townhomes community in Chatsworth, Calif. The condo development was built on the site of the former Iverson Movie Ranch — the most heavily filmed outdoor location in the history of the movies — and as luck would have it, there's a Hobbit House, or something that looks like one, hidden among the condos.
I talked about my search for Plaza Rock in the previous blog entry, and I teased the fact that, while I was unable to find Plaza Rock amid the condos, I did find something pretty cool. What I found was the larger mushroom-shaped rock that is often seen behind Plaza Rock, as in the above screen shot from the Bob Steele movie "The Trusted Outlaw." For reasons I will explain below, I began referring to the larger rock as "Hobbit House."
Hobbit House as it appears today, amid the Cal West Townhomes
After discovering the mushroom-shaped rock in its current setting — where it serves as a large-scale planter decoration in the condo community — I realized the rock has something in common with the Hobbit dwellings in "Lord of the Rings." Like a Hobbit residence in the Shire, most of the rock is now underground.
"Stagecoach Express" (1942)
Here's a shot from the Don "Red" Barry B-Western "Stagecoach Express" from Republic that gives some idea of how tall and imposing Hobbit House was back in its movie days. The rock is at least twice the height of a stagecoach and much taller than Gorge Cabin.
"The Old Corral" (1936)
As you can see in this shot cropped from "The Old Corral," Hobbit House as it stood in the filming era towered over Plaza Rock, which was itself a substantial formation, seen here looming above a large car.
Hobbit House then — in the 1942 movie "Stagecoach Express," on the left — and now, on the right.
Here's a side-by-side comparison of two shots — one showing Hobbit House as it appeared in the movies in 1942, on the left, and one taken in recent times revealing the rock's new role as a lawn sculpture, on the right. The comparison makes it clear just how significantly the rock formation's stature was diminished when the bulk of it was buried during grading for the condo project.
"The Trusted Outlaw" (1937)
But the fate of Hobbit House is better than what happened to Plaza Rock. Which reminds me, what DID happen to Plaza Rock?
1952 aerial photo of the Upper Gorge
An aerial view of a portion of Iverson's Upper Gorge, taken in 1952 — when the rocks were still above ground — shows the proximity of Hobbit House and Plaza Rock, which were practically on top of each other. The aerial also highlights a couple of nearby features: the Angry Cardinal, a large rock formation that was the focus of this recent blog post, and the site of Gorge Cabin, which was already gone by 1952. You can click here to read an earlier blog entry that goes into detail about Gorge Cabin. My post previous to this current one, which focuses mainly on Plaza Rock, also discusses the location of Gorge Cabin, and can be seen by clicking here.
Until someone comes up with a better idea, I'm going on the theory that Plaza Rock remains buried under the lawn. X marks the spot.