Pioneertown: A Movie Set That Became A Real Town

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In 1946, a bunch of Hollywood legends including Roy Rogers, Dick Curtis, and Russell Hayden —tired of travelling to far-off locations to shoot western movies, that were very popular at the time— decided to build a Wild West set, in the High Desert of Southern California, where directors could shoot movies and the crew could live. They drove out to a spot 4 miles to the northwest of Yucca Valley, and two hours from Los Angeles, and started building facades and spaces to resemble a 19th-century western town. The town was named Pioneertown. The project was a huge success. More than two hundred westerns were filmed at Pioneertown, including The Cisco Kid, and it served as the backdrop for a large number of television shows, notably Judge Roy Bean and The Gene Autry Show. As the years rolled by and Hollywood’s interest shifted from westerns to new ideas, business in Pioneertown dwindled and the town assumed a new role—that of a tourist attraction.
More recently, people from the big cities —artists, entrepreneurs and other eccentric personalities—seeking respite from their stressful lives, have started coming here and staying for good. Properties around Pioneertown are selling like hot cakes.
Julian T. Pinder, a Canadian filmmaker, moved to Pioneertown in 2014 from Los Angeles with his wife. They bought what was a run-down mining cabin and turned it into an airy family home. Another Pioneertown resident, a Belgian jewelry designer, and his partner, a retired jewelry-industry executive, left their home in New York and bought and restored three homes in the area, including one that came with a church.
New businesses are also popping up all around. There is a state-of-the-art music recording studio here, and a vintage fashion store selling Bohemian skirts, maxi dresses, jumpsuits and leather jackets. One of the most happening spots in the town is Pappy and Harriet’s “Pioneertown Palace” that serves delicious ribs, barbecue, burgers, sandwiches, and live music. Among its regular patrons include notable musicians such as Eric Burdon and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame.


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