The Way We Were

Pioneering Artist Created Her Own Montmarte in the Canyon

Landscape painter Laura Way Mathiesen brought an indomitable spirit, a formidable mind and boundless curiosity to Topanga in the 1920s. A woman with red hair and “dancing brown eyes,” Laura Way Mathiesen…

Christmas in the Santa Monica Mountains

The earliest account of Christmas in the Santa Monica Mountains appears to be one published by Frederick Hastings Rindge in his 1895 book, Happy Days in Southern California. Rindge describes his ranch…

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1930s Bring Changes to Topanga

Around the same time that the Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC) bought Lower Topanga in 1924, its President, William May Garland (1866-1948), also managed to get Los Angeles selected as the host…

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The Great Eleven Cult in Topanga

An unusual Topanga Beach sight in August 1924 would have been Sam Rizzio, 18, walking back and forth, repeating, “I am a dead man,” while a woman sprinkled a vial to wet…

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Topanga Yacht Harbor Planned at Cooper’s Camp

While the Topanga Yacht Harbor never materialized, in 1975, the Topanga Woman’s Club formed the Topanga Creek Yacht Club, “in view of the importance of the creek to life in Topanga.” (See…

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The Santa Monica Pier Turns 110

The Santa Monica Pier turned 110 on September 9. It’s an impressive anniversary for a structure whose fate has so often been in the balance.  This much-loved and nationally recognized landmark has…

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“A Bullfight Shuts Down the Rodeo Grounds”

Although rodeo stunts were introduced to the Cooper brothers’ ranch by Helen Gibson in 1921, and the first official rodeo was thrown there in honor of Sheriff William Traeger in 1922, the…

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“Helen Gibson and The Rodeo Grounds”

The development of Topanga Beach happened quickly after a public campsite was created there in 1919 by two brothers, manager Miller Cooper and Deputy Sheriff Archie Cooper. Dancing was popular at Cooper’s…

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“Silents in the Canyon”

Topanga Beach was also the setting for early movies, most notably a 15-minute, single-reel film, Crossing the American Prairies in the Early Fifties, that was directed through a megaphone by D. W.…